Q&A with... Robin Smith, Group Executive Creative Director, Geometry Budapest
Updated: Sep 9, 2020
Now this is it. We're starting another column on our fantastic blog, just for the sake of variety. Advertising Chronicles' Q&A (aka: ACQ&A) is going to feature various people from the international field of creative industries. We're trying to get to know their backgrounds, their inspirations, their takes on creativity, on advertising, on "life" – and other mundane things. We hope these articles are going to be instructive, educational and fun to read. And yes, these texts will be in English, for certain technical reasons (i.e. convenience and practicality mixed with laziness to translate them into Hungarian).
We kick off this series with Robin Smith, Group Executive Creative Director at Geometry Budapest.
Advertising Chronicles: What would you be, if you were not an adman?
Robin Smith: Musician, I’d be a drummer. Or an artist… or an architect.
It is pretty rare to have a foreign Creative Director here in Hungary. What brought you here? How did you decide to come to Budapest?
I first visited Budapest, in August 2018. It was a beautiful sunny day and I’d just stepped off the plane from Dubai. The first impression was amazing – such a majestic and cultural city, wow! Coming from the sand to here was a huge contrast and I realised how much I missed European cities and the street culture. Plus, the chance to work with Geometry again. I helped to set up Geometry in Dubai, and I have a special emotional connection to the agency.
How did you get into advertising? I started life as an illustrator, graphic designer, typographer, and over time gravitated more towards conceptual ideas – and this eventually led to advertising.
What’s your piece of work/campaign you’re most proud of? Sprite Cricket Stars for Coca Cola. This was a cause-related campaign for the Cricket loving workers, who live in the camps in Dubai. The workers have an extremely tough life and this activation gave them the opportunity to play in front of I’000s, as a Cricket star. The campaign continued for years after.
What makes a good ad? Any definition for that?
Something that stops, sticks with you and makes an emotional impression/connection. Hopefully, you’ll remember it tomorrow, or the next 30 years.
What do you think matters most in a creative work?
That it works. It gets people to do something, to buy a product, service or create brand love.
What it shouldn’t do is just pollute.
Do you have any special working process in creating ads? Talking, researching, sharing and having fun. This all takes time, our most precious commodity. Not too much and not too little.
Is there a classic advertising campaign, or an advertising legend you admire most?
Most of the campaigns I grew up with in the UK as a kid I still remember today. That will be the work by John Webster, Paul Arden, Dave Trott, John Hegarty, and CDP (Collett, Dickenson & Pearce; a legendary British agency). Funny, simple and smart stuff. We would re-create the ads at school in the playground the next day. It was that funny.
I love the classics: Guinness - Surfer, Levis - Flat Eric, Tango - You know when you’ve been Tangoed, Apple - i-Pod launch (simple, beautiful graphic, I ran out and bought one).
Most recently The Dumb Ways to Die campaign by McCann. This campaign struck me as an old school approach, which was brilliantly thought through and executed amazingly in every media. Recent legends, Dave Droga, Mark Denton, Gregg Harper and most of the work from DDB Adam and Eve.
How would you define creativity? It’s a special superpower, you are gifted, so use it for good.
Does advertising need creativity? If we don’t want everything to look grey, soulless and produced by AI, then you need creativity.
What inspires you most? Trying something new, something out of your safe zone. I’m about to DJ for the first time (I’m 55), that’s inspiring.
What’s the quintessence, the classic example of creativity either in advertising or in the world, generally? Anything that epitomizes “the power of creativity” for you? I’m a total brand loyalist and Apple has sucked me in. From the first Mac I purchased back in 1989, I’m still a huge fan of the brand. They’ve created amazing innovative products that work, that are designed simply with great functionality. Then they have marketed the products brilliantly.
Of late I would say that Extinction Rebellion and Greta Thunberg are using the power of creativity. They are opening our eyes to the devastation we’re creating to the planet and I’m a big fan of what they are doing.
(About the Industry)
What do you think about the Hungarian advertising industry? Any shortcomings? What should be done to make it better? I’ve worked with and think there’s great creative talent in Budapest, but I don’t see that much outstanding work around me. The shortcomings: there are not many brave ideas. Digital as a medium has a long way to go and we should all be braver. I’m hopeful for the creative industry in Hungary.
What do you think about advertising shows and awards? The one award I regard the most is the D&AD. It’s a non for profit organization and plows everything back into the industry, and for me, it has the highest standards. Cannes Lions is an amazing festival, great fun for socializing and a great get-together.
In Hungary, you have too many awards. You should have less and make them bloody hard to win.
What do you think about the future of advertising? Where are we heading for? Will classic advertising survive the next decade? From my time in advertising it’s gone from a few communication channels to every conceivable channel, and that will continue. It’s getting fragmented with less budgets and everything is wanted now. I look at what S4C are offering, faster, better, cheaper, and I can imagine that’s what the clients moving towards.
I think advertising is heading towards direct and personalised solutions. With all the data being collected brands know more about us and will communicate directly. I’m sure and I hope some classic advertising will survive.
What are your best advices to young, aspiring people who want to get into advertising?
Don’t take it to serious, have some fun, and do something good for people and the planet.
What would be your communication advice to us, Hungarians? How can we brand ourselves, and our country better?
Stop reflecting to the past, and look to the future.
You have an amazing country, with wonderful people. Greet people with a smile, and stand up for your rights.