Jonathan Durden on exiting the industry: 'I felt bored being treated like gold'
In the second in The Drum's Why I Left Advertising series, we speak to PHD co-founder Jonathan Durden about his escape from - and re-entry into - the media and marketing industries.
Jonathan Durden doesn’t have an office anymore. The co-founder of PHD now works in the oak-panelled West End institute The Ivy, working almost purely off his iPhone to consult for a variety of startups and businesses, as well as running his own brand, a male grooming label called Below The Belt.
Durden did not slowly fade out of the advertising world’s consciousness; there were no uncertain moves to easy board positions or quiet LinkedIn tweaks. He departed PHD as its last founding partner to do so in 2007, because “I felt bored with earning half a million pounds a year and being treated like gold.”
He joined MCBD (now Dare), penned a novel “in a month”, memorably entered the Big Brother House and for a short while became tabloid fodder, all in quick succession. But eventually something materialised – or broke – in Durden, and he trampled a path to the door.
“I didn't have a life anymore,” he recalls. “My wife sadly had passed away. My children were in a terrible state. And I wasn't in a great state. When you're in that kind of mental space you just want to make a break for the border: hug the kids, learn new things, and not distract yourself with worry about a brief for an ear bud or a motor car.
“It was a big time in my life. It wasn't sensible financially to go, but it was for my soul.”
After a few years he remarried and upon having a baby, they upped sticks and went to Spain with the intention of staying for six months. They ended up staying there, up a mountain, for three years. The money came in by way of a long distance gig with PR mogul Mark Borkowski.
“I love it there because it's such a simple life but I had to come back eventually. I just had no idea I could last three years. That was a surprise. But it was good for me.”
Now with a stake in the likes of the Lad Bible, DCM, his own company and two new startups, as well as mentorships and other consulting projects, is he still bored?
“I’m always bored. I have the shortest attention span of anyone you’ll ever meet. But now I get busy. I’m very lucky. I can pick and choose by and large when I work. I'll be anywhere I need to be at any given time.
“But I think I'm pretty full. I don't think I can do much more. I'm kind of an addictive sort of person so it's all or nothing. I'm in all mode right now and I love it. I cherish this time.”
Watch ex-Havas chairman Kate Robertson's Why I Left Advertising interview here.
Other episodes in the series
Kate Robertson on leaving advertising : ‘You never realise how bad materialism in the industry is until you get outside'
Today (7 December) sees The Drum launch a new video series examining the myriad reasons behind personal exits from the marketing world. Why I Left Advertising’s first subject, One Young World co-founder Kate Robertson, details her industry insights only garnered after resigning from her position as president of Havas Worldwide in 2015.
'We thought we were Mad Men but we were drinking in Tiger Tiger': Chris Maples on life after advertising
After a lifetime in high-profile ad sales, Chris Maples departed his post of VP, Europe at Spotify to try something completely different – running a school. In the third part of The Drum’s Why I Left Advertising series, he chats through his reasons for departing the industry, and discusses how his life is different now.
Emer Stamp's journey from ECD to children’s author: ‘Advertising gives you a very hard skin’
In the fourth episode of Why I Left Advertising, Emer Stamp, the former Adam&EveDDB executive creative director, explains her reasoning for giving up life as a creative to write and illustrate full-time.
Dave Buonaguidi on his hiatus from the industry: ‘You shouldn’t hate working at your own agency – but I did’
When Karmarama co-founder Dave Buonaguidi quit the agency he founded, he did so publically, lambasting the “professional creatives who are only creative between the hours of 9am and 6pm” who work in agencies all based on Mad Men”. Yet now he’s back in ad land, working as creative director at CP+B.
‘It felt like either I’d gone mad, or everyone else had gone mad’: why Paul Pateman had to give up his life in advertising
Paul ‘Pâté’ Pateman left advertising to become a graphic illustrator after a bout of pneumonia forced him to rethink his career path. But years before, as a creative director at TBWA, he had felt the first pull away from the industry.
‘It’s just fucking advertising’: Natalie Marsan on giving up the NYC grind for travel, work and family
Natalie Marsan has managed to do what was once the impossible: raise a baby, hold down a London-based job while living in Croatia, and travel – constantly. But less than three years ago she was buried deep in New York’s marketing scene. In the latest episode of Why I Left Advertising, Marsan explains why and how she became a nomadic working mother.