Nadja Lossgott and Nicholas Hulley have just become the fifth generation of executive creative directors at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.
After starting their careers in their native South Africa, Lossgott and Hulley moved to London eight years ago to join AMV. At that time, becoming ECDs at one of the UK’s top agencies "would’ve been beyond our wildest dreams", they said. Since then, they have been behind award-winning campaigns such as Bodyform’s "Blood normal" and Guinness’ "Sapeurs".
In the week of their promotion, Campaign caught up with Lossgott and Hulley and talked about their team dynamic, Lizzo, fantasy careers and what they miss about South Africa.
Name an ad that made you want to get into advertising
Nick: French Connection’s "FCUK" campaign was amazing.
Nadja: My dad used to have these Graphis design and advertising annuals, and for some reason I remember the Chick-fil-A campaign with a cow writing on the billboard: "Eat more chicken."
Who’s your career crush?
Nick: Tim Riley [creative partner and head of copy at AMV].
Nadja: I’m currently obsessed with Lizzo (and have been for a very long time), Phoebe Waller-Bridge and [cinematographer and director] Reed Morano – so if it could be a genetic blend of those three.
Describe each other in a few words.
Nick: World-class, gifted, a natural eye, generous, brave, tenacious and maximalist.
Nadja: Incredibly smart, kind, witty and funny, and very fair – Nick has almost a legal sense of fairness.
How do you work together?
Nick: We are fairly traditional in that I’m the writer and Nadja’s the art director. We respect each other’s skills in those departments and we trust each other. We’re both passionate about our craft, but we still try to influence each other in those realms.
Nadja: We have a very fluid understanding and way of thinking. We were friends before we worked together, and because we’ve worked together for such a long time, you naturally build up that kind of telepathic way of working. We’re very similar in what we like and we know what each other likes.
Nick: We also have that trust in each other to tell each other our shit ideas.
Nadja: You have to give each other space to have and tell someone the shit idea. It’s easy as a team to become defensive or guarded and that’s the worst place to be.
Also, a lot of people think it’s weird, but we are genuinely friends. It’s family.
How would you describe your style of creative leadership?
Nick: It is to collaborate. That’s where we’ve made our best work, relying on other people to bring the best ideas and solutions together. We’ve also found that we are prepared to be resilient and try out every solution, to encourage people to not be binary in right or wrong, and have the resilience to keep going.
Nadja: Every team and person is so different and reacts to feedback differently, so it’s being able to calibrate your empathy in how you lead. We know how hard and emotional it is to come up with the right solution.
What’s the most important thing you learned from your predecessors?
Nadja: Bringing people with you.
Nick: You have to find a way to make people come with you on the journey.
Nadja: Digging your heels in and being an asshole is not going to get you to a better place. You’re a team, not a dictatorship. That’s very much a trait that runs through both [AMV chief creative officer] Alex [Grieve] and Dave Buchanan [who used to run Guinness]. They’re very kind and you knew you were never going to be abandoned as a team.
You’ve been given an extra day off work. How do you spend it?
Nadja: I would tend to the plants in my indoor garden. I quite like sewing and I make my own clothes if I don’t see anything in the shop that I like. I do my nails – I have a little side project of nails. Then [my partner and I] would probably meet Nick and [his partner] Margaux at a restaurant we go to in Clapton called P Franco.
Nick: I would make lots of grand plans to go to Broadway Market or walk around London Fields. But I probably would sleep late, wait it out and go to P Franco.
If you weren’t working in advertising, what career would you have instead?
Nick: I studied journalism and did it for a little bit, but I was useless because I was very bad at asking questions. I would probably fantasise about a sort of academic lifestyle.
Nadja: You’d be a fancy-pants academic. You would lecture in politics; you do love talking about politics.
I would probably do photography or something in textile design.
Nick: You’d have the world’s most amazing flower shop.
What from South Africa’s creative culture would you like to import here?
Nick: South African creative culture is just finding a way.
Nadja: It’s a very entrepreneurial, tenacious spirit.
Nick: You don’t have all the tools or the budgets. It’s a spirit of finding a way and you can’t hide behind money and fancy directors. You have to have the idea. Also, it’s always reinventing itself. It’s a very optimistic type of creativity; it’s not jaded.
Nadja: It’s a really energetic, pulsing creativity. What makes it more exciting is the can-do attitude, the "let’s just do it and see how it turns out". That’s such an amazing spirit to have.
And what do you miss most about life in South Africa?
Nadja: We miss our friends and family, and definitely the heat. That is something we struggle with.
Nick: I don’t consider myself an outsider here any more, but I am constantly learning about the UK and Europe. I do miss being a total insider in South Africa, being completely familiar with every nuance.
What’s your favourite spot in London to bring out-of-town visitors?
Nadja: Duck & Waffle for sunrise. That’s a great London thing to do.
Nick: I like the South Bank because you get a bit of what you like as well – the iconic landscape and galleries in one go.
Nadja: If it’s well-timed, the Moth Club in Hackney always has good gigs.
Talk about a career mistake and what you learned from it.
Nick: We make the mistake of sometimes not having pushed hard enough to save some aspect of a campaign that was critical. And on the opposite side of the coin, we also push too hard and it costs us more than the trouble to save it. If someone could tell you the right amount of push and pull, it would be useful.
What’s the piece of work you’re most proud of?
Nick: "Blood normal" [for Bodyform].
Nadja: "Blood normal", definitely. It’s also the hardest thing that we’ve done, but that’s why it was so rewarding, because you really were pushing against decades of wrong.