What got me into marketing: Creative Director

How did I get into advertising?

This bloke here got me into it.

No, not the one on the right. The one on the left.

Cut back to HMV, Plymouth, 1995.

Remember in HMV they had those listening posts where you could play the latest albums?

Well me and cousin David were stood next to one. He hands a 15-year-old me the headphones and says… “I think you’ll like these.”

What came next was (and I remember it to this day) the crashing opening guitar of Rock ‘N Roll’ star by Oasis from the album, Definitely Maybe.

And that was it, I was hooked on the band, and music. (I was even in the band’s movie ‘Supersonic’. Well I say in the movie, I’m in the crowd somewhere at Knebworth!)

But more importantly, it wasn’t just the music for me. It was the album and singles cover design. They were just as important and exciting. I got really into them, and still am.

But what got me into this industry, I guess, wasn’t necessarily on the front, it was on the back. There were a few lines of copy that read:

Design, concept and art direction: Brian Cannon. (He’s the man stood next to Mr Gallagher)

I’d heard of the other two things before, but art direction, what the hell was that?

And then you go on a journey and find out there’s an actual thing called art direction where you come up with stuff in your head, and then you tell someone how you want it to look, and then it gets created by people, and they actually pay you to do it???

I’m in.

And that’s where it properly started. From there I went to Huddersfield University and did a marketing degree which I hated (macro and micro economics????) but loved the creative module. So switched courses to Creative Imaging where I got a masters. It was kind of a mix of design, advertising, graphics etc but more importantly – it was in the university library I discovered the D&AD annuals.

Flicking through decades of amazing work was mind-blowing. I’d take a duffel bag into uni, fill it with as many annuals as I could then take them home to read. And again, one of those moments you always remember. So let me get this straight, people, brands, want you to come up with adverts, then you get to make them, then people see them… And they pay you for it???

I’m in.

So from that point my love of advertising started and I did everything in my grasp to make it happen. I’d read everything and anything to do with it.

In the final year of university I got onto the D&AD workshops. Me and another course member teamed up together to take it on. This was my first ever creative team. Each week you’d visit an agency, they’d set a brief and you’d then go back and present your work. Funnily enough HOME was one of the agencies way back then. The bug had well and truly hit. Firmly confirming this is exactly what I want to do. From that I had my first portfolio (which was terrible).

So, I finished university. But before that I’d emailed and been in contact with lots of agencies trying to get a placement, sending my portfolio, going to see people etc.

Tequila Manchester took me and my partner on placement. Tequila was the below the line agency of TBWA. I drove from Saltaire to Didsbury every day and back (108 mile round trip) – bombing down the M62 in my daft little car for £50 a week (petrol cost me £60). That placement turned into my first job and I spent a year or so there. So cheers Tequila for taking me on despite my terrible portfolio.

But I’d always be trying to improve my portfolio – going to see agencies in Manchester and Leeds after work.

Doing that meant I wanted to do more above the line advertising, so moved back to the motherland and joined Poulters in Leeds with a new copywriter. That’s where I really started to learn my craft thanks to working with a senior team there. It was also there I started to become obsessed (still am) with work by people like Paul Belford and Nigel Roberts, Dave Dye and Sean Doyle – legends of their craft. At Poulters during that time I entered the Clio Awards ‘best creatives under 30’ competition. You submitted your six best bits of work and they picked the six best art directors and six best copywriters from around the world to compete on a brief, in Miami, for four days. Got picked. Flew to Miami. Lost. Saw Paulie Walnuts from The Sopranos – then flew back. Good learning curve that. Poulters then got bought out, by a printers… Then went bust. So went freelance with my copywriter.

We worked at a number of different agencies up and down the country – first ever freelance gig was with Adam & Eve which was a great baptism of fire. Got offered a job by them, but London wasn’t for me. Soon after that me and my copywriter parted our ways and I went solo. Spent a good few months at an agency called The Kings Arms in Manchester then moved to Propaganda back in Leeds and spent the next five years there as a solo art director and copywriter. In the last couple of years there I teamed up with a great copywriter called Ben. We then both wanted a move. Ben took a job at HOME, I decided to stay put. Then a month or so later I got a text from Don at HOME to say ‘come and join HOME, you’ll have a lot of fun’. So I did. And he was right. And that’s where I still am nearly six years later, and so is Ben.

So that’s it. How I started and where I am. Oh, and when they say never meet your hero’s I did, four years ago, and he kindly signed my vinyl of Definitely Maybe – something my 15-year-old self would have loved.

Written by:

Ben Bateson Creative Director


What we're doing



You may also like

What we're doing


/  21 Dec 2021

What got me into marketing: Copywriter

In high school I always veered towards creative subjects. I enjoyed art especially, but knew I didn’t want to pursue that alone as a career. My other love was English, but how could I combine that with something visually creative? That stumped me f

Read more

What we're doing


/  24 Nov 2021

Social Media Week 2021

Virtual conferences continue to open up a world of opportunities for marketers around the country, with Social Media Week London being no different. Our Senior Social Media Manager, Lizi Legge, attended from the comfort of her home office (aka the de

Read more