Divorced celebrities, monsterous directors and insane clients: tips from the top creatives

If you want to score a celebrity for your ad, look for someone who is recently divorced, advised Alex Grieve, one of the executive creative directors behind Currys PC World's "spare the act" campaign.

Grieve made the half-serious comment during the Creative Carousel talk with Thinkbox’s chief executive, Lindsey Clay, at Advertising Week Europe today (20 April).

He was joined on stage by Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s Rosie Arnold, Grey’s Nils Leonard, and Chaka Sobhani, who is joining Leo Burnett London as its chief creative officer from Mother next month.

Grieve, who is the joint executive creative director at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO (with Adrian Rossi), had opted to talk about the "spare the act" campaign as one of his favourites from his agency's catalogue.

"We were proud of it because it was unexpected," Grieve said before adding that winning the pitch was one of his and Rossi’s first acts as executive creative directors and though there was some trepidation about the account, due to previous campaigns, the client proved to be "great".

Dustin Hoffman and Christopher Walken were among those approached to play the lead role in the ad before Jeff Goldblum (who was always on the list) agreed to take part.

Grieve added: "This is quite a good tip if you’re after a celebrity for your ad – always look for someone who is recently divorced."

Talking about Goldblum’s performance, Grieve said: "It was very close to the script but in getting to the script [Goldblum] would go on these extraordinary four- to five-minute improvisations around scenes and just when you thought he was going completely out of control he would get back to the script."

Rosie Arnold on her worst advertising shoot:

"I’m always trying to get more diversity in advertising. One of my big wins was to get a beautiful black girl in an Axe ad. We were shooting with a very tricky director in a small flat and all the creatives were told to watch on the monitors from the street, but the screens didn’t work. When we finally managed to get into the flat we found the director shooting the girl completely topless. I was livid."

Chaka Sobhani’s tip for creative success:

"Remember the importance of craft and seek out the best talent, no matter how tough it is."

Nils Leonard on his worst advertising shoot:

"We were shooting an ad for a large electrical retailer and the client was insane, insisting we stay up all night drinking vodka Redbulls. I always get a dicky tummy after a night out and we were shooting in a pool and I threw up all over the side of it. It was my first shoot as associate creative director."

Rosie Arnold’s tip for creative success:

"Learn to say no to clients. When you’re going to get an ad made you will want to compromise but you need to recognise when compromising is wrong and learn to say no."

Nils Leonard’s tip for creative success:

"Define the shared cultural ambition up front [with clients]."

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