AMV BBDO’s new CCOs: ‘We’re not here to throw away the past’
As Nicholas Hulley and Nadja Lossgott prepare to take over the creative reins at AMV BBDO, they tell us the secrets to their decades-long partnership – and what they’ve got planned for the prestigious agency.
Nicholas Hulley and Nadja Lossgott, the new chief creative officers of AMV BBDO
AMV BBDO is one of the most acclaimed agencies in London, with a client roster that includes brands such as Guinness, Bodyform and Mars. They’re clients willing to put real muscle behind the kind of big-idea, big-scope ads creative directors love to make – the kind of work that gets discussed by newspaper editors and cabbies alike.
But things are changing at AMV; new chief executive officer Sam Hawkey was appointed last summer from Saatchi & Saatchi and chief creative officer Alex Grieve is moving on to BBH. The agency has chosen to replace him with not one but two names, promoting Nadja Lossgott and Nicholas Hulley as joint chief creative officers.
Though the ascension isn’t a huge surprise, the pair having been executive creative directors under Grieve since 2019, Lossgott says: ”I’m pretty sure if you’d asked us 11 years ago when we jumped on the plane to come over here, we wouldn’t have thought we were going to be leading such an incredible agency.”
From Johannesburg to London
Since jumping on that plane from Johannesburg in 2010, the pair have worked with an enviable range of brands, racking up over 20 Grand Prix at Cannes Lions for their work on Bodyform’s ’Wombstories,’ the ’Sapeurs’ and ’Guinness Zero’ spots for Guinness, and LadBible’s ’Trash Isles’ campaign.
But their collaboration started much farther back. Lossgott and Hulley met at TBWA\Hunt Lascaris, where they worked alongside luminaries such as agency founder John Hunt (now global chief creative chair of TBWA).
Speaking from South Africa during her first visit home in the two years of the pandemic, Lossgott recalls: ”It was South Africa’s hotshot agency. Everything we learned as a basis was from that agency and the incredible people who were there.
”It was like a school because you just had so much amazing talent doing well internationally and also making viral work and fame-driving work in South Africa itself. It was such an exciting time to be starting our careers.”
A chance team-up led to a partnership that has lasted for the best part of two decades, says Hulley. After his previous art director left he was put together with Lossgott to work on a pitch and the temporary posting stuck. ”It was one of those emergency pragmatic decisions. We just enjoyed working together and that was it.”
15 years on, he says the secret behind their partnership is regular disagreement. ”We allow ourselves differences of opinion. I’ll start and if Nadja disagrees entirely with what I’ve got to say then that’s good too.
”First and foremost we’re friends – before we are a team and before we are creative directors and chief creative directors, we are friends. That’s really the foundation. Friends are allowed to disagree and friends are allowed to fight because you’re friends and you know it’ll all be fine.”
Lossgott says: ”Ours is a symbiotic relationship because we have different strengths that complement each other. By allowing that to happen and being able to respect each other for having a different way of coming at a problem is always interesting. And luckily, I normally love what Nick brings. There’s a kind of shared perseverance, there’s balance, there’s loyalty and kindness.
”Coming from the base that we had in South Africa, we do things in the same way ... because you have smaller budgets, you end up having to take quite a DIY approach. Growing up in that kind of adventurous problem-solving way has helped us to steer our way through different challenges that we’ve had in making work. And it’s expanded our interests – because we had to.”
Behind ‘Welcome Back’
The DIY streak in their collaboration came to the fore last year in ’Welcome Back,’ a campaign for Guinness. Beneath a melancholy cover of Always On My Mind by Jack Savoretti, the ad shows a series of ersatz visual similes for the Irish stout – white cats atop black compost bins, newspaper stacks, socks drying on the line – before revelers return, finally, to the pub with their mates.
”We knew it wasn’t going to just be bleak or just about relief that the pubs were reopening,” says Hulley. ”Right from the beginning we knew it had to be a mixture of the two because that was going to be the sweet spot.”
While Lossgott says the ad started with the song (”From the very beginning we knew we wanted to use Always On My Mind ... it gives you a sense of humor because it’s that kind of cheesy fun-loving track that gets laughs ... but the [cover] we chose really had those conflicting emotions in it, the cheese and the nostalgia”), it’s the details in this homage to the end of lockdown that make it – from the actors’ performances to their unkempt barnets.
”Everyone hasn’t gone for a fresh haircut yet,” notes Lossgott. ”You’re still coming out of lockdown, doing all the other things that are important like seeing your friends rather than immediately running and polishing yourself up. With Chris [Balmond, the director], it was really important that it felt real and truthful to actually how you were feeling.”
While she acknowledges this is ”emotion-driven work,” the pair are quick to emphasize its basis in evidence. ”We call it ’giving data a soul.’ A big commercial is emotional work that resonates on a visceral level, rather than on a logical level.”
What’s next for AMV BBDO?
Although the agency is undergoing a changing of the guard, both are quick to stress their ambition to keep creative standards high – and for work that deals in emotions, backed up by real insight.
Hulley says: “We’re not here to throw away the past. Making the best, most empathetic work is in the DNA of AMV, so we want to continue doing this and supercharge it. This means keep creating incredible and surprising cocktails of emotions able to strike a chord with audiences in so many moments, shapes and forms. We want to listen even harder, push boundaries and buttons, dive beyond the obvious and the stereotypes to bring fresh and relevant value to people at any stage of their journey.”
Lossgott adds: “And we know how much outstanding work depends on three other things: a positive, kind and exciting internal culture. Again, AMV is the agency known for nice people, but the toll that Covid-19 and remote working has taken on the culture is undeniable and we want to do everything we can to regrow positivity among each and every one of our AMV-ers.
”A lot of this is linked to a value that is very dear to us – collaboration. Not just because it creates the best outcomes, but because it’s the quickest recipe for day-to-day happiness and fulfillment at work. Nick and I always want to hear from all the disciplines around us and see them co-creating points of view and creative outputs that they all feel is the most exciting thing they could make.”