What is the secret to becoming a successful Executive Creative Director? According to Tom Drew's old CEO Ben Fennel, you need to "turn around a big piece of business." Turns out Ben was right.
Tom Drew is the Executive Creative Director of Wunderman Thompson UK, a position he was able to secure after turning around Tesco in about 4 years – as well as other things, we're sure. But a good leader is much more than their business wins alone, and it's not hard to fathom that Tom's qualities go beyond one single, successful piece of business – as big and important as it may be.
Gifted with a "heavy Essex accent," Tom's background often meant that his ambitions were much larger than what the industry was expecting of creative professionals at the time – namely, that they were middle class at the very least. Fast forward to 2021, and Tom's creative leadership is yet another testimony that you should never let prejudice take over your opinions.
Today we are Getting to Know Tom Drew, Executive Creative Director at Wunderman Thompson UK, to learn more about his role in the industry and what makes him so special to his team.
Tell us a bit about your role! Is there a “typical” day?
Never. In an agency with this many capabilities the challenges are different every day.
What was the biggest challenge in getting to your current position?
I once asked my old CEO, Ben Fennel, whether I could ever get to this position. His answer was so astute - ‘You need to turn around a big piece of business’. So I put my hand up to CD Tesco. 4 years later, I think I did. As ever, Ben was right.
What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?
Back then, if you weren’t middle class it felt like you didn’t really belong in advertising. And with a heavy Essex accent I couldn’t really hide. Wanting to prove that I wasn’t who they thought I was drove me to get better and better.
What is your biggest career-related win? What is your biggest loss?
Having Sir Dave Lewis tell me ‘You have my brand in the palm of your hand’ is probably worth more to me than any of the ads I’ve made. And I’m sure some clients have probably thought the exact opposite on occasions.
Which individuals and/or agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
Graham Fink and Nick Gill were both inspirations at different stages in my career. But my old creative partner, Uche Ezugwu, is my hero and biggest inspiration. He’s the nicest man I’ve ever met. Unfortunately, not much of that rubbed off on me.
If you could go back to your teenage years, would you have done things differently? Do you have any regrets?
I’d have written a diary. I have almost no memory of being young. I’d love to chat to me as a kid right now.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
A carpenter. Or a potter. Both of which I’m half decent at.
What’s your one big dream for the future of the industry?
No more Mouldy Whopper Cannes-bait nonsense.
What are your top tips for aspiring creative professionals?
Never leave a briefing with questions unanswered. You’ll never look as stupid as I sound.
What are your top tips for other creative leaders?
Please stop making great work.
When you think about your team, what is the thing that matters to you the most?
That they trust me to have their back.
Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?
Stephen King’s ‘On Writing’. He explains that his ideas are just two distinct thoughts smashed together. It can be that simple.