It was "kid in a sweetshop stuff", says Stuart Brown, an art director at 180 and the brains behind one of the most talk-about campaign of 2003. To create the "impact" campaign for Adidas, he got some of the world's best rugby players to cover themselves in paint and throw themselves at a canvas.

His first idea was to just use handprints, but he soon moved on to using the whole body. "The first test was at my friend's house where we took his marital bed and covered the mattress in sheets. I coated myself in poster paint and ran at it. It made some really interesting shapes and it was an idea so true to the sport because it shows what a rugby tackle really feels like."

For the final shoot, Brown used Jonny Wilkinson and Martin Johnson from the England rugby squad and six other world-class players. "We set up a production line with rugby-tackle bags covered in canvas. We covered the guys in acrylic paint and then they did what they do in training and collided with the tackle bags.

"It was a brilliant experience, especially as it was the first time that some of the guys had met. Jonah Lomu and Kees Meeuws were great because they had done a foundation directing course. At one point, they took over the shoot."

The campaign was such a hit that Brown was asked to go to New Zealand where he made a huge "impact" portrait of the 30 members of the All Blacks squad. The idea has now run in ten countries.

Brown started out as a designer and spent the first part of his career at a multimedia company where he worked on the 1997 Labour Party election campaign. He then spent time at two branding agencies, Circle and Interbrand, where he was a senior designer on the rebrand of General Motors' Opel/Vauxhall marque.

When the job at 180 came up, Brown jumped at the chance. "I don't think the switch from designer to art director is all that unusual any more," he comments.

The change of direction was a positive one for Brown. "What I do now is very hands-on, which I love. Also it's great to have the creative freedom to be able to come up with interesting ideas, as well as the money behind you to realise them."


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