Chris Clarke was studying classical poetry when he got an offer from a friend, who was an art director, to join him for a freelance gig in advertising. That was the bit of luck he needed. Together with a lot of hard work and the fact that the internet was still a weird animal in the late 90s, that led him to become a Creative Director at the age of 24, he explained in a previous interview for Clever Peeps. Now Chief Creative Officer of LBi, Chris Clarke is responsible for the creative direction of the agency and its over 2,000 employees in 16 countries and 26 offices, an agency that was also named Digital Agency of the Year 2012 by Marketing Magazine. Chris came to LBi from UK agency Digitas, where he served as President and Executive Creative Director. Prior to that he was European Executive Creative Director for Digitas-owned Modem Media and ECD at Wheel and one of the digital pioneers from Abel & Baker. Over the years, Chris has been awarded at Cannes, D&AD, LIAA, Campaign Digital, Campaign Direct, Revolution, BIMA and the Webbys and is now a regular on the judging and speaking circuit. You can see him live on the first day of , in Romania, where he is going to be discussing a hot subject: “Has the internet made everything shit? And if so, what does that mean for brands?“. But until then check out a few bits of his story:
I grew up on the lanes of Buckinghamshire doing my best to clear the undergrowth of squirrels and dreaming that one day I would make enough money to buy my family a new tarpaulin to refurnish our bivouac in the woods.
Adolescence is the period when I discovered strange urges.
In high school I used to be the guy that rummaged in the bins looking for food and the craziest thing I have ever done was hide in the Rhino trench at Whipsnade Zoo.
In college I used to pose as a traffic warden to experience the thrill of indifference.
I feel young when I hang out with the old and old whenever I hang out with the young.
To this day I remember very little.
Here’s an old picture of me at a Creative Social event, where I was chosen to represent Jesus, entirely because I had a beard and longish hair.
I got my first paycheck at the age of 11 where I had to run through the forest scaring pheasants and I used the money to indulge in all manner of childish wickedness.
I decided to get a job in advertising because I thought it needed to change and it would be fun helping it do so.
The first campaign I ever thought up was a viral featuring English Politician Anne Widdecombe. Now I think that it is quaint.
The best campaigns I’ve worked on so far are Brahma beer, Sony Mobile and Coke Olympics.
The project I really wanted to work out (although it didn’t) was too sensitive to ever be spoken of again.
In order to better understand what the client wants, I went so far as to sleep with them.
The advertising related mannerisms pop up whenever I drink too much.
The best piece of advice I have ever received from someone in the advertising industry was don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.
A lesson I learned the hard way was technology is a fickle mistress.
Everything would run smoothly in this industry if all client agency relationships are true partnerships with shared risk and reward.
I look at the advertising juniors nowadays and I think to myself why aren’t you scaring me?
I hope to get to work as often as possible with clients who want to make a difference and as seldom as possible with clients who are afraid.
My first computer was an Amstrad and I got it from someone who wasn’t looking.
I was 18 years old when I first went online and I remember that I thought it was a bit shit.
I chose online advertising because it was a chance to pioneer.
The explanation I give to my mother about what I do for a living is help sell stuff.
The Facebook change that messed up my entire day was imagined by the press.
The clients need to know that online doesn’t exist anymore. Increasingly we don't "go online" we are "always on". Our real world and digital experiences are fused. It's a mistake to think of "online' as a parallel reality, it is reality. At least that's the case for anyone under 30. And anyone who uses a smartphone, or a Satnav or a smart TV. Our digital experiences inform our lives all day.
The only caveat is that in developing countries digital isn't pervasive yet, although people are using feature phones to access Facebook etc.
The brands that have the best communication strategies are usually the challenger brands.
My favorite campaigns are:
TV: Dos Equis - The most interesting man in the world, for its character and writing.
Print: The recent beautifully written Tesco ads in the UK apologizing for the horse meat scandal and pledging to be better.
Outdoor: Stella Artois for re-invigorating the brand.
Digital: Most things done by Uniqlo for finding a digital tone of voice and action.
Ambient: KesselsKramer’s famous work for the Hans Brinker hotel in Amsterdam.
Integrated: The work for ROM which I helped award a Grand Prix to in Cannes 2011.
Unrelated to my job, I also write poetry.
Weekends are the period during which I concentrate on the people I love.
The book I’ve read several times is East of Eden.
I turn up the volume whenever I hear a song by Kurt Vile.
I will never grow tired of watching Lawrence of Arabia.
I try not to miss any Breaking Bad episodes.
Chris Clarke will be speaking during “The Digital Influencers” session on the first day of ICEEfest 2013.
More about the event, the speakers’ roster, the list with themes and information about the ticket purchase is available on ICEEfest.com.