Q&A with Mark Easterbrook. Easterbrook Words & Ideas.

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Our latest Q&A is with the one and only Mark Easterbrook, creative director, copywriter and generally talented industry professional! In 2016 Mark left his position as CD at Goodfolk – who have now merged with Dow Design – and set up on his own. Annie talks to Mark about how that is all going and the challenges he has faced being a one-man band in this climate.

Mark, thank you for getting on board. Life has changed quite dramatically for you of late. You’ve gone from being the Creative Director of a successful creative agency to being the director of your own destiny! What was the catalyst for the change?
It was all about swinging the doors wide open. I sometimes feel like I’m a serendipity magnet, because interesting people and projects keep finding their way to me by happy accident. But when you have a full-time agency role, you don’t always get to say yes to those people and projects. So while it was definitely a big leap after 15 years of agencies to go it alone, like every shift I’ve made in my career it was about widening my world and the range of possibilities open to me.

And since setting up Easterbrook Words & Ideas in 2016, what have been the major challenges you’ve faced? What has kept you awake at night!?
Understanding the financials! Knowing what to charge, working out how to pay for all the things that your employer used to provide, remembering when to invoice. Luckily I am married to a very talented bookkeeper. Also, trying to work out who I am and what I do. I’ve made a very good career out of specialising in having no specialty. If it has words or ideas in it, I can usually do it. And I’ve had the good fortune to have a fairly constant stream of work. But that also means not getting time to step back, refine focus, and target the work you really, really want to do.

You’ve been working with some diverse businesses so far. From Les Mills International, to design agencies, to the Designers Institute of NZ and 95bfm. How do you work with these teams as a creative writer to help produce creative content? Is it always really different or do you have set protocol you follow to get to where you need to go for each project?
The range of clients I’ve had in the last couple of years is pretty mind boggling, to be honest. Direct clients; advertising, design, experiential and PR agencies; charities; film production companies; government departments; a university faculty in Australia. I engage with all of them in different ways. Sometimes I’m working in isolation, sometimes I’m working hands-on with a team. I’m pretty adaptable, client-friendly and quick to understand the task at hand. Because the work is so varied I don’t really have a set approach. I dial up different skills depending on the context.

Just on 95bfm, how was that anyway? An institution! What did you do for them?
I was heavily involved with bFM in the early 2000s, but never with writing their radio ads, which are pretty unique. When the station’s creative director left in early 2017, and the hunt for a replacement was taking longer than planned, I was asked if I’d hold the fort for a couple of weeks...which turned into four months. It was a lot of fun, and a lot of pressure. There’s a very particular strain of humour at bFM; you have a very, very engaged audience who can sniff out a fake at 50 paces and a group of dedicated staff and volunteers who keep the culture alive. I think I did okay, wrote some funny ads that I’m proud of and, again, it opened some new doors and made some new connections happen.

You are also involved in a Writers Festival, tell us about that!
I help run Going West, which is a West Auckland-based festival showcasing New Zealand writers of all kinds. I’ve been involved for about 4 years. It’s my way of contributing to the New Zealand arts world, I guess. The big buzz for me is meeting some of the country’s most amazing poets and authors. They are incredibly talented creative people who are often criminally underappreciated and under rewarded for what they do. I used to want to be that kind of writer, but my life took a different path.

Having so much going on, how have you found being a ‘one man band’ in this market? No doubt you have tremendous support and excellent networks!
Exhausting? Exciting? Liberating? Terrifying? It’s been all kinds of things, really. I’m incredibly lucky to have the network I have and that it spans disciplines. On any given day, I’m equally likely to be working on an ad campaign, a video script, a product name, a journal article, some packaging copy, a brand framework, social media posts or an activation concept. Or all of them, at the same time. Most of my work comes through referrals and word of mouth, which is gratifying. I’ve clearly not been a complete dick to people over the years. And I have a slightly freakish memory for people I’ve worked with or met, so I’m pretty good at keeping those connections alive when our paths cross.

Are you rewording my questions?
That’s entirely possible.

Again, thanks for being involved Mark. What can we expect from you for the rest of 2018? Any exciting projects or works in the pipeline that you can tell us about?
It’s hard to say. Going back to my first answer, the happy accidents keep coming. So who knows? Over the last couple of years the global brand and marketing team at Les Mills International have been going from strength to strength, producing some great work in house, and I’m excited about being part of that with them. I get excitement from unexpected places, too. I’m writing copy for a product catalogue at the moment which is one of the most creatively open jobs I’ve received lately. I’m pitching to do a brand strategy for an iconic New Zealand organisation. There are a couple of products that will be on supermarket shelves soon and, every time I walk past, I’ll think “I named that”. I’m also thinking about sprucing up my wee office off K Road, putting a sign on the door...who knows what that might lead to?

Easterbrook Words & Ideas www.easterbrook.co.nz


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