In Conversation with Jack Room

Where did you work and what do you do now?

After nearly 40 years in Advertising, having owned two Design Studios in London, owned and sold a successful Ad Agency in Melbourne, managed the creative output of one of the worlds largest Multinational Agencies, became the ‘R’ in one of Australia’s most successful Ad Agencies, BADJAR, where I was Creative Director for 20 years, I believe I have established ‘reasonable’ Business and Creative credentials.

Stepping back from the ‘Mad’ world of Advertising, enjoying a stint in Higher Education, I am currently a Director of Creative Futures Limited, a not-for-profit organisation whose purpose is to ‘Advance Future Creative Thinkers’.

Also, I am an Advisor to a Brand Strategy Agency and a large Hospital Foundation.

Tell us a bit more about yourself?

When my Primary School Teacher in country Victoria asked me “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I answered “ an Artist”, I wanted to paint and draw.

Later I attended Art School at the ‘Gordon’ in Geelong before graduating from RMIT and getting a job at JWT Melbourne, not as an artist but as an Art Director.

So a career in Commercial Art, not Fine Art became my ‘calling’.

Over my nearly 40years in Advertising, I have been fortunate to have met and worked with some extraordinarily talented creative people, a few who have been profound influences on me at pivotal times in my career:

JEREMY BULLMORE – JWT Worldwide Creative Director, London.

It was Jeremy, on a visit to JWT Melbourne, who inspired me to sell my HQ Panel Van, my surfboard and my beloved Norton motorcycle and head to London.

In an interview in 2016, he said “ I cannot think of another trade that has such a need for Talent”, naturally he was referring to the Ad Industry.

LOU RIESNER – Producer/Arranger of The WHO’s Rock Opera ‘Tommy’ and David Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity’ …

… awarded a contract to myself and CLYDE TERRY, a gifted Illustrator/Designer friend from Art School days in Melbourne, to produce a complete record package for his latest project which was the biggest recording deal of its day.

Lou, along with 20th Century Records had bought the rights to 28 Beatles songs and had recorded them with Elton John, Rod Stewart, Brian Ferry, The Bee Gees and others including the London Symphony Orchestra.

The package was a double album set (vinyl) a 32-page book of lyrics, a poster in a slip box cover, and was called ‘All This And World War 2’ which Clyde and I designed and illustrated. On the back of this, project we started two Design Studios working exclusively for the Recording Industry in London and LA.

CLAIRE WORTHINGTON – Apple Recruitment Worldwide.

When I came back to Melbourne to get back into Advertising, she convinced me not to take a job with a big Multinational Agency but instead introduced me to ROD BENNETT, Creative Director of a small Creative Agency.

‘RODDO’ BENNETT – The ‘B’ in BADJAR and my creative and business partner for over 30years.

Roddo was the ‘words’ and I was the ‘pictures’ in the longest-running creative partnership in Australian Advertising, sharing the same desk, sitting opposite one another.

During that time we owned and sold KSB to Y&R, owned and sold BADJAR to STW to create BADJAR Ogilvy which was Melbournes largest Ad Agency.

Advertising has always been a ‘people’ industry and I have been very fortunate to have the pleasure and good fortune to meet these incredible people.

Along the way, I was made an Honorary Life Member of the Melbourne Art Directors/Designers Club and one of Campaign Brief’s Australian Creative Legends.

What changes have you seen in the advertising industry since starting out?

“Everything has changed…yet nothing has changed”.

The most obvious change has been the advent of the Internet, then the explosion of Technology and Social Media.

In the past decade, the evolution of paid Social Media Advertising has been astonishing, Facebook Ads and Pages, Twitter with Prompted Tweets and Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest with their own Advertising products.

Never have Brands had such a multitude of opportunities to connect with their customers in such finely targeted ways.

Never have brands customers been so mobile, with global Smart Phone ownership at over 2.5 billion and over 51% of global Web traffic originating from Mobile devices.

Never have Creatives been so challenged!

“A Picture saves a Thousand Words”.

Sorry to my Writer friends but now more than ever we are living in a ‘Visual’ world, we are communicating in a Global Marketplace that crosses cultures and languages.. the Visual is the key to communication.

However a challenge for all Advertising Creatives is that many of the 2.5 billion Smart Phone owners now think they are ‘Creatives’, and to a certain extent they are; they can create a decent image on their Phone with built-in metering and Graphics Apps, plus they can shoot, edit and record of acceptable quality.

BUT, the thing that they can’t do, and this is the one thing that has never changed, is they can’t work from a Brief and come up with IDEAS to answer that Brief.

The creation of IDEAS is Advertising’s greatest asset, yet the Industry still undervalues their importance.

One of the most fundamental changes in Australian Advertising history happened in the late 1980s when the ACCC declared that Ad Agencies could no longer receive Media Commissions. Agencies typically operated on a 17.6% Service Fee arrangement with their Clients, 10% of that Fee was Media Commission which the Client paid to the Media who in turn reimbursed the Agencies. Because it has always been difficult to put a price on Creativity the creation of IDEAS was absorbed in the 10% Media Commission.

After the ACCC ruling Agencies had lost more than half their income overnight and started to claw back the loss by for the first time charging for IDEAS. The clients said “NO”, and I believe the Ad Industry still hasn’t fully recovered.

We now live in an Advertising world in which so much of what we do is being ‘commoditised’, driven by the need to communicate faster, cheaper; the one thing that continues to stand out like a beacon is the creation of the IDEA!

As always Future Creative Thinkers will be wanted.

What does it take to stay relevant in today's advertising industry?

Sir Johan Hegarty, one of the world’s most famous Advertising creatives wrote,

‘Creativity isn’t an Occupation it’s a Preoccupation. It invents, perfects and defines our world. It explains and entertains us’.

To stay relevant as an Advertising Creative you have to make ‘creativity’ your preoccupation, you need to live it.

Visit Galleries, Theatres, Live Venues, increasingly searching out the obscure, the different. This way you will feed your creative being.

Be FEARLESS. More than ever to stay relevant and get you Ideas bought by the Agency sceptics and the Client cynics, you must sell your ideas with confidence and fearless conviction.

Make them believe that Creativity should Encourage, Enthuse, Engage and Entertain.

What would be your advice to someone wanting to break into the advertising industry now?

The COVID-19 crisis has everyone believing that the future is more uncertain than it has ever been. That Technology is changing everything beyond recognition and the times we are living in are unlike anything that can be imagined.

So, if all this is to be believed, then how do you break into the Ad Industry now?

Don’t despair. In my view, you break in the same way as always when times have been hard.

FOCUS. You train yourself like an elite athlete preparing for a big event.

You work on your skill deficiencies and fine-tune the skills that you excel in.

The challenge is not to be like everyone else!

When Levi Jeans in the UK launched their Black Denim Jeans they produced a Billboard Ad that featured a flock of White Sheep tightly packed together, all facing right to left.

Towards the right of the shot was a solitary Black Sheep facing the opposite direction.

To break into Advertising now, you need to be that ‘Black Sheep’.

To paraphrase David Trott, another of the world’s most awarded Advertising Creatives,

‘What works is being different.
Don’t try to be liked.
Find out how you are different.
Then be that.
That’s where the power is.
That’s what’s new.
That’s what’s wanted!’

Share it around…