Q&A with 101’s Simon Schmitt

Simon Schmitt, formerly of Sid Lee Amsterdam and AKQA, has recently joined London agency 101 as creative director. We talk to him about why he made the move, and what excites him about advertising right now…

Simon Schmitt, formerly of Sid Lee Amsterdam and AKQA, has recently joined London agency 101 as creative director. We talk to him about why he made the move, and what excites him about advertising right now…

Schmitt joins 101’s three existing creative directors, Richard Flintham, Mark Elwood and Augusto Sola at the agency. He is 101’s first creative director hiring since Sola joined in late 2011. Schmitt was most recently creative director at Sid Lee Amsterdam, and has previously worked at AKQA in London, WCRS, and Sid Lee Montreal. He has worked on accounts including Nike, Adidas, Red Bull and MGM.


Nike, Music Runs Ellie, by AKQA London

CR: What’s your background? What made you first want to get into advertising?

SS: I studied fine art for five years at Les Beaux Arts in Lyon, France. Initially I was into painting and didn’t think about advertising at all. When I was in school and the couple of years after that I was doing some painting exhibitions and just wanted to explore painting and film on my own. During my last year in school, one of my teachers put me in contact with a creative director who was working for a local agency in Lyon and he offered me a job as an art director. I took it as I was curious and to be honest it was easy money. After a year or so I started to be passionate about it and it got me under the skin.


CR: What was the first ad you made that you were proud of and why?

SS: One of my first jobs was to create some design for Burton Snowboard in France. I remembered having a lot of fun doing it as it was a mix of design exploration and a bit of home cooking between photography and textural treatment.


Adidas Originals, House Party, by Sid Lee Montreal

CR: What piece of work has been most significant for you in your career so far?

SS: Probably the House Party campaign we did for Adidas Originals (ad above, still shown top) when I was working as senior creative at Sid Lee in Montreal. I think it was one of these scenarios in which all the stars are aligned. It was a bunch of kids from different artistic backgrounds fresh out from school working together for a year on an amazing brand, people on the client side able to buy good and brave work and finally a young agency with a lot of appetite to do new creative stuff. When we were working on it we just wanted to create something that will resonate well with our generation, that would go beyond just advertising and tap into pop culture. We wanted to create a mood, a feeling and in that sense it wasn’t traditional advertising with a proper storyline.


CR: You’ve worked in a number of agencies. Have you found the culture very different in each one? What defines that culture, in your opinion?

SS: Yes, really different. Sid Lee is really organic for example, probably because it’s a young agency and the people who founded it are not from a traditional advertising background so they created their own rules. AKQA is really well structured. It’s almost like an engineer process and that’s why they are so efficient and good at what they do besides the fact that there is a lot of talented people over there. I think what defines the culture comes from different things but mainly from the people who started the agencies. The atmosphere, the work, the process and type of people are kind of mirroring the people who initially started the shop.


Adidas Originals, Unite All Originals, by Sid Lee Montreal

CR: What attracted you to 101?

SS: 101 is probably one of the most interesting shops out there right now. They do things differently and they have this appetite to do not good, but great work without any compromise. They have an amazing craft and seem to always want to explore new creative ways. Working alongside Richard Flintham, Mark Elwood and Augusto Sola is a great opportunity for me, I’ve always admired their work and I’m looking forward building things with them.


CR: What was your impression of the company before you joined?

SS: A really good creative shop filled of bright and talented people.


CR: And what’s your impression of it now…?

SS: A really good creative shop filled of bright and talented people.


101’s creative directors: Augusto Sola, Richard Flintham, Mark Elwood, Simon Schmitt

CR: Who or what has most inspired you? Where do you look for inspiration?

SS: I’m really curious by nature, I find inspiration everywhere and all the time; a moment in the bus on my way to work, a film, an exhibition, a chat with someone, a face. I just try to look at things.


CR: What’s your favourite ad of all time?

There are so many but if I had to pick one I will say the Levi’s Bike advert shot by Nick Gordon (shown below).


Levi’s Bike, directed by Nick Gordon

CR: What’s the best thing about working in advertising now?

SS: Advertising now is multi-form and we can mix more things together. Instead of telling a story or delivering an idea through one-way channels such as TV and print we can interact with people and let them play with the work – it could be through an immersive experience, a stunt, a film you can play with, a digital billboard etc. It opens way more possibilities and forces us to explore different ways to communicate.


CR: What’s the worst? What would you most like to change?

It’s less fun and daring. People taking it too seriously I guess and brands have less self-confidence to buy good and brave work and sometimes listen too much to the consumers.


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