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Camomile, Cleverness and the Creative Challenge

Snippets from a chat with John Mescall

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

As one of the most awarded creatives in the industry at this precise moment in time, you might assume John Mescall, Executive Creative Director at McCann, boasts an inflated sense of self that is further affirmed every time he moves through the foyer of the McCann Worldgroup office and is greeted with the myriad of awards that line custom-built shelves. However, on the contrary, he is incredibly humble about his achievements and personal successes.

He sits, casually dunking his camomile tea bag into water that we can only assume is lukewarm by this point, and attempts, successfully, to steer the conversation away from the goliath that is Dumb Ways to Die. It’s not that he isn’t incredibly proud of that campaign, he is, it’s just that he believes there is more to be gained from focussing your efforts on how you can improve your thinking, processes and execution for next time rather than dwelling on previous achievements.

Here are some fragments of a conversation we had recently with John.

It is a small piece of a bigger picture and should be viewed as such. Without context, some of the meaning is lost in translation however hopefully the words speak for themselves.

  • With the rise of Social Media the door to a brand is always open. It is no longer an environment where marketers can control what someone sees about your brand. You can influence but you cannot control. Ultimately, we should offer content that enriches, educates or entertains. Create content that people want to share. Similarly, marketers have more power than ever before however in order to exercise that power they have to relinquish control.
  • Similarly, we can’t buy time anymore, we must earn our place in people's lives.
  • Cleverness isn’t about what was made but what was done. We must start something. Influence behaviours and decision-making. 
  • Honestly believe that a brief is an opportunity to affect change. Challenge the status quo. 
  • The traditional lines between PR, advertising and social media no longer exist except in the minds of the mediocre. Think broader. Work to change the way someone looks or feels about a situation. Start a movement.
  • Ultimately, in life, and work, there are two things that matter, love and creativity. Everything else gets in the way. Strip everything else back aside from those two things when you’re thinking about an idea and you can’t help to make it meaningful. Make it human and intimate.
  • The best work comes from when you start with ‘I have no fucking idea’. If it seems too easy, it is.

A little something for the poolroom.

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Left to right: Jade Griffiths, Copywriter; John Mescall, Executive Creative Director McCann Worldgroup; Phillippa Netolicky, Creative Director.