A keen creative with over a decade in the industry, Jamie Watson believes that building a brand is not just about having a tagline, a logo or a webpage - It is the fundamental root from which all of these assets must stem.
“It’s getting everyone in the company to act as brand ambassadors,” he says, “by not only talking the talk (off the same page) but to walk the walk. To live and breathe the brand so that it resonates true through action, repetition and consistency.”
Bold words from a bold creative director. One that runs his own agency (Thought Boxes) and has many words of wisdom for fellow ambitious creatives out there. That’s exactly why we’re focusing our member spotlight on Jamie this week.
How did you get into the industry?
By chance really, I originally wanted to study architecture but because I had some doubts, I signed up for the foundation art degree in which you look at design, art and photography. It was a great year of experimentation and taught me to think in a different way.
Following this I wanted to be a photographer but didn’t get into the course and landed in Design for Visual Communication. Sometimes rejection and how we deal with it is the best thing that can happen.
Where are you based now and who do you work for?
I am based in Belfast and run my own agency ‘Thought Boxes’ with my business partner Tom who is an advertising veteran (former Board director at Lowe to ECD in Ogilvy Asia). It has been exciting continuing to develop my creative skills whilst trying to bring something new to the Advertising playing field.
We, at Thought Boxes, believe great ideas don't need an office, just a home. Thought Boxes is an eclectic group of internationally experienced, award winning, strategic, and creative thinkers from around the globe.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
I would like to say chasing the surf across the globe in a bust-up camper van and meeting interesting people. But realistically, I would be doing something creative that involved solving problems and hopefully still meeting interesting people.
Can you explain your creative process? What makes it unique?
I have always prided myself on fresh creative thinking and believe the idea is the single most important thing through the process. I think of the brief and planning as the fuel, the idea as the plane and the media space (be it digital, traditional, or experiential) as a place for the idea to land.
Coming up with a great idea can be tough. I tend to begin this process by reading as much as I can about the client/product and their industry. From there I like to give myself space and time to think.
I believe it is vital to have hobbies, and to be interested in seemingly random sectors apparently unrelated to work because you never know where the idea will come from. Having an idea is not simply a process-driven, sequential, logical approach to problem solving it requires imagination - creating a link between two seemingly unrelated thoughts in your mind to create a solution.
I often find the best place to have an idea is not behind a desk, it’s when I am on a run, playing with my daughter or even out surfing (though much harder to find a pen and paper to write an idea down). When I have an idea I test it – how does it feel, how does it work, does it resonate with target audience. To this day I am still excited by this challenge, the playful process to shape it, make it and see what an idea can become.
How is my process unique? I don’t think it is but often in the digital space I get frustrated at the lack of ideas. More and more we see an executional approach minus an idea. I would like to see Thought Boxes fill that gap bringing strategic input in the form of meaningful ideas and greater aesthetic value, rather than content for contents sake.
How would you describe your style?
I like to push the boundaries, to find something new. Not be limited to an execution or what has been asked.
Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
I gain plenty of inspiration from my business partner Tom, he has immense experience and a proven track record and I’ve always loved the work by Walter Campbell (Guinness white Horses). I also draw a lot of inspiration from David Ogilvy and his writings especially – Ogilvy on Advertising.
What tips would you give to aspiring creatives looking for work?
Look for agencies that excite you and have a purpose you can resonate with. Keep learning – always look for what is new in the industry and allow yourself the time and space to continue to develop your own style and methods of working. And above all else – value the importance of an idea.
What tips would you give to other professionals to get more clients?
Show how your client’s success matters and your understanding that your personal success comes from it. I have never been a big believer in an us and them approach – great work happens when you collaborate, and everyone is on the same team.
What kind of tools/kit/software could you not do without?
After many lost notes and ideas on paper and to do lists I invested in a remarkable tablet – and like the name suggests – I find it remarkable. A fantastic tool to think and collate ideas in a digital environment without digital distractions.
What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?
Always have a hobby and a side hustle.
What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?
Starting my own company has been an incredible experience, one that I feel has grown me as a creative. I am so proud of the work we have done and excited to see what the future holds.
What is the one thing that you would change about the industry?
Looking at data in the digital age, I believe we are inclined to reactively solve problems – a bit like treating the disease and not dealing with the cause. Reflective imagery is an all-too-common form of lazy advertising - 'That's our product, this is you. You're smiling because you're happy with the result'.
This is not a Big Idea and what's more, consumers aren't stupid. They're your mother/brother/sister and they can tell a fake a mile away. Puns, rhymes and word plays are not Big Ideas. Special offers and sales promotions are not Big Ideas. Better for you to start with a Product Truth and tell it so that your consumers are engaged.
A Harvard based survey found that the brands that survive will be the brands that make life better. I believe that creativity is going to be our only differentiator going forward in making brands relevant to people and communicating brand purpose.
Any websites, books or resources you would recommend?
Idea generation tools for creative professionals
By Juggi Ramakrishnan and Todd McCracken
The Surprising Power of Ideas That Don't Make Sense
Author: Rory Sutherland