An interview with Rob Newlan

Global President, Virtue Worldwide

This week we spoke to Rob Newlan, the Global President of Virtue Worldwide who is speaking at our event Innovating the Creative Process at Speed in partnership with Virtue. Here is what he has to say: 

What’s your golden rule?

For people: Assume positive intent 
For the work: Ensure that you are creating reciprocity for people and the brand. It is easy to buy space and interrupt people, and it’s easy to create art with no commercial value. It’s possible for everyone to win and to create things that are of value to your audience and your brand. 

Who has been your biggest influence?

Mr. T

What is your most hated business expression?

At the moment it is probably: ’It's a really open brief, I just want you to scare me’ - we want nothing more than to build bold and fresh ideas, but that is far more likely to be drawn from a sharp, clear, aligned brief. 99% of open briefs just lead to a load of great ideas that will never see the light of day.

How can marketers be braver?

Build proper, substantial relationships with agencies.The ‘permapitch’ approach might sound like it will deliver great work from a wide range of hungry agencies, but the reality is less impressive. What we see instead is agencies conceding through the creative process in a bid to curry favour with the client. It takes a stable partnership built on trust to birth truly bold ideas.

Now, more than ever I believe bold creative ideas are necessary. Brands need to step forward and take this as a point in time to drive radical and systemic change and you need committed, secure agency partners who come with you on that adventure. Bravery and creative greatness come from allowing space for tension, disagreement and challenge, and that comes from a place of understanding and security.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career?

I fundamentally believe that the biggest risk anyone can take is going into a risk averse and conservative environment as it stunts your growth professionally and creatively. Where this has happened to me I quickly found a way out to somewhere far bolder instead. 

Which leader do you admire most and why?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) - she is everything a leader should be. Bold, uninhibited, vulnerable and empathetic. She is phenomenally impressive. 

What’s your favourite word?

I am a perpetual enthusiast so I must say ‘fantastic’ about a 1000 times a day. I also grew up with a potty mouthed mum, as a result I swear constantly, so I probably say ‘fuck’ about a 1000 times a day too. 

Tell us a secret?

I think ASMR is vile - instead of it making me calm and relaxed, the sound of someone whispering down a mic makes me want to scream. 



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