In Conversation with Jim Ingram

Jim is the Group Chief Creative and Co-Founder of Thinkerbell, currently recognised as the #1 ranked agency globally on BestAds and one of the fastest growing advertising companies in the world. Across his 20+ year career, Jim has won, judged and chaired at multiple international creative award shows, has spoken on stage at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and helped nurture the next generation of talent by chairing the highly regarded creative education program, AWARD School. He’s still trying to get over the fact that he created the second most awarded Film globally in 2009 with Schweppes Burst, being pipped by a gorilla playing the drums. He hates that fucking gorilla.

If you could change something about The Advertising Industry, what would it be?

I’d change the reliance on spin. We all spin to each other. Even when thinking about how to answer this question, I wondered “what’s a sensible answer here? One that will benefit my credibility, but also my business?”. So fuck it, I’m not gonna spin these answers (can I even say ‘fuck it’ here?? Fuck it, too late anyway). It’s 9:07pm on a Tuesday and I’m in the bath drinking a beer and finally getting around to completing this interview for you – after way too many all-too-polite reminders from you that I hadn’t done it yet. But the reason why it took me so long, is because it’s fucking hard finding the time to do this stuff (there I go again…). It’s tough running a business, and that often means there’s still things to do when I get home – every. single. night. But that’s OK, because I chose this, and I love it. That bit is not spin. 

The spin is when I bump into people at an awards thingy and they say “hey” and then I say “hey” and then they say “Thinkerbell is doing well” and I say “thanks, we’re really lucky to have such a great team and fantastic clients”. What I really should say is, “it’s been fucking insanely hard work, full of ups and downs, and it’s really tricky building a new model of working, whilst trying to keep an eye on great creativity, and building a team of people who are all happy and motivated and professionally fulfilled, whilst attracting and retaining clients who share our ambitions for success and simultaneously managing to be a present father to my kids and sensual lover to my wife but shit I still haven’t done those interview questions for Sally”. We’re never that honest with each other. It would be nice if we were. I’d change that bit. 

In your opinion, what’s the best work you’ve done.

I’ve helped build some of the most successful brands in the business, I’ve won multiple awards on an international scale, I’ve created ads that make people laugh and make people cry, but when I get into a cab and the driver asks me what I do, I say “I wrote that line ‘Cadbury Favourites, what to bring when you’re told not to bring a thing’”. It’s the only one they remember.  

So far, what’s been the biggest challenge of your career.

Coming to terms with the fact that they no longer use that line. That’s a ripper, and should be used for eternity.

Name one person in the industry you’ve truly admired.

Ben A. Couzens. I met Cuz at Uni when I was 19. We couldn’t have been more opposite. He was astute, paid attention in lectures, delivered everything on time, was rarely hungover. I was not. But when we worked together on projects – my god was it powerful. Something just clicked, every time. So we finished the degree as a working team (the first time RMIT had allowed this to happen – Sally, do you remember this?). And for the next 25 years, I’ve worked side-by-side (sometimes sitting opposite) him. It’s hard to remain true to yourself, in any environment, let alone advertising. But the Ben Couzens I met on Level 3, Building 9, 124 La Trobe Street in 1997 is the exact same person I front up to work with every day today – a little greyer around the whiskers, and with a few more tatts, but his soul remains completely and utterly intact. He cares for people. He’s truly creative. And I love him dearly. 

Name three essential things someone starting out in Advertising should know from day one.

  • Take it seriously, but not too seriously.
  • You’ll never be 100% certain, but 80% is enough.
  • If you’re good (which you will be) your 80 is worth anyone else’s 100.

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