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'We got very friendly with bailiffs on a couple of occasions'

As Creature turns ten years old, founder and CEO Dan Cullen-Shute gives a glimpse of life behind the Curtain Road agency

By Dan Cullen-Shute

Never in a million years could I be accused of being prone to exaggeration, so take me seriously when I say that being asked to sum up a decade of Creature (A DECADE OF CREATURE) in 500 words is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. That’s 50 words a year, and I’ve already blown year one on this intro.

But here we are, and sum it up I will, because, frankly, an ability to get impossible things done has pretty much defined Creature’s existence. We started out in a massive hole, the details of which are much better explained over a beer than in an article, but suffice to say it wasn’t our fault, we got very friendly with bailiffs on a couple of occasions, and we dug ourselves out of it. We didn’t want to be an ad agency (we wanted to be a Creative Company), but have ended up having the time of our lives being one of them, and have made some pretty good stuff along the way.

We’ve pitched against people with infinitely more resources than we have, and given a pretty good showing of ourselves along the way. And we’ve taken occasionally terrible and often quite desperate briefs, and turned them into work that our mums - and a whole load of other real people - love. Which is all we ever really wanted to do.

Well, that and change the world - leaving the industry better than we found it has been the consistent north star we’ve aimed at.

Sometimes that means structuring our business differently, looking after our people better, and making WAY more noise than an agency our size has any right to (the Real Living Wage Pledge, 3:2 working, and our In The Wild creative development program are particular highlights on that front); and sometimes it’s meant rolling our sleeves up and piling into the big stuff: while we can’t claim to have saved the world with our partnership with the Green Party, we did triple their membership, and helped move the environmental conversation way up the political agenda, which will hopefully make quite a big difference over the years to come. And Andrew Neil and Alastair Campbell agreed on something (that the work was brilliant), which isn’t something you often see.

When we started Creature, we didn’t really know what we were doing, but by and large, our instincts were good: and when we’ve fucked up (and yep, we’ve very definitely fucked up), we’ve learned from it. And, to be totally honest, I’m not sure we’d have ever started what we did if we’d known that much more. We were knowledgeable enough to make it work, and ignorant enough to be excited, and that combination has served us pretty well.

It’s easy to be glib, but we’ve been through an extraordinary amount in the last decade, both professionally and personally, and I couldn’t be more proud of the agency we’re leading today: still making it up, to a certain extent, but still stupidly excited. Running a business like Creature, alongside Ben, Stu, Hanisha, Gibbo, Sian, and everyone else, is an enormous, enormous privilege; and it’s a fuck of a lot of fun, too. Here’s to another ten years of it.

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