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Reed Collins: Inside the mind of a calm creative

«The best ideas surface when you go off brief and go weird and to all the wrong places, that’s where you find the good stuff.»  Reed Collins

Interview Patrick Weiss
Edit and portrait Stefan Jermann
Additional imagery courtesy of Ogilvy & Mather, Hong Kong

 

Reed Collins may hold the fearful title of Chief Creative Officer at Ogilvy Hong Kong, but if you’d expect some “know it all” and bat swinging advertiser then you got it all wrong. Collins is a soft spoken and charismatic creative who holds a low profile and likes to treat his team of 50 creatives well. He may call the final shots, but he sees his role to encourage his team and ultimately improve the work with his input.

Having worked on all five continents, Reed Collins has a huge backpack of experience and understands how each campaign has to adapt locally in order to be successful. His mindboggling track record proves the man is doing something right. Mirus had the chance to speak to one of the most awarded creatives in the recent advertising history during this years Cannes Lions. The Gunn Report once called this Australian the most awarded creative in the world and the MOMA in New York keeps some of his work in the permanent collection.

What’s something you know you do differently than most people?

I am kind of passive, I don’t get too excited – I am unusually calm I’d say. Maybe that is different to some Creative Directors who either get super excited or pissed off! But maybe that is just some kind of family trick. We have a very laid back Australian attitude.

 

 

How has the notion of “creativity” shifted from today compared to 10 years ago?

It has expanded and also blurred, at times it feels like it has lost its way a bit. It’s a lot more murky now. The purity of ideas is not the same as it used to be and maybe the term is also misguided.

 

 

How do you personally approach creativity and did that change over the years?

The best ideas appear when you go off brief and go weird and to all the wrong places, that’s where you find the good stuff. Obviously there’s always a core objective that you need to follow, but I think you can always have a conversation why a certain solution is more powerful and more sharable. But to be honest I personally don’t have a formula (laughs) on how to approach creativity, I honestly don’t. I don’t think that I personally have a style or an approach that I always do. Due to my age, I have gotten a lot quicker on determining whether an idea could work or not.

 

You worked on all five continents. Are there differences in creating great advertising content in terms of understanding the cultural differences?

I always find the cultural nuances fascinating, looking at it from different perspectives. In terms of adapting it to the market I think it’s kind of easy because what it comes down to is human behavior, relationships and language. Plus, the campaigns are created by people who absolutely understand their culture and how it’ll be exposed and amplified to the audience.

 

 

Lots of successful campaigns are based on insights – how do you find those insights?

First of all, I have a lot of smart people helping me (laughs while holding his Campari Soda). On top of that adding another layer on how people consume certain products or services helps.

 

 

What was your most stunning experience as a creative?

When you get to produce work that take place at really amazing locations, that’s obviously mostly outside the office. In South Africa we worked on a campaign for cricket and we did a film where we used a young black South African cricket player, about three years later the guys become one of the top players, that was something really amazing.

 

 

What aspects will always remain the same in advertising?

Creatives will always hate account service people and account service people will always hate creatives (laughs). But in the end, to me it’s the idea and usually in advertising the story is not very interesting, I’d rather watch a movie than watching ads.

Where do you see challenges in this „new world“ of communication, how do you dig through the dirt to reach the audience?

At times we are restriced on what we can and can’t do, many times this has been prediced, but I usually like to start without that. Working in Hong Kong they are pretty open, not that budgets are unlimited, but they are looking for the best possible impact of the idea. There’s no „one size fits all“.

 

 

Looking back, do you think it is more difficult working in a creative field than it used to be, if yes, can you name some of the reasons?

Infinitely harder! I think it is really tough for young creatives to remain inspired and to realize good ideas. Maybe my situation was unusal, but I was given big opportunities when I was really young. Now you still have to do your time when you start out, but everything is so fast, it is very fractured, I personally believe it has gotten a lot harder that’s why I treat my people very well. As a young creative you can do two things: You either go to a big agency and then you are at the bottom of the fuckin’ ladder, it’ll be really hard for you to do great work. But if you go to an «ok» agency that wants to do great work, you’ll have more opportunity and exposure to do great work. Also, the more mature markets have a lot more barriers and testing as opposed to lets say South Africa or Eastern Europe.

 

 

How do you find your inner balance when coping with pressure and highly demanding clients?

I watch Australian football and really long cricket games.

The interview was recorded during the Cannes Lions 2017 at the Carlton Hotel

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 OGILVY

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