As CCO at adam&eveDDB, Richard Brim has played a significant role in bringing us some of the our most memorable ads, and consequently transforming the brands behind them into pillars of both marketing and wider culture.
Brim is perhaps most associated with the John Lewis Christmas ads – now a hallmark of the festive calendar in the UK – with most of these ads having emerged under his watch. Yet he and his team make regular business of tapping into real life and real conversations across their portfolio, in ads for brands as varied as PlayStation, Marmite and the National Lottery.
Here, Brim takes us through his early path into a creative field, his thoughts on the future of the industry, and the best lessons he’s been taught along the way.
Early beginnings I grew up in Manchester and from an early age I was always quite artsy. It was the sort of environment where you either went to work for your dad, or you went and did a professional vocation, or worked in recruitment or a lawyer or the like.
I don’t think you’re born loving advertising. I don’t think there’s a thing where you’re like, ‘I want to get into advertising’. But I was interested in the early days of BBH, the Boddington’s ads, and the magazines at the time – Sky, The Face, i-D. Ads were the things you put on your wall. A Levi’s ad dropped and people spoke about it. For me, [a career in advertising] was the only way I could see to make a living out of what I was into.
I majored in advertising but I minored in photography, and it soon took over – I really enjoyed the photography side of it. I just got into the system then. I found myself a creative partner and we started working together and then we started getting placements. I found myself very quickly going down that road, and I really enjoyed it. The way I describe it is, it’s the best week of The Apprentice. And everyone’s always got an ad in them, everyone’s always got a film in them. The best thing is when I go back to Manchester and my dad goes, ‘Oh I’ve got an ad, I’ve got an idea for you – you can have that,’ and I’m like, ‘Cheers dad….’
First impressions I had a stint at an agency called Springer & Jacoby – which is not with us any more – in Hamburg. It was the most bizarre experience of my life because we found ourselves as two schmucks straight out of college, and they’d taken us straight over to Hamburg. We were put in this office, and all these people we were going to be working with – you just come up with ideas, we’ve got copywriters and art directors.
I remember our Christmas party was Studio 54 themed, and we’re all bussed out to the middle of nowhere, into this TV studio, and there was nothing ‘Studio 54’ about the party. It was just a big old table where we all had dinner, and it looked like a generic Christmas party. And then the creative director came through on a white horse, completely stark bollock naked, got up on the stage and pulled this cord, and then behind this curtain was an exact replica of Studio 54, with the spoon [wall hanging]. Everyone was really, really dressed up. And I think my partner at the time was like, ‘we need to go all out’, so we were there in like suits and we’d sprayed our hair gold – we just looked like we had ginger hair! And everyone else is covered head to toe in glitter. But I just remember going, whoah this is cool, and thought, it can’t really be like this, can it? We got back to London, and it really wasn’t like that. They were still living in the glory days.