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Why Birdbrain Wants You to Draw a Picture for Them

Music & Sound
Amsterdam, Netherlands
INFLUENCER: Birdbrain's Jake Buckley on how the Amsterdam-based music company mingles in lockdown

Madmen was on the telly before I was in advertising, so I don't know whether buttering clients’ parsnips just never ended, or if we're in a Pete Campbell-inspired renaissance. I have a feeling the former, and we're just continuing good '60s lineage with fingers deep inside our ears shouting our own names through Soho. I don’t know where my friends stop and clients begin anymore. Even my girlfriend is an art director and potential client, am I that good? Whatever the case, this kiss-on-both-cheeks, knee-slapping networking stuff makes for a dynamic that loosens the tap on shiny new projects and creates a dojo for good free-flowing ideas.

Yet as it turns out, these days we have to abstain from the very thing that keeps the advertising engine redlining: booze and lunches. I’m not about to steer a new course of industry-wide business development away from hedonism and into smoothies and zoom Zumba classes: Zoomba (Surely this is a thing). I don’t need to, because Corona happened, and no one need pulleth their company credit card out of the stone as there’s absolutely fucking nowhere we can wield them. And with being almost a year on the wagon anyway, I have thought for many months preceding mandatory lock down how I can make people love us without my face being directly in theirs.

Perhaps we could take a little inspiration from the brands with which we aspire to work. Does the CMO for Tesco go around buying pints and performing jokes to each and every potential customer in the UK? Maybe. But above that line is a really nice series of stories and tunes and photos and art and words that help people buy Tesco carrots and not other music companies - I mean Sainsbury’s. In addition, they rarely (though perhaps increasingly) mention their products or services.

Now I should add that I have sent a clumsy series of emails to producers saying, ‘Do you want us to keep the lights on? Send us a brief then!!!!’ The response was obviously overwhelming.

Without face-to-face connection and treats, is it then an idea to send Deliveroo care packages around? Yes actually. Write that down. But there’s something about sending an overflowing hamper of Wagamama that though friendly, doesn’t really strike a long-term, emotional tone.

In a world where lunch is now just a meal between breakfast and dinner and not a bi-weekly frothy pilgrimage, more of us are instead turning online and to social media to build connection.

So much of that connection has been centred around creative and comedy too, and clapping: Weekly assignments from It’s Nice That, BFI comedy submissions, and TikTok challenges, to name just a very select few. By the way, I had just seen my firstTik Tok challenge when listing it there and they’re fabulous.

So last week we started a weekly Instagram series called DON’T WORRY, WE KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU MEAN. There are no conference rooms in my house so I have been heard by my housemates saying things like “We really need a smaller climax”. And under the microscope of isolation, this all seemed suddenly quite brilliant. The concept is relatively simple: Black and white illustrations depicting some choice phrases we have heard and said in music briefs over the years. Anyone in the ad game who’s handy with a pen and a piece of paper (which basically includes everyone) can have a scribble based on a word or phrase they think is hilarious. And if you can’t think of one, don’t worry, we have an elephant’s worth of bangers. We’re hoping to make this up into a book by the end of the year with some of the funniest. This is one of a few different campaigns we’re planning on pushing through the following months.

After all, there’s a bloody good reason why we take any opportunity to wine and dine; we’re in the business of communicating and that starts with how we ourselves communicate in dreaming, co-creating and producing ideas. You want to work with your pals so that terrifying over-polite emails like “Yeh, could work, though we do think that re. the last layout vis a vis time constraints mean that etc.’ There’s nothing worse than working with a stranger and there’s a tried and tested way of convincing them you’re not one: try and make them laugh.

Will lockdown creative collaborations like this change the landscape of how advertisers foster rapport with those they need to foster rapport with? Probably not. But it’s jolly good fun and paradoxically one of the best things to have come out of social distancing is a full sense of silliness and good craic. And perhaps the knowledge that you can indeed stay social at a distance.

If you fancy putting pen to paper please join in. Send me an email at and I’ll give you something to draw.

Jake Buckley is executive producer at Birdbrain Studios

Main image credit: Florence Poppy Deary