My culture: Jamie McCall on south London

What inspires the inspired? Some of adland's global luminaries reveal where they turn to for ideas, and it's an eclectic mix...

My culture: Jamie McCall on south London

"Where you fae?" It’s a standard question asked by someone Scottish pretty early into any conversation. The intent behind it isn’t really to know where they live specifically, it’s more of an entry point into a wider conversation and opportunity to share and story tell.

I say this because where I live, what goes on there, and, most importantly, whom I share the streets with, is an integral part of my self-identity. Not to mention how I define and shape my understanding of cultural references, which inevitably play a part in building brand strategy and marketing plans.

This is the reason I could never go home each night to somewhere bland, lifeless and lacklustre. We all know the kinds of places I’m talking about. Leafy London postcodes where you go not to live but to hide from London’s real and beautifully vibrant world… the noisy, creative, busy, flamboyant, unjudging and collaborative doorsteps, which welcome you in, instead of asking you to keep out.

Being "from" south London, for the past 15 years, there has been an incredible number of opportunities for me to be immersed in, inspired by and learn from those that have a deep appreciation as well as contribution to culture.

For example, and believe it or not, it was a chance encounter with a group of teenagers playing football near Peckham Rye that instigated the brief that led to the "Nothing beats a Londoner" ad. Just last week I was chatting to someone upstairs on the number 363 bus about the computer program they were using to create music on their MacBook at 7am and the trepidation they felt about sharing it later that day online. And I’ve had a long and fascinating conversation about merchandising and mannequin storytelling in Niketown with the head chef and owner of Peckham Bazaar. More simply, just walking past a group of people waiting to head into Peckham Springs or hanging out at Dulwich Hamlet means you can get insights into what’s on "trend".

I don’t mean something as shallow or trivial as logo-spotting, I mean how and why consumers are engaged in the local area and responding to what’s happening in their own ways. From new stores opening to gyms expanding to innovative restaurant propositions to gig nights packed out. Even chants down at the football are a sign of what’s important beyond the score on the pitch if you’re prepared to listen. These are just a few examples of why being out and about in the special place I live offers real-life and real-time interactions that can lead to immediate changes in how I feel the need to shape my beliefs and values.

It might all sound a bit fluffy, and sometimes I wish I was an "expert" in something, but I’m not. Yes, I love to read the autobiographies of athletes and business leaders. I’m partial to a documentary that makes something complex and unknown to me irrefutably simple. I’m obsessed with the power and emotion of sport to make the world a better place. But ultimately I’m at my most curious chatting with and listening to someone with something to share.

I guess you could say that where you’re from plays an undeniable part in where you’re going.

Jamie McCall is UK marketing director at Nike, London


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