honey monster sugar puffs original

My Creative Life

Tell 'em about creativity mummy

FCB Inferno's chief creative officer on the importance of looking back, looking up and looking beyond

By Owen Lee

The Treasure Trove of History

It always amazes me how many people who work in advertising know very little about the advertising of the past. There has been so much great thinking done by the talented generations before us and that’s a constant source of inspiration for me. The strategic brilliance of ‘We try harder (because we’re number 2)’ for Avis. Iconic brand characters like ‘The Man in the Hathaway Shirt’ or ‘The Honey Monster’ for Sugar Puffs. Product demonstrations like the car on the Araldite poster or the Union Carbide chick. Brilliant writing like The Economist posters or the Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins Cinzano ads. We are lucky enough to be standing on the shoulders of giants.

Looking up

In a world where everyone is looking down at their phones, there is a world of creative inspiration in simply looking up. You see, hear and experience real life in all its wonderful randomness. Walk half a mile in London and look up at the different architectural styles and hundreds of stories flood your mind. Spend 20 minutes listening to conversations on the tube and you’ll hear the most wonderful dialogue - better than any script. Social media platforms have generated an unprecedented wave of creativity, but look up every now and then and you’ll find there’s still plenty to see in the real world.


Long before Spotify, my creative partner and I used to play random music and make ourselves write a creative idea per track. Neither of us were heavily into one particular type of music, so we had all kinds of odd tracks and genres thrown at us. One moment it would be Red Hot Chilli Peppers, the next it might be anything from Rachmaninov to Mexican Ska. It forced us to think in different tones of voice and different styles for whatever brand we were working on. It didn’t always solve the problem, but it opened up our thinking and got us out of a creative rut. What’s more, it was a fun way to spend an afternoon.


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