“It’s less stepping up and more… Alex [Grieve] is withdrawing,” Nicholas Hulley explains, as he and his creative partner, Nadja Lossgott take on the joint role of chief creative officer at Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO.
Readers might remember the creative pair from such hits as Bodyform’s “Wombstories” and “Painstories”, Macmillan Cancer Support “Whatever it takes”, and Guinness “Welcome back”... The list is endless. So, while Grieve will be sorely missed, it's safe to say, AMV BBDO is in safe hands.
“Going backwards, we’ve actually been working closely together as a three these last couple of years,” Hulley says, as Lossgott chimes in: “It’s a trio becoming a duo.”
When Campaign asks how the pair will respond to their task, which is to continue “the agency’s creative excellence and evolving its output for the years ahead”, Hulley replies: “When Nadja and I look at AMV's creative output over the last couple of years, it's all very broad. It does a huge range of things.”
“[Our work] gives data a soul, builds story worlds… [it's] classic brand platform work. Our next step is just, more of that. We need to keep pushing into those spaces. To continue making brilliantly effective, creative, and memorable work.”
Advocates for how creativity can provide the fuel to tackle businesses' challenges, Lossgott explains: “When we talk about creativity solving business problems, it’s that curiosity to ask why. Often what stops people from thinking about a solution, is they keep thinking about it in exactly the same way, over and over again.
“The nature of creativity is to solve problems. You’re able to cover new territories by means of innovation, you start thinking about it in different ways because the nature of creativity is to be restless and to look at something sideways rather than in the rigid, very stiff business way of looking at things.”
Creativity, she says, is the undeniable catalyst for different business solutions because it allows people to make a leap, to cartwheel, and hypothesise – to just look at it in a completely sideways and upside-down way, which is much fresher than doing the same thing over and over again.
For Hulley, creativity is the craft of emotion. “People pretend that they are rational, we all do,” he says. “But we’re emotional creatures. That’s how we make our decisions, so I think creativity and the emotion that creativity brings is the most persuasive tool we have. That’s how you can persuade people to buy.”
He points to Guinness’ post-lockdown hit “Welcome back” as a great example of this. “You’re combining things that are there. You’re combining that love for Guinness, the iconic looking pints and that really deep emotion of friendship that’s been lacking from your life. It makes you laugh and cry at the same time. That feeling of normality – being in the pub with your friends having a laugh. It’s really special.”
Likewise, Lossgott brings up "Guinness Clear", their 2019 drink responsibly campaign. “That is something that, normally, should be taken very seriously,” she explains. “What Guinness did, is tip that upside down. You’re still taking it seriously and actually solving a problem, of people not wanting to order a glass of water in a pub and making it cool.”
As the creative industry enters 2022 in another "working from home" arrangement, both Lossgott and Hulley express concern over how to manage the creative process in this turbulent working world.
“You can’t predict anything any more,” Lossgott says. “So you have to stay nimble. It changes by the week. You need to find the best way of working altogether in that time and space, that allows for collaboration and safety at the same time.”
Hulley finds the hybrid-working world “infuriating”, expressing doubt over the “incompatibility of working from home and the office”.
“Working from home gives you great benefits. For creative teams, it means being left alone and being free to think is great,” he says. “But it has huge downsides. A lot of people talk about the benefits of ideas sparking between each other in an office. That’s obviously true. What I think is underappreciated is the solidarity of being together when things aren’t going so well.”
Now leading the creative output for Cannes Lions' global Agency of the Year, do the pair feel overwhelmed by the pressures of being in the driving seat? “You just have to have patience with the right mix of each department,” Lossgott explains. “If you get the right combination of talented people, the firepower is amazing.”
“What’s wonderful about AMV BBDO is that the culture is kind,” Hulley says. “The pressure isn’t tinged with fear. Once you introduce fear into pressure, that’s when it becomes intolerable.
“We’re blessed with a great creative team. But more than that, we’re blessed with incredible producers, the smartest planners in the world and the most tenacious and kindest account people. So we are always reassured and feel less pressure.”
With Grieve staying on until April when he takes over from Joakim Borgström at Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Hulley describes the months ahead as a “nice, wonderful transition”.
So when the day finally arrives, how will they keep his legacy alive? “From Alex, we learned a combination of ambition married with kindness,” Hulley says. “That you can be ambitious, you can set scarily lofty goals but you don’t have to get there by being crazed or creating a culture of fear. You can do it with kindness.”
They will also remember his style tips. “He’s a very stylish, elegant man,” Hulley says. “But in that style is meticulousness and in that meticulousness is craft. It’s just learning from such a brilliant example of that understated craft. That everything is worth getting right. Because it adds up to something better.”