By Angela Haggerty | Reporter

May 28, 2013 | 7 min read

The Drum meets co-founder and creative partner of Now, John Townshend, 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 ShelkinIn the digital age there's still a bit of room for old fashioned tactics in the world of London advertising job-hunting and a smart letter will go a lot further than a gimmick if you're dealing with the co-founder and creative partner of Now, John Townshend, formerly of Rapier and Ogilvy & Mather.Townshend should know a little bit about what it takes to get into the industry; during his time at Rapier he grew the staff roll from 23 to 140. He's won awards and big pitches - including the Virgin Media brand launch at Rapier - and has TV and print work in D&AD, features in the Radio Advertising Hall of Fame and has received acclaim for his online work.For prospective new advertising recruits, he offers a bit of sympathy and says his own days of working for "aggressive creative directors" didn't rub off on him."I remember when I started I had very aggressive creative directors who just didn't like me and I found it really hard work," says Townshend. "I always thought I never wanted to treat young creatives badly so I always try and get back to people."I don't really buy the idea of gimmicks. If you write a really smart letter or you send me something very interesting then I'll probably notice it."In the end you just look for really lively ideas, the ability to simplify, the ability to get a single strand of thought and express it in different ways. I always found the best creatives are the brightest ones, and the bright people listen."Now was co-founded over a year ago by Townshend, with a name reflecting the emerging immediacy of marketers' needs. Before his career began he attended university in London and his first attempts to break into the industry were less than memorable."In those days it was really unsophisticated, I just remember I got the top 20 agencies list and I wrote to all of them and got zero response, my CV was just dull," he explains. "So I re-wrote it and made it a bit more lively. I got about three interviews and got offered a job at what was then DMB&B."Townshend - who somehow manages to squeeze breaks in Norfolk, spending time with his kids, playing the drums, skiing, watching TV and sampling restaurants into his schedule - moved from DMB&B to Ogilvy & Mather, where he stayed for seven years, and changed his path in the process, moving from account executive to copywriter with a little help from a mentor and inspiration from industry figures."My first mentor was a guy called Indra Sinha, who was a fantastic copywriter famous for all the ads for the Imperial War Museum. He wrote beautiful corporate ads for shell and he used to do all the Amnesty International ads," he says."He just made you inspired by the art of writing, he made it a joy to learn to write. I really admired Tim Delaney for his craft and the advertising he did was fantastic, and then I guess John Hegarty, who changed the idea of advertising into being much more of a visual and artistic thing."I totally admire someone who's created an agency that's creative integrity has maintained through lots of changes in management over 25 years. You've got to admire that, it's brilliant."For those looking for a job in the advertising industry, Townshend says it's important to get a good portfolio together and be practical, but the most vital thing of all is the drive to succeed in the industry."First of all you've got to want to do it. You can't half do it. If you want to do it and you're a little bit unsure then for it, at least you know whether it's for you or not," he continues."In your mind you just have to commit to it and go and listen, absorb and don't be afraid to ask people."When Townshend started out on his career he never thought too far ahead about where it would take him but always knew he wanted to be "in charge of [his] own destiny". Now running his own agency - which receives news of a pitch win half way through the interview to a chorus of cheers - he says changes in industry haven't shifted him from the fundamental principles."I'm quite old fashioned in the sense that I believe that the principles of understanding a client's company and their business, distilling it into something that's powerful and simple and then expressing it creatively is just the same as it always has been," says Townshend, who counts the Tango slap ads, the Guinness surfers and The Economist campaigns among his favourite ads."The parameters are different now and the media that we use is different, but you remember really simple ad campaigns. With clients that are sending this blunderbust of communications out in different media that reaches people at different times, simple advertising ideas are more important than they ever have been."We do a lot of stuff on tone of voice so it's not just the idea, it's the art directional look, how it's all coming together across all media and what's the tone of voice - lots of tone of voice conversations. People like Virgin really get tone and the value of that. And they're all craft skills, just applied in different places."Townshend finished off the interview with a quick-fire question round.Cannes Lion or D&AD Pencil?LionOlympic gold medal or an Oscar?OscarThe brightest person you've ever worked with?Indra SinhaThe most creative person you've worked with?Indra SinhaThe best looking person you've worked with?That's ridiculous [laughs]... my old art director, Kevin Bradley, in his dayCreatives or suits?Creatives of courseApple or AndroidAppleAnt or Dec?I can't remember which is which, I think DecSpice Girls or Girls Aloud?Girls AloudFacebook or Twitter?TwitterFavourite flavour crisps?They used to do marmite flavourTake That or Westlife?Take ThatDegree or no degree?DegreeArt directors or copywriters?CopywritersThe Only Way Is Essex or Made In Chelsea?Essex because I cringe more at Chelsea I thinkRetained work or pitched work?To do pitch is more excitingWeb or mobile?MobileOutsourced production or onsite production?Ultimately onsiteDon Draper or Roger Sterling?Draper of courseLastly, twist or stick?TwistTo view the latest jobs in advertising, design, digital media and marketing in your area, visit The Drum's job section
Twistorstick News Advertising

Content created with:

More from Twistorstick

View all