'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.

“I’ve never run a school before,” Maples admits. “So in a practical sense, everything is different.

“Just before it looked like I might get offered the job, my wife and I sat down and I said: ‘This will be a different experience for me but it’s not without risk’. She said: ‘Well I haven’t seen you this excited in about six years so I think you should do it’.”

Maples is the chief executive of the Met Film School based in the historic Ealing Studios. He leads the strategic direction of the institute, which includes ambitious expansion plans and uses his background in advertising to “better position the school in what it is a pretty competitive world”.

When he decided to leave Spotify in July 2014, there was no plan. All he knew was a big corporate job was not on the cards, having previously worked for Microsoft and watched Spotify go from burgeoning startup to worldwide music platform.

“I felt like I wasn’t making as bigger impact as I could,” he says. “The direction of the commercial business was definitely going in a way that I didn’t necessarily think was the right way. There was less freedom to do what we thought was the right thing.

“And going from six to 80 markets is the fun bit. Going from 80 to 120 is less fun.”

After nearly six months running the show out in Ealing, does he ever pine for the heady days of advertising in 1990s? Not quite.

“I think the heady days of the industry are always the ones that happened the generation before you,” he explains. “The generation before me were the ones that drove Jaguars as company cars and going off to the TV conference in Monaco. Suddenly things became accountable for my generation.

“People still enjoyed themselves, but everyone worked hard. It certainly wasn’t Mad Men. We might have thought we were Mad Men at one point but we were having a drink in Tiger Tiger. It’s not really like drinking on a yacht.”

He adds: “For me, this is the first real time that I’ve led [big changes in a company]. I’ve been part of senior management team before but here, the plan is the one I sign off on. I have responsibility here. So this is my future – that’s my plan now.”