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PodcastsFebruary 3, 2017

Business is Boring #38: Vaughn Davis on his career in advertising and reaching good “work/life blend”


‘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 a transcribed excerpt.

This week Simon is back in the very warm Spinoff studios talking to Vaughn Davis, creative director of The Goat Farm and the man behind some of New Zealand’s more memorable advertising campaigns.

Simon and Vaughn discuss transitioning from Air Force pilot to advertising and what skills, if any, are transferrable between the two. Then Vaughn talks us through a few of his more notable campaigns including the sentient piggy banks from BNZ and the orange election man urging everyone to get out there and vote.

Either download (right click to save), have a listen below, subscribe through iTunes (RSS feed) or read on for a transcribed excerpt.

Coming in and doing a career change like that, tell me about the companies you went and worked for because you went into some quite big traditional advertising agencies, didn’t you?

The change I made then, I think it would be really hard for somebody to leave the Air Force and make now. The big difference now is today there are a bunch of tertiaries offering advertising creativity courses and that’s a very attractive course to do. If I wanted to take a student loan and either be a plumber or an art director I’d probably be the art director. So there’s an over-supply of these kids coming out of the courses. They’re all very, very happy to work for nothing. That’s their big shining goal, to get an unpaid internship for up to a year in a big agency. As an Air Force pilot with a mortgage, I couldn’t afford that.

One day I heard a promotion where Caterpillar boots wanted listeners to write an ad for them and the best ad got produced and won the competition. So I thought ‘I’ll give that a go’ because I’d already decided I was going to point myself towards advertising. I wrote an ad, sent it in, won the competition. So I took my cassette and started knocking on doors and I ended up at More fm, which at that time was a standalone radio station.

That point that you make about interning is really interesting. It means that advertising is only staffed by the kind of people whose parents can afford to keep them for a year and so you lose a lot of diversity of opinion and experience and perspective if the only people who can go into advertising are the kind of people who have parents that have beach houses at Omaha.

That’s exactly right. You could be listening to this and going ‘so why is that a problem?’ Well that’s a problem because advertising is by far the bulk of what we consume as media. Our ads tell us a lot about who we are as a country and what it means to be a New Zealander, what this place looks like. If it’s all being made by 19 year old white kids, that’s not a good thing.

Keep going!