5 minutes with... Geoff Foots - Guerilla...
Creative Director, Guerilla...
Tell us a bit about you
Hi, my name’s Geoff, I’m 5’ 7” with blue eyes and GSOH, I’m a Capricorn who’s married with three children, one beautiful grandchild (believe me when I say I don’t look old enough) and a dog. I enjoy watching films and long, romantic walks by the sea.
Tell us a bit about Guerilla
Guerilla began life in April 2002, so this is our tenth year. It was set up by our MD, James Allen with the purpose of blending creativity with strategic thinking. At that time there were two types of regional agency - you were either working ‘above the line’ creating campaigns or ‘below the line’ in branding and design (even big agencies like Robson Brown split their offering this way). Guerilla refused to acknowledge any such boundaries - it was all communications so why limit yourself? - this was self evident to us. ‘Media neutral’ was the phrase we used at the time, meaning that we created concepts that were truly integrated and communicated through multiple channels both on and offline from branding to brand communications, advertising and PR strategies - and we did it all in-house with a remarkably small but very focused team. This idea of a small, truly integrated creative communications agency sounds obvious now, but at the time it was a revolutionary idea - we’re still doing it.
When did you join?
I was approached to join the Guerilla Team in October of 2002 - so six months after start-up.
What do you actually do?
There’s not a day goes by when I don’t ask myself the same question. Basically I lead a team of very talented creatives who are all experts in their field. I meet clients, take briefs apart and put them back together again, ask questions and come up with answers, then pitch them back to clients.
How did you get started in the industry?
I can still remember very clearly the careers lesson back in 1980 (I know), when I was told that certain fortunate individuals were actually paid to design record sleeves and posters! This was a revelatory piece of information - I couldn’t quite believe it - I would’ve done it for nothing.
After a few years at Art College, (the late lamented Bath Lane in Newcastle since you ask), and at the insistence of my long suffering parents, I set about finding gainful employment, sounds easy? Not in 1986. I spent a couple of dispiriting years in pre-press departments before a begging letter to every design or advertising agency within 100 mile radius resulted in my first big break working gratis (an industry acceptable word for free) as an intern with the sadly missed, legendary designer and illustrator Paul Windle (whom I’d met during a short work experience at now defunct ad agency, Stamp Taylor, where he then worked).
Paul was looking for a full time designer, artworker and illustrator (Yes Paul, I can do all that - this’ll be a breeze) so he gave me a week’s trail... the catch? Well a guy called Phil Moore (now owner of Beacon Creative) had been taken on the previous week (and he was good - but cocky!) and there was only one job - so at the end of the week one of us had to go (talk about pressure - it wouldn’t even go to public vote!).
Friday came and went with Paul still deliberating which of us was the ‘keeper’... and the next Friday... and the next. To cut a long story short both me and Phil were still there three and a half years later (when I moved on to pastures new) - though it did take us six months to persuade him to pay us!
What would you be doing if you weren't in the industry?
Three to five for a botched bank raid - seriously I’ve never given it much thought.
What piece of work has stopped you in your tracks recently?
I saw this brand ident for a company called ‘Deskidea’ earlier today and I think it is a wonderful piece of work, it’s clever, witty, elegant but incredibly simple (I wish I’d thought of it). See it for yourself.
What do you love about your job?
Pretty much all of it, it’s the best job in the world, meeting clients, creating, solving problems, every day it’s completely different - what’s not to like? I still get a huge buzz when I see our work on TV, online, on posters, in the press, in print - it’s a source of enormous pride to me. I’ve been in this industry for 26 years and I’ve never lost that enthusiasm - and it turns out I thrive on pressure (which is useful).
What is the best piece of advice you've received as a creative, and who gave you it?
I'm paraphrasing here, but it goes along the lines of “Care but don’t worry, you’re not thinking when you’re worrying, it’s counter productive”, Paul Windle’s version was shorter and contained lots more swear words.
If you could have one super power what would it be?
The ability to stretch time - 60 hour days would suit me fine.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Mmm, an astronaut or an engine driver? - my greatest fear is that one day someone will tell me I have to get a proper job.
What was your worst job and what did you learn from it?
When I first left school I took a job in a factory making engineering tools, I met old men who had worked there since leaving school and hated it - it taught me life is too short to do something you’re not passionate about.
What big brand would you love to work with?
Someone once told me it’s not how big it is, it's what you do with it that counts (they weren't talking about brands but it still applies).
What’s your most used app?
It’s a toss up between the BBC News app and TuneIn which lets me listen to 6 Music on my way to work.
Pinterest or Twitter?
Really? This is a question now? I’m done here.