Creative BBC My Creative Career

My Creative Career: Rachel Miles, creative director at Meanwhile


By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

January 10, 2024 | 10 min read

From life on an island to pursuing her goal of winning a Bafta, the former BBC creative talks through her career so far, including what it was like to work with David Attenborough.

Photo of Rachel Miles

Meanwhile's Rachel Miles

Growing up on the Isle of Man, Rachel Miles had big dreams. Pinned to her childhood bedroom wall was a poster of the shiny gold Bafta trophy she hoped to win one day. It was the first thing she saw in the morning and the last thing she saw before bed.

As someone who doesn’t relish attention, Miles knew the accolade would never be hers through acting or performing, but the thought of winning one for work behind the camera was just as thrilling.

Hit TV shows of the era, such as Live and Kicking, as well as music videos, provided her a window into a world filled with celebrities, but at the age of 7 or 8, the main appeal was to be able to see what those people were like behind the scenes and not necessarily the craft that was involved.

Growing up, she spent a lot of time on her own, playing with her Barbie dolls in her own imaginary world. At school, she detested subjects such as maths and didn’t particularly feel understood by teachers, but her interest was piqued in year 8 when pupils were tasked to come up with an ad for a cereal brand and then perform it for the class.

Like many kids of the 90s, important conversations were conducted – and life decisions made – over MSN, which is where Miles shared her script idea for the spot. All that her class group had to do was send a thumbs-up, but it was enough to give her the confidence to pursue something she genuinely enjoyed.

Sadly, the careers advisor at the school wasn’t sold on the idea she might like to work in an artistic field, asking, ‘What else would you like to do?’ It’s an experience that has led to Miles advocating for creative careers to be given more consideration within education.

Despite the ‘advice’ she was given, Miles chose to spend two years at college studying for a National Diploma in Multimedia instead of doing A Levels.

It was while at college that the band The Beautiful South came to play a concert on the island and, equipped with a MiniDisc recorder and a microphone, she set off to interview fans in the crowd. “All of a sudden, I turned around and [comedian and actor] Jonny Vegas was there,” she laughs. “I asked if I could interview him and he gave me such great material.”

He also gave her his VIP pass and invited her to come watch the band play. “He asked me to hold his pint of Guinness and his double Bacardi and Coke. We were there just hanging out with the band.”

Her college years were the making of Miles and instilled a drive in her to pursue a career in media. She went on to gain places at the coveted Central St Martins University where she met Michael Tsim, her creative partner since 2012. At the art school being different was celebrated and she finally felt comfortable, surrounded by talented people who saw the world in unique ways.

Among the specialisms on offer was the opportunity to major in advertising. “It was like cheating at life, getting to do fun things every day, and the tutors were amazing,” she remembers.

The hard work paid off when both she and Tsim landed a 3-month placement at creative agency VCCP straight out of art school. She remembers being a little overwhelmed but also recalls an amazing biscuit cupboard filled with treats.

Suggested newsletters for you

Daily Briefing


Catch up on the most important stories of the day, curated by our editorial team.

Ads of the Week


See the best ads of the last week - all in one place.

The Drum Insider

Once a month

Learn how to pitch to our editors and get published on The Drum.

One of the first projects the duo worked on was a print campaign for EasyJet. This was during the summer, while Wimbledon was on, she says. “The headline read ‘Love..30 degrees’ and it was a stock image of a woman playing tennis on the beach. It was in the Sunday Times newspaper and my Nana asked why my name wasn’t on it.”

London was getting pretty expensive, though, and the two had to return to their hometowns. Miles worked as a trainee assistant director to save a bit of money while remaining in the creative industry. Then, one Thursday, an email landed in her inbox from the head of placements at BMB asking whether the duo would like to start with the agency the following Monday. Tsim packed in his job at an Essex McDonald’s and they made the trip back to the capital.

The first brief to nail was for Thomson (now Tui) and if they cracked it, there was an opportunity to be hired. “We wanted it so much,” says Miles, recalling how they stayed up day and night working on it in the lobby of the St Pancras Hotel. “We noticed little girls coming in with teddy bears. We were just doodling and, suddenly, we noticed that the logo looked like a face and then we turned it into a story about a tattered teddy bear that wanted to discover a smile again on holiday.” Having that asset that was ownable to the brand was crucial and the idea was given the green light.

After two and a half years at BMB, Miles and Tsim moved on to Ogilvy, where they worked on campaigns for Dove and Hellmanns. Then, in late 2017, they moved to the BBC’s in-house creative team, where they would remain for six years. During that time, Miles and Tsim have got toes tapping for Strictly Come Dancing, had a poem read aloud by Elton John and even helped David Attenborough raise awareness of climate change.

“I always want to do work that helps the world or changes it for the better,” says Miles, “so to work on A Perfect Planet was a dream come true.”

The creatives had so many images at their disposal from the TV show that they decided to play around with them to juxtapose beautiful scenes with the realities of global warming. David Attenborough then recorded the script, which happened remotely because of lockdown.

“He was in his back garden in Richmond and we got to listen to him. He fluffed up a line a little bit and we heard him go, ‘Oh, bugger.’”

One of the most fulfilling projects to work on while at the broadcaster was for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The team was tasked with creating a visual trailer for the event and, initially, they had hoped to create a fast-paced tour of the streets of Tokyo. When Covid hit, they were determined not to let that keep them from making something memorable. After two years of grit and determination, BBC Sport chose the detailed promo to be the opening title of its entire Olympic programming. It was then nominated for a Bafta. And it won.

“I’m a big believer in thoughts becoming things,” adds Miles. “It was always my ambition and I finally got one.”

The golden face-shaped prize sits behind the creative at her desk. It’s extremely heavy and, apparently, smells very strongly of pennies.

There is no doubt just how important this achievement is to Miles, who admits to suffering from imposter syndrome from time to time, and it is evidence of what can happen when you have a big, bold dream you’re prepared to doggedly pursue. “I come from a really small island; not a lot of people leave it.”

Towards the end of last year, Miles (along with Tsim) made the shock move of leaving the BBC and joining the startup agency Meanwhile. “I thought I was going to be a BBC lifer – not gonna lie. I was very happy there and proud to serve the BBC. But [Meanwhile’s founders and former BBC creative directors] Tim [Jones] and James [Cross] offered us an opportunity that we couldn’t turn down.”

The chance to work with old colleagues and to be part of shaping something new proved too big a draw.

“We want to put good out into the world, with craft or even passion projects. There are no wrong decisions and, if we didn’t do it, we would have kicked ourselves.”

Read our interview with Jellyfish’s Jo Wallace on her life and career.

Creative BBC My Creative Career

More from Creative

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +