‘Good things happen to people who do stuff’: Uncommon’s Nils Leonard on the way forward

Uncommon founder Nils Leonard is a fervent believer in the idea that actions speak louder than words. It‘s evident from the way he endorses a proactive approach within his own creative studio, the world and the industry at large.

In these times of uncertainty, he says, to quote Virginia Woolf: “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” Speaking at The Drum‘s Can-Do Festival, Leonard went on to discuss how he brings this philosophy into his work at Uncommon as well as what he hopes to see from the industry as it moves into the future.

Here are some of the highlights from the conversation, which can be seen in full here.

On being a studio, not an agency…

“We are a creative studio. What that means for us is, we don’t just come up with ideas. We’re not purely dependent upon our client partners for our business, because we make ourselves. We are a studio that builds, designs, creates and produces our own stuff.”

“Our thing is that we want to create brands that people in the real world wish existed. That’s where we should start.”

“[When you think about studios like] Pixar, Netflix, Rockstar Games, they’ve now become household names. I want us to be there someday, and I think the actions we take every day are leading us down that path.”

On his predictions for the future…

“Obviously there’s some sad stuff and some difficult stuff to come for people in their lives and jobs, and I think it’s going to facilitate massive change.

“I want to say that we’re going to see more start-ups – I really hope we are, but I’m not so sure. I think we’re going to see more people go off and try other stuff, and I’d love to say that we’re going to see a lot more new brands out there. I think it’s massively inspiring and the way to look at is to go, well everything’s shifting and changing, there’s some new fields of play.”

“What’s crazy is, there’s a shortage of money in terms of paying people, make no mistake that is happening. But there’s no shortage of money in terms of investment because all those guys know that this situation is exactly when new ideas are born.”

On his advice to the creative community…

“We tell ourselves lies when we’re in a crisis – that it’s better to wait. We’ve got to ignore that impulse. I would say to anybody, honestly, just put one foot in front of the other and go do something.

“Good things happen to people who do stuff. If you’ve got half an idea and it makes you want to get out of bed every day, then go and spin that plate because you will never have a better time or an excuse.

“There’ll never be another moment like this and it’s hopeful because, very simply, whether it works in a year or not, putting one foot in front of the other is a hopeful act and it will feel good. I would say to anybody with a creative bone in their bodies that we need more of that.”

Leonard spoke with The Drum's executive editor Stephen Lepitak as part of The Drum's Can-Do Festival, an online event celebrating the positive energy, innovation and creative thinking that can make the marketing community such a powerful force for good. You can watch the interview in full here.

Sign up to watch forthcoming sessions and see the full Can-Do schedule here.

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