Product Design
  • Interview Excerpt: Mark Waites, Founder & Creative Director, Mother, London 

    If you missed it, check out some brilliant work from Mark Waites and Mother London.

    MW: …for a student to come in and have a book full of billboards and 30-second TV ads shows that they’re not really living in the real world. This is some kind of advertising heaven as it was. I’m 45 years old, and I’m looking for kids to teach me things. Because I know there’s a whole bunch of really exciting things happening out there that I’m not invited into. And they don’t happen on billboards and TV commercials like they used to. They happen on websites, and in discussion groups, and on the Internet. I’m looking for work that could live in the real world, and that, I think, will contribute and will make a difference to a piece of business. I think that’s one thing: everything we do, as well researched as it is, and as much research and development that clients have done with their new products, it’s always only ever going to be a shot in the dark.

    So what we do is—and we’d like to think we’ve become pretty good at it—looking at something and going, “I’m going to guess that that’s going to work. I’m going to guess that that’s what the audience wants to hear about a product that they want to buy. And that’s playing out in an environment or in a way that I think they’re going to really like and engage with.” And we apply that as well when we’re looking at student books. And it’s the same when we judge advertising and marketing awards. We don’t know anything about that brief, we don’t know anything about that product, and we don’t know anything about that market, but I’m guessing that that idea will sell. We do it a lot. Right or wrong, and that will be employed when we’re judging a book.

    But then again, you know what? If a kid came in here…and it would be to their detriment if it was all 30-second ads and billboards, but if every billboard looked brilliant and every ad was brilliant and it was like Cliff Freeman on his best day, you’re not going to overlook that talent. Because, and that’s the other thing I think, is something that I’ve said a couple of times: we’re never looking for the finished product. But there has to be enough of that special thing there—the basic substance, whatever it is—to work with.

    WS: And last question, do you have any tips for someone who’s just starting out?

    MW: Just be great. And work really hard. I say this to kids all the time: “Look around your group. There’s 20 or so other students in your year…that’s your competition. But then there are 40 other classes like this meeting at this moment in England, that’s your competition. And in Sweden, France, America, Brazil, and they all want to work at the same few agencies. They’re all going to New York and want to work for the same few agencies. They’re coming here and wanting to work for the same few agencies. And they’re going to Amsterdam, and wanting to work for the same few.” It’s a really, really crowded market. And they need to understand that in order to understand just how hard they’ve got to work to get in any of those shops. Very few people are going to be so smart that they don’t have to work at getting a job. Everyone else is going to have to put in lots and lots of energy, just working to get a start. 

    WS: Do you think it’s getting harder and harder?

    MW:Yeah. Maybe it’s always been hard. But from where I am it just looks like it’s so much hard work. I think the world’s opened up now. I think that, to my last point, kids from over the world will now compete for jobs here, whereas at one time it was kids from all over the UK, and maybe one or two…some bizarre waifs and strays who just landed from Australia or Singapore. Now I think that, with the Internet, it’s really opened up. But then I think there are opportunities. I think there’s an opportunity now for kids to come in and tell a couple of old farts like me and him what it’s like out there. Just how people are consuming messages and advertising and where one thing ends and the other starts as well…it’s a whole new world out there. Nowadays you need an online product, don’t you? Some people say, “Oh, we’re going to have a game.” And then Nike came along and said, “Actually we’re going to do Nike+.” And that’s an online version of Nike and it’s a contribution to that environment. And it’s not like, “We’ve got cool jeans, and we’ve got a 10 million dollar budget, we’re going to do some cool ads.” It’s just not that easy anymore. So I think there’s an opportunity for people to come in and tell us how it is because I don’t think we know. Well, we don’t know enough. That’s what I think.

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