10 questions with... Dave Buonaguidi, cofounder of Unltd

10 questions with Dave Buonaguidi

The Drum speaks to people across the global media and marketing sector who are bringing something a little different to the industry and talks to them about what little insights they can offer the rest of us. This week's 10 Questions With... features Dave Buonaguidi, cofounder of Unltd.

What was your first ever job?

My first ever job in advertising was working at TBWA back in 1984. I am the spawn of immigrants, so my first actual job as was working behind the bar in my dad’s Italian restaurant, keeping it stocked with peanuts and olives, and lighting cigarettes for customers. At around about the same time I was also helping out the milkman delivering milk and getting paid with two cans of Top Deck shandy. Top Deck had one molecule of lager in every can, but it was still enough to make me feel lashed when I got to school.

Why did you get into marketing?

When I was working at San Frediano, my dad’s restaurant, I would watch all the advertising people eating there. They looked happy, stylish, beautiful and sexy and seemed to eat lunch and drink wine all day long. As an impressionable pubescent 14 year old, I was mesmerised. I’m not too bright academically, but I went to art school and knew I wanted to get into the creative industry, I then did placements at various agencies before getting my first job at TBWA.

What’s the most surprising thing you have learned about the creative sector since working within it?

The most surprising thing I have learned is that ‘creativity’, or smart thinking, the most important asset to our businesses is now so undervalued and underused, there are some brilliant minds working in the business, but you’d never know it.

We are entering a fascinating chapter in the creative sector, where the old structure is changing and being dismantled. It’s good to see the big groups suffering, and I’m very excited and proud to see lots of other small companies going it alone and challenging the status quo.

What campaign or work have you most enjoyed being a part of?

I have been lucky enough to work on launching some great brands, like IKEA and Costa, and I’ve also been involved in some very exciting companies like St.Luke’s 4Creative and Karmarama. But I have always loved working with people with ambition and passion and right now with Unltd-Inc we are working with a lot of entrepreneurs and founders of businesses, and working with people with ambition and passion is very refreshing.

What have you learned from any mistakes you’ve made in your career?

I have made thousands of mistakes in my career, (some absolutely catastrophic ones,) and obviously I have tried to not make the same mistake twice, but I continue to make mistakes and hope I do for the rest of my career.

Here are 5 of the thousands of mistakes that I have made:

1. Never pitch in sandals.

2. Never do anything just for the money.

3. Don’t try and make friends with wild Turkish squirrels.

4. Don’t steal port and cheese off your boss.

5. Never give equity away to anyone who isn’t prepared to work on weekends or past 6pm.

Ideal pet: Dog, Cat, other?

None of the above. I lived in a house with a dog and three cats, and can only recall three days in ten years when the house didn’t either smell of shit, piss or sick. They look nice and they are lovely company, but I’ve stepped barefoot in animal sick so many times, I’m over it.

What is the most exciting thing about your job?

I get no kick from cocaine, booze, awards, long lunches or exit strategies, the most exciting thing for me is very simple: being able to think about unlocking our clients most pressing problems.

Ogilvy or Bernbach?

I know very little about either of them, but it seems that Bill Bernbach was a real creative innovator and looked to challenge the way things were done, his company created some brilliant mould breaking work that defined and inspired the business for generations. He was a man of integrity and principle, and married the girl he loved against the wishes of his family, and we also share the same birthday.

David Ogilvy on the other hand, was very good at what he did, smoked a pipe, lived a Chateau in France, and once called Martin Sorrell an Odious Little Shit.

Tough call.

For me though it’s Bernbach, for this paragraph he wrote to the management of his agency in 1947 expressing his concern with sameness in advertising and his desire to change advertising creativity.

“There are a lot of great technicians in advertising. And unfortunately, they talk the best game. They know all the rules. They can tell you that people in an ad will get you greater readership. They can tell you that a sentence should be this short or that long. They can tell you that body copy should be broken up for easier reading. They can give you fact after fact after fact. They are the scientists of advertising. But there's one little rub. Advertising is fundamentally persuasion and persuasion happens to be not a science, but an art."

If you could ban one buzzword or piece of jargon what would it be?

Diversity. It’s pathetic and laughable that it is still an issue that we are still so clumsily trying to address.

What's the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

I was once trying to hire someone and I asked a friend about them. They said almost immediately “Stay the fuck away from that bloke, he’s a right wanker.” It was great advice.

However, I didn’t follow it and hired him. Even gave him equity.

10 Questions With... will return next week

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