10 questions with... Rob Morrice, chief executive of Stein IAS

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 Stein IAS chief, Rob Morrice.

Rob Morrice, chief exec of IAS

What was your first ever job?

I was a sports reporter with that iconic newspaper The Sunday Post. I interviewed Andy Gray at a Scotland training camp in Largs just after he moved from Dundee Utd to Aston Villa and he told me he was having trouble adjusting to the speed of the game in England. I wrote the story up and the headline read, ‘Like 22 cats on a hot tin roof.’ Next time I saw him he asked me, ‘What did that mean?’.

Why did you get into advertising?

I packed in my job as a sports journalist in a fit of pique because the editor wouldn’t transfer me to the Newsdesk. Even then I realised there was no way I was spending the next 45 years writing ‘he shoots, he scores’ every day. Destitute, I took a job selling trendy clothes in a menswear shop until I saw an ad for an apprentice copywriter in a well-known Scottish Advertising Agency. Clif Collier (the adman to watch) had to explain to me at the interview what a copywriter was, nevertheless he gave me the job because I was the only applicant with writing experience although I’d never come up with an idea in my life, never mind a good one.

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

That everyone in the industry is a budding creative director. From the junior account handler to the data scientist to the chairman’s wife. They are all willing to express a forceful opinion that most often is better than stand-up comedy. However it’s a pain in the ass for a real creative director.

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

I don’t know if I’m proud of this really but it was a great laugh. In 1991, my old agency SMARTS handled the Scottish Nationalist Party campaign at the general election. Our strategy was simple – England is raping Scotland of its identity and natural resources (North Sea Oil), so we’d better get away from the English pronto. Our first creative theme was a pastiche of a famous Tennents (Scotland’s Carling) Lager campaign of the time, I’ve Got Mine. We turned it into They’ve Got Yours. But it was a 48 Sheet Poster using the Spitting Image puppet of Jimmy Hill that really got us in trouble – no wonder when the headline was, What Did England Ever Give Us?

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

To try not to make any more.

Football, cricket or rugby?

I’m Scottish and as most people now know, we are a tennis nation now.

Who in the industry impresses you most?

This is a bit of a home vote here but it’s true so who cares. Pippa Arlow and Leontia Fetherston, who took over the reins of my old agency brand SMARTS (now SMARTS Communicate) and developed into something much more than me and Pete Martin ever did.

What is the most exciting thing about your job?

Winning pitches and awards. Any agency that has been more than just a flash in the pan will have a record of beating top opposition in pitches and scooping gongs. It’s the lifeblood of our industry. It’s such a buzz when you get the winning call from the prospect, invariable on a Friday afternoon. And it’s a double whammy if you’ve won an award or two at an awards scheme on the Thursday night before, which happily has happened to me on a number of occasions.

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

I’d like to ban the phrase Content Marketing. It makes me titter at how we’ve let that one get into the everyday vocabulary. Is there any marketing without content?

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

Personal: Don’t get married now. You are not ready for it. Unfortunately, I ignored it. Twice.

Business: Inspire people to succeed, only suspect characters thrive in a worry culture.

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