The Drum Awards Festival - Official Deadline

-d -h -min -sec

By Angela Haggerty, Reporter

March 28, 2013 | 7 min read

The Drum meets ECD of Elvis, John Treacy, in the latest of a series with twistorstick speaking to leading figures to find out what it takes to get a job in industry

Interview by Marc ShelkinIf you don't have a website, don't even bother asking and an ability to frighten wouldn't go amiss - these are the words of advertising job hunting wisdom from London-based agency Elvis's executive creative director, John Treacy.Treacy joined the agency 10 years ago when it was a startup and has been with the company throughout its expansion and success, with offices now in America, Canada and Singapore. Elvis has grown from six people in a room at its beginnings to six offices around the world. Treacy has been with it through huge technological and industrial changes but says the key qualities he looks for are still the fundamentals."Good strategic thinking is what I always look for in teams. There's so many ways to express an idea now that when I look at teams what I'm looking for is that really solid piece of strategic thinking up front, with a clear understanding of why they're using that particular channel to execute it and seeing some real knowledge and something that scares me a little bit."If I was looking to hire someone the book is still only ever half the story, you do need to meet them, you need to understand their attitude. I like to see creatives with a real viewpoint on the world and the sort of work they think is good. An online portfolio is easier to deal with - if you don't have a website as a team you're clearly doing something quite wrong before you started."Treacy is an art director by trade and moved to Elvis from Archibald Ingall Stretton in 2003. The agency won 12 out of its 15 pitches in 2012, including accounts with Sky, Magners and Yakult and work in recent years has included a giant interactive poster created for Virgin in 2011. He compares the work of Elvis, which he says is seen as a "challenger agency", to the philosophy of Virgin - don't just play the game, change it. While the agency's London office has grown from a staff of six to 70 since it was founded, he admits it is hard for creatives to find jobs in the advertising industry, but says creative directors are always on the lookout for talent."I think the economic climate at the moment is really tough, people just aren't hiring," he explains. "It's always been really hard to get in but especially with the way the economy is at the moment I do think it is pretty difficult."That's where as a team your attitude will shine. There's lots of talent out there but when you meet people and you have them in on placement you can really see how they interact with other departments and how keen they really are. That's what I think tips the balance for a lot of creative directors."I get sent so much stuff [from jobseekers] it all blurs into one. I look at everything. I always try to see whatever people email me unless it's clearly very awful. As a creative director you're always on the lookout for talent wherever you can find it and sometimes you do find it in really odd places."The motivation for Treacy comes from the ever-changing nature of the industry. Jobs in the advertising industry for young creatives are more digital and technical than ever before, and he says that while flexibility is more of a requirement, creatives shouldn't lose sight of good ideas."There's no great mystery behind it - is it a good idea or not? There's a lot of talk about whether it's a channel idea or whether it's an above the line or below the line or a digital idea - I ultimately believe it's either good or it's not."I think the notion of a set team is somewhat misguided in this day and age," he continues. "You need to be much more flexible than just an art and copy team. There's a lot of merit to that way of thinking. Sometimes I work with a user experience planner, sometimes a writer, sometimes it might be a developer. The idea of a traditional team is something we're trying to move away from."I still see really good solo creatives coming out, I think there's definitely a new breed emerging that are technically very astute but have a really good conceptual side to them as well." While recruitment and growth may have slowed in recent years as the effects of the recession have lingered, Treacy believes that the overall standard of the trade is higher than it's ever been, although the down side of that progress is the difficulty creatives find in standing out from the crowd."I think that standard overall is higher than it was 10 years ago, which makes really outstanding work harder to stand out. Before, you had good piece that really stood out because the general level was slightly lower so I think we've raised the bar for the average work, which makes the really good stuff harder to stand out."I think in writing there is not a crisis but there's less emphasis on it. We live in a very visual culture and I think the image has definitely taken primacy in a lot of work."To round off the interview, Treacy took part in a quick-fire questions round.Cannes Lions or D&AD Pencil?I think pencilOlympic gold medal or an Oscar?Olympic gold medalThe most creative person you've worked with?Probably Tom Tagholm, he's just directed the meet the superhumans ad, we were a creative team for a bit, he's very goodThe best looking person you've worked with?Too many too mention. Elvis in the early days was known as Hollyoaks - standards have slipped [laughs], I couldn't name oneCreative or suits?CreativesApple or Android?AppleAnt or DecAntSpice Girls or Girls AloudGirls AloudFacebook or Twitter?TwitterDigital or analogue?DigitalFavourite flavour crisps?Pickled onion Monster MunchTake That or Westlife?Oh God... neitherDegree or no degree?No degreeArt directors or copywriters?Art directorsThe Only Way is Essex or Made in Chelsea?I'm not even going to answer thatRetained work or pitched work?RetainedWeb or mobile?MobileIndependent agencies or networked agencies? Depends on the networkOutsourced production or onsite productionDepends on the projectDon Draper or Roger Sterling?Don DraperAnd lastly, twist or stick?TwistTo view the latest jobs in advertising, design, digital media and marketing in your area, visit The Drum's job section