In Conversation with Tom Wenborn

Tom Wenborn began his creative career as a designer, before becoming a copywriter, then a designer again, then an art director before settling somewhere in-between.

He has spent the last decade working at Australia’s top agencies including CHE Proximity and Saatchi & Saatchi, creating some of the country’s most popular and effective campaigns for clients including Cadbury, Westpac, Toyota, Devondale, Furphy, Foxtel, Hahn and Bega. His work has been recognized over 100 times at major award shows including D& AD, Cannes, Clios, New York Festivals, London International Awards, The Effies and Young Guns.

His campaigns have also been featured in Contagious’ Best & Bravest as well as the Financial Review’s Most Innovative List. He is passionate about simple work that makes a difference, whether that’s helping unfuck the environment or making your Nanna laugh, both are equally important.

How did you get into advertising – was it by accident or design?

My family have all had proper jobs. Uncles, Aunts, Cousins and Grandparents are all in Law or Medicine, but they’re also all farmers, which to me was a sign that if I became an architect or lawyer I’d end up needing an outlet like farming to be happy. Among all my studious relatives was an uncle (also a farmer now) who bucked the trend and got into Advertising. When I was at my most impressionable age, he was the MD of Saatchi & Saatchi, London and was by far the most interesting person at the Christmas dinner table. So I guess it was by design that I’d try to avoid any sort of serious career and get into Advertising. I also want to be a farmer.

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

By far the biggest challenge for me was overcoming my own ego. I still believe as a creative of any kind you need to be confident in your ideas and back your own vision, but balancing that with the fact you’re young and don’t know anything is fucking hard. I was fortunate to start my career with well-grounded people who championed the work and made sure every brief was an opportunity to open your mind one way or another.  

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

Since my first day, until my last, Scott Bundy will always be the person who has had the largest impact on my career. Starting out in the industry you don’t really know ad people, or at least I didn’t. I knew the work and that’s what I admired. When Scott gave me my first job he spent time teaching me how to work with others and understand that collaboration would lead to all that work I was jealous of. I guess from then on, rather than admire specific CDs with the best books, I appreciated teams and agencies that could consistently pump out great thinking.

If you could change something about your industry, what would it be?

Pitching. Or at least the way pitches are run. Not because of the competition, but because of the relationship it creates between agencies and clients. The inevitable Master / Servant dynamic caused by doing free (or not true value for time) work starts things off on the wrong foot. In my experience, an equal partnership between client and agency has always yielded better and more efficient work.

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

  1. Be open to anything. Ideas can come from anywhere, the client, the CFO, the guy who waters the plants. And ideas can look like anything. Gone are the days that you need to make a TV ad with your TV budget.

  2. Make sure you love it. Advertising can be a long, fruitful career filled with amazing people and experiences if you’re passionate about it. It can also be shit. Don’t feel like you have to do it, there’s plenty of creative pursuits adjacent to ad land that might be right up your alley.

  3. Be nice. There’s a lot of jealousy and spite within the industry. Try to avoid it. Build people up and support creative thinking, we’ll all be better off.

Is there anything you wish you’d done differently?

Not yet

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