Podcasts

Podcast: Business Is Boring #13 – Nick McFarlane, designer and idea hunter

‘Business is Boring’ is a weekly podcast series presented by The Spinoff in association with Callaghan Innovation. Host Simon Pound speaks with innovators and commentators focused on the future of New Zealand, with the interview available as both audio and text.

Creativity is one of those words like innovation that gets thrown around a lot, and we’re always told we need more of it to succeed. But how? How do you get more ideas, are they something you can just head out and track and kill?

Well, yes, in a way, according to a new book called Hunting the Killer Idea by local ad guy Nick McFarlane.

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Ideas as squid: a look inside Nick’s book

He is a designer working across some of the best known advertising in New Zealand, at FCB, and he joins us now to chat about what it takes to keep landing the big ideas.

Either download or have a listen below, subscribe through iTunes or read on for a transcribed excerpt.

What kind of work do you get to do when you come in as a freelancer to a big agency overseas? Do you get the hard things they don’t want to solve or are you bringing in skills they don’t have?

There’s kinda two types of work. The first is the work they don’t want to do and the second type, which I ended up doing a lot of, is pitch work. So they’ll be pitching to a client and they will have to do a helluva lot of work in about 12 hours and you go in there and it is all hands on deck. I guess the designer is where the creative comes through and you really have to work absolutely top speed to get that product ready for it to be presented the next day.

Pitch work is the crucible, huh. It’s very tough. It’s a funny thing in advertising agencies where they’ll go and do a month of work with 10 people for free on the hope of winning a client. Even if they do win the client, it might not get made.

Exactly. It’s quite a contentious issue actually. Obviously if you’re on the wrong end of a pitch it’s a lot of time and money down the drain.

But even the right end because sometimes, say, I spent about a year on a ‘pitching team’ when agencies were trying to pretend they had digital advertising experience. So they’d get you in, go on these pitches, and then whether they won or lost, you wouldn’t end up working on any of it. And you get to the end of the year and you’re like ‘well I worked a lot but nothing I did got made.’

That’s so true. I must say, at the end of my time in London I was kind of looking at my portfolio and thinking ‘what actual work do I have out of this?’ Some of it was really cool work but none of it saw the light of day. Well, a lot of it didn’t because it was pitch work so it was the agency showing their creative credentials but then I guess when it comes time to run the campaign, all sorts of different things could make it go in a different direction.

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