In 2010, Sally Campbell, joint managing director of the esteemed production company Academy, left to start out on her own.
She was joined by her husband Tim Nash and former Academy director Nick Gordon. Since then, they have risen to the top of the UK production world and broken into the competitive US market, building a home for some of the most groundbreaking directors of the past decade.
Gordon’s talents launched Somesuch into commercials, with Skoda’s "Mean green" in its founding year. In the years that followed, he has gone on to shoot ads for Moneysupermarket, Stella Artois, Volkswagen and Amazon.
Perhaps Somesuch’s biggest success has been Kim Gehrig, a former Mother creative who became a director at Academy, where she worked alongside Campbell and Gordon and subsequently followed them to their new venture in 2011.
Her breakout year was 2015, when she was behind two of the biggest ads – Sport England’s "This girl can" (pictured, above) and John Lewis’ Christmas tale "Man on the moon". Her career exploded, and in 2019 she directed three ads with cultural impact: Gillette’s "The best a man can be", Nike’s "Dream crazier" and the multi-award-winning "Viva la vulva" for Bodyform. Creatives across the world want Gehrig’s magic touch.
The Northern Irish director Aoife McArdle has also made her name at Somesuch, with hits including Honda’s "Ignition" in 2015, Absolut’s edgy "Equal love" film in 2017, and ads for PlayStation and Nike this year. Beyond commercials, she is a rising star in filmmaking after releasing her debut feature film Kissing Candice in 2017.
It is worth noting that Somesuch is that rarity among production companies, having nurtured and championed female directors before diversity initiatives such as Free the Bid existed. In an industry long dominated by men, it has taken significant strides to level the playing field, resulting in a far richer advertising landscape.
Many other talents have raised Somesuch’s prestige. In quick succession Daniel Wolfe oversaw Honda’s "The other side", one of the standout spots of 2014, Three’s "Make it right" in 2015, the epic "A new further" for Hennessy in 2016, and Bodyform’s "The new normal" in 2017 – the first UK ad to depict realistic period blood. He remains one of the strongest directors in the business.
Wolfe, Gehrig, Gordon, McArdle, Steve Rogers and Raine Allen-Miller have all made it onto Campaign’s list of top directors over the years. Allen-Miller has been represented by Somesuch only since 2017 but this year she won the brief to direct a Virgin Media ad by Adam & Eve/DDB. Moreover, creative directors in London frequently sing her praises.
Allen-Miller is just one example of Somesuch’s eye for fresh, exciting talent. By seeking out and developing a diverse range of new voices, it has distinguished itself in an industry increasingly averse to creative risk. Crystal Moselle, Sam Hibbard and Tom Hardiman are, to name but a few from its roster, ones to watch.
Somesuch has been named Campaign’s Production Company of the Year three times in the past decade – in 2015, 2017 and 2019 – more than any of its rivals. It has also won a host of other industry accolades, including dozens of Cannes Lions, D&AD Pencils (Gehrig was the first female director to win a black Pencil this year) and Production Company of the Year at the British Arrows for two years running (2018 and 2019).
In 2017, it entered the US market and has since built a flourishing presence there, elevating its directors to a global stage. It is one of the few cross-Atlantic success stories in production.
Somesuch has also produced work beyond traditional advertising. This has included Rollo Jackson’s Adidas-commissioned documentary in 2016, bringing together grime star Stormzy and fashion designer Nigo; Moselle’s and Lynne Ramsay’s short films for Miu Miu celebrating great women; Dan Emmerson’s documentary about youth culture for Asos in 2018; and Felix Cooper’s film about women’s grass-roots football for Nike and Gurls Talk this year.
On its website, the production company explains its unusual name: "Somesuch is not a proper word. It carries no meaning." But in the UK and beyond, Somesuch has come to mean beautiful craft, risk-taking and visionary talent. Here’s to another 10 years at least.
Academy has remained at the top of its game over its 35-year history, which is no small feat amid the shifting sands of the production industry. Best known for launching the careers of giants such as Jonathan Glazer, in the past 10 years it proved it still has a knack for spotting and developing great talent.
In 2010, Seb Edwards, Martin de Thurah, Si & Ad and Marcus Söderlund were budding directors at Academy; today, they are globally esteemed directors at the height of their powers.
Academy’s reel over the past decade is full of well-crafted hits: Si & Ad’s "Piano" love story for Match.com (2010); Frederic Planchon’s emotional "The kiss" for Vodafone (2013) and a story about an orangutan at a fairground for SSE (2015); Glazer’s surreal Channel 4 idents (2015); Seb Edwards’ Virgin Media epic, "9.58 seconds", starring Usain Bolt (2016, above), and John Lewis’ Christmas ad featuring Sir Elton John (2018); to name but a few.
Newer additions to the roster include Billy Boyd Cape, who grabbed attention with his "Pride in London" film in 2018, and Ian Pons Jewell, who signed to Academy at the end of last year and has gone on to direct a staggering nine commercials in 2019. Such exceptional talent promises to keep Academy thriving for a long time to come.