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Being creative - or just letting my mind wander

This Working Life: Karl Waters, creative partner at JWT Folk Advertising Agency


Karl Waters, creative partner at JWT Folk Advertising Agency

Karl Waters, creative partner at JWT Folk Advertising Agency

Karl Waters, creative partner at JWT Folk Advertising Agency

This Working Life: Karl Waters, creative partner at JWT Folk Advertising Agency

Emotional resilience

The worst thing about my job is the deflation when a pitch loses.

Big clients generally ask four or five agencies to present their ideas and preparing is a high-pressure time, usually working evenings and weekends. The whole agency gets behind it.

If we don't win the work you go home miserable but this is short-lived. I know you can't win every time and tomorrow I will be ready to move on.

If you want to thrive in advertising this resilience is essential.

And when you are awarded a contract, the adrenaline is incredibly motivating.


Managing the ponytails

A lot of my time is spent managing and building our creative team and setting the agenda for the agency and a careful approach is needed - creative types want to express themselves and make a difference and this is why they were hired in the first place, so I have to foster this but also ensure we are all working towards remaining profitable.

I know the importance of allowing them to be themselves, and to resist interfering with free thinking but I still need to set the vision.

It's a delicate balance and I would imagine very tricky if you are not of a creative inclination.


Creative sponge

The knowledge you gather from prep work for a pitch is never wasted. Your ideas are your output and I would guess 80pc of mine end up on the floor but this is part of the process - one idea sparks another.

Being creative in advertising requires a certain way of looking at the world: the ability to tap into culture, to absorb what is going on in society and the wider world - is there a rural/urban divide and where are trends leading?

And apart from being tuned in to how people are feeling I have to immerse myself in what my client does. If I am preparing a campaign for a bank, I will get to know that industry inside out so I can find the twist, the chink that will grab people.


Hard sell, sell harder

The ad industry has been increasingly digitally focused for years but, while how some ads come out and are digested may have changed, people and their emotions have not changed a bit.

The core of what I do, looking for different ways to catch the attention, remains the same.

Advertising is now harder -people can skip and block you out online.

There was a more captive audience in the past.

This makes coming up with novel ideas more of a challenge, but having to be continually inventive with your insight is stimulating and a lot of fun.


Brand new approach

Advertising used to be about entertainment and information. Now consumers, and especially younger people, also want their brands to be doing some good in the world.

In Ireland, we don't trust institutions. So we are always looking for ways to show how the organisations we work for can be a force for social good.

An Post is a client and we recently brought them an idea called Address Point, which enables a homeless person to have a digital address, meaning they can sign up for services, and now 50pc have, so that is very rewarding for us.


Cultural omnivore

From a young age I wanted to do something that involved writing, I was just not sure what. I studied film in Galway and then a degree in publishing in London.

It was while working as a sub-editor for a publishing firm there that I knew I wanted something more creative.

After studying for a Masters in Advertising in DIT, I got a job as a creative copywriter at the Hive in Dublin aged 26 - quite old to start in this industry but my experience and wide interests have proved so useful.


Wandering mind on a leash

The most important thing to me is my family. We have a three-year-old and we just had a baby, so they are currently centre stage.

Work can get hectic but most of the time I find a way to put the family first.

Actually a lot of my time is spent thinking, so this is not too difficult for me.

The mind is always ticking away and I can get into the thinking zone walking, driving, pushing the swings in the playground.

Growing up, I always wanted to do a creative job and it has proved as interesting as I thought it would be.

The stakes are high. It's a deadline business so you need to be confident you can come up with good ideas on time.

If I want my creativity to flourish, I can't be too anxious and this suits my temperament.

My job is about letting my mind wander - but in a quite focused way.

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