Interview with Dave King

What are the biggest challenges you face in your role as Design Director for StudioLR? 

For me, the toughest challenge is balancing my time. I try to constantly remember where I add the most value and focus on that – but it’s difficult day-to-day not to get involved in every aspect of everything that’s coming through the studio. I write a lot of lists. On the work itself, one of the recurring challenges is maintaining the level of bravery that a client starts out with. Almost every project starts out with a big ambition but it can get chipped away at over time – tiny compromises add up and I think it’s really important to fly the flag for brave work. The audience never get to see the process or the thinking behind an idea – they only see what we put out in the end. So it has to be sharp. 

How do you think the quality of UK'sMarketing Industry compares globally? 

It’s right up there, definitely. From little ideas like Greggs’ back-to-front shop sign that took advantage of the reflection in Fenwick’s famous Christmas display opposite, to Carlsberg’s brave new campaign – creativity is alive and well in the UK marketing scene.

Who or what influences you? Which living person do you most admire?

People who are unusual. Usually musicians, comedians, writers. Occasionally brands and campaigns. Often it’s just a one-liner that makes you think about something in a new way. I like the little brain-freeze moment that those lines give you. I love anything that makes me laugh, smile or cry. And Tom Waits is the man for me.

Tell us about your favouritead campaign, social campaign or commercial. Why does it stand out for you?

Favourite ever is a tough one. But in recent years it has to be the Super Bowl Tide Ad. It’s absolutely brilliant. So many campaign ‘insights’ are really just observations that don’t change how we see something, but the insight here is magic – every ad on tv has super clean clothes. Suddenly, every ad looks different. It’s also brilliantly written, acted and produced. It put a huge smile on my face the first time I watched it and that’s as good a result as an ad can ever really hope for. I just watched it again and it might just be perfect you know.

What’s the most memorable campaign you’ve been involved with in your career to date? 

The rebrand and campaign for the new D-Day Story in Portsmouth. The client was totally committed to making something that would resonate with people who aren’t interested in military history. It made for a good challenging brief. We got to dig into old archive material, diaries, photos. Some of the stories were heartbreaking, some were hilarious – it was a real pleasure to work on.

You’ve been with StudioLR since 2011. What’s the culture like within the company and has it changed over the years? 

It’s pretty relaxed. Work can be high stress so we try not to take ourselves too seriously. We try to make work that sparks something in people – making them laugh or cry, so I think it’s important that we do a lot of that ourselves. (Usually laughing though, seldom crying). We’re quite a close team so we don’t do pretending. We’re all honest with each other, we complain out loud, and we share everything – we’ve always got a wall covered with half-baked thoughts that anyone can chip into and we spend half of our days at each other’s desks. The big change over the years for me has been my own role(s). Because we’re pretty open and share a lot, it’s a good culture to grow in. Nobody gets pigeon-holed. I started out as a designer who quite liked writing, moved into a designer/copywriter, then a designer/copywriter who was interested in strategy. Now my card says Design Director but I spend the majority of my time on strategy, creative direction and writing.

What happens when you have a demanding client who offers you a lot of money? Do you still take the job? Why or why not?

It really depends on the job. A demanding client definitely isn’t a bad thing. I like clients with really high standards and ambitions. It’s a great feeling to work with a client who wants to be the best. As long as they’re looking for creative work that entertains people then it would be a yes from me. I’m a big believer that there’s too much boring stuff in the world already and we really shouldn’t clutter people’s days with any more of it. If it’s not making something a bit better for somebody, or putting a smile on their face, or making them feel something, then I’m not interested. Every piece of work should care about the person it’s for more than the person it’s by. That’s a rule I won’t bend.

Who are the people new to you who have particularly impressed you in the last twelve months?

I’m a huge fan of an Australian strategy dude called Mark Pollard. I started reading his articles online about a year ago and was lucky enough to get to one of his training workshops. I love the way he writes and talks about strategy. Absolutely no bullshit and a tonne of creativity. I love what used to be The Partners (now Superunion)’s recent brand work. The London Symphony Orchestra and Shakespeare’s Globe rebrands are awesome. I did a talk down in London last year and Stuart Radford (their ECD) was speaking after me. I got a chat with him beforehand and he’s a genuinely inspiring person… one of those super-talented, super-humble, super-friendly people. The bastard. And, although none of them are new to me in the last year, I’m pretty much always impressed with our mob at StudioLR.

What work or agency from outside the UK do you think is particularly influential? 

I worry a wee bit about the creeping influence of the big serious ‘higher purpose’ ads. From Pepsi’s disaster ad to the Gillette one. Sure, I totally agree with the causes. And part of me is very entertained watching people get their knickers in a twist about them. But they’re not what these brands are about at all. They feel irrelevant, patronising and trite at best, hypocritical at worst. I can’t fathom how you could put that Gillette ad out and still charge more for women’s razors than men’s. On a more positive note, it’s great to see work that doesn’t take itself too seriously – and has a new angle on an old product. The Halo Top ice cream campaign is a cracker.

What has been your agency's best work in the last year?

I think it would have to be the Volvo CE rigid hauler launch. It’s not very often in your career that you suggest making a hundred-tonne hauler disappear in front of a live audience and the client says yes. I’m going to be talking about it a bit at the session in a couple of weeks. It was one of those projects that pushed us all right out of our comfort zone but it was totally worth it in the end. Grey hair is the new black anyway.


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