Ben Polkinghorne — Creative, Colenso BBDO

Ben talks to TheNextGag about why side projects are important to him, his journey into advertising and the advantages of the BBDO creative network.

Ben Polkinghorne is a Creative at Colenso BBDO in New Zealand.

He has been recently named in the 30 Most Creative People in Advertising Under 30 by Business Insider and has achieved a tremendous success last year with the Amnesty International campaign “Trial by Timeline“.

THENEXTGAG: WHEN I LOOK AT YOUR RESUME. IT IS VERY IMPRESSIVE TO SEE WHAT YOU HAVE DONE IN YOUR LIFE SO FAR. CONGRATULATIONS, BY THE WAY, ON THE INCLUSION IN THE BUSINESS INSIDER’S LIST.

BEN POLKINGHORNE: Thank you, it was a really great start of the year actually.

TNG: IT IS FUNNY, BECAUSE EACH TIME SOMEONE TALKS ABOUT YOU, THEY ALWAYS BRING UP SOMETHING FUNNY ABOUT YOU, YOU KNOW. EITHER THE AIRPLANES PICTURES OR THE BURRITOS …

BP: I just enjoy little weird things. I think it’s better to be interested in lots of different things in advertising. It sounds cliché, but to get inspiration from around you doing cool stuff, I guess.

TNG: I EVEN LOOKED AT THE FACEBOOK PAGE “WHAT THEY DON’T TEACH YOU IN SCHOOL”. THAT WAS FUNNY.

BP: So I always liked to have side projects, I suppose. And it sort of a bit of an outlet. Because during 9 to 5 advertising jobs, you are sort of told what to do, and clients can have a lot to say — which is fine — but I really enjoyed having a bit of an outlet. Just something that I can be in charge of and I can do what I think is best. And a lot of the times I put stuff out and it’s wrong, but that’s what I enjoy learning. And it’s cool that now I can do that and anything like that, so I take control.

So, “Things That They Don’t Teach You In School” was an idea a bit about a web series. The sort of life hack tips that you kind of pick up when you grow older: how to get out of parking tickets, how to open a beer with a belt …

TNG: OR “HOW TO DO YOUR TAXES”, STUFF LIKE THIS …

BP: Yeah. And it is interesting, because you talk to people and everyone has a couple of tips and you hear something like that, it is really clever. So the idea was to bring those and share them with the world. And it was a lot of fun, but it was a lot of hard work. Simply because we needed to have a director and an editor, we had to write scripts and all that stuff. And I am probably not that great in front of a camera to be honest.

I still think it got merits as an idea and I would like to come back to it one day. But other things sort of come out and took my attention.

I like to have an idea an try it. And if it doesn’t work then I am happy to move on to something else.

TNG: SO, HOW MANY SIDE PROJECTS DO YOU HAVE CURRENTLY ?

BP: Well, my main one is, do you know about Bangerritos ?

TNG: I THINK I’VE READ ABOUT IT. IS IT THE BURRITO AND THE SAUSAGE ?

BP: Yeah, yeah. Which is mad. By bear with me. I love burritos by the way. I met a guy that like sausages. He was really into sausages. We had that amazing conversation where we were “What if we combined the two ? We have a sausage that tastes like a burrito.” And he sounds kind of mad, but when you thought of it it is interesting. So, we sort of played around with it a bit. And the thing you can do with sausages that are completely minced, and you put it in a bun for texture and consistency. What we’ve done is put in a whole black beans and chunk of red cabbage and red onions. When you bite that, you get a texture and a crunch, and it tastes like a burrito at the same time. But it is convenient, because you can just put it on the barbecue. Barbecue is huge in New Zealand. And rather than all these little parts of a burrito, you can just whack it on the barbecue and eat it. By then we thought, rather than having a piece of white bread with tomato sauce and mustard, which is the traditional Kiwi way, we serve it in a tortilla, with guacamole, hot sauce and sour cream. And it is called the Bangerrito.

TNG: MAYBE I SHOULD TRY THIS ONE, INSTEAD OF THE MEXICAN BURRITO.

BP: Yeah.

TNG: AND DO YOU GET MESSY HANDS WHEN YOU EAT THE BANGERRITO ?

BP: Actually it is a lot easier to control, because it is kind of encase in that casing. But we will actually be in supermarkets in New Zealand.

TNG: NO, COME ON ! THAT’S GOOD.

BP: Yeah. That’s cool. It is a small supermarkets chain, but they’ve got seven stores. It just happened like that.

TNG: KEEP ON DOING THIS STUFF. IT’S GREAT, IT’S FUNNY. BECAUSE IF ADVERTISING DOESN’T WORK OUT, YOU CAN STILLL DO SOMETHING ELSE.

BP: And I am not saying that Bangerrito is going to be the hit or whatever, but I am sure I will learn a lot of things along the way that I haven’t thought about and see what happens.

TNG: I AM ROOTING FOR YOU. AND, BY THE WAY, I SAW THAT YOU CALL YOURSELF A CREATIVE. ARE YOU MORE A COPYWRITER OR AN ART DIRECTOR ?

BP: Copywriter. Yeah, I’ve got a great art director partner, Scott. And we’ve been together maybe a couple of years now. And we get on really well. I thought of describing myself as a typical copywriter, but I thought creative sounds a little more impressive than copywriter. I think art director sounds really cool. It sounds neat. I don’t know.

TNG: BECAUSE LOOKING AT THE PROJECTS THAT YOU ARE DOING AND THE WAY THAT YOU ARE DOING THEM, WE CAN TELL THAT YOU MORE OF AN IDEA GUY, SO MORE A COPYWRITER THAN AN ART DIRECTOR.

BP: Yeah.

TNG: BUT I KNOW THAT SOME AGENCIES HAVE CREATIVES THAT COME UP WITH THE IDEAS AND HAVE SOME OTHER PEOPLE COME UP WITH THE WORDS AND THE ART DIRECTION. SO, SOMETIMES I CAN BE A BIT DIFFERENT.

BP: Yeah, right. Scott and I do the thing together, me doing the writing side and the other one making everything look pretty. But it works really well. And sometimes it’s the opposite, he will come up with a really great headline and I will say “I would like to make this bigger or smaller”. Anyway, that works. It seems to be doing well.

TNG: WHERE YOU WORKING WITH SCOTT WHEN YOU DID THE NIMBLE CAMPAIGN ?

BP: Yes, we were. And we were also working with another senior team at Colenso, Simon and Bruce, under the expert eyes of Levi Slavin, the Creative Director. Scott and I had the thought and then everyone jumped in to make it excellent, I believe we can say. It was a group collaboration. The result I think is great, we are very proud of that.

TNG: I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THIS BRAND BEFORE SEIGN THE CAMPAIGN, BUT I REALLY LIKED IT. SOMETIMES, IT’S GOOD TO HAVE THIS KIND OF NONSENSE, TO BE ABSURD IN A GOOD WAY.

BP: Thank you.

TNG: AND DO YOU DO A LOT OF HUMOR OR NOT ?

BP: I think I touch on it. We are quite lucky at Colenso, and I think in New Zealand, we don’t just have to just work on one account. So we are lucky like it. Even in a normal day, we might work on several different accounts, from Samsung to MSN International, or Pedigree and Burger King. We get a opportunity I suppose to try different tones and things like that, which I think is cool.

I personally enjoy a bit of humour and making people laugh. But I think it makes us better that we can try diverse experiences.

TNG: WHAT TYPE OF MEDIA DO YOU LIKE TO WORK ON (TV, DIGITAL …) ?

BP: I think digital is sort of really exciting. Personally TV is always gonna be TV, it is really cool, and it is big budget, and you can write a script, have a director and it’s amazing. But digital is definitely bright because, even in New Zealand where our budgets are probably not that good compared to overseas, you can have an idea that can reach everyone. And being a young person might help, being brought up on social media. So, maybe we have a bit of unfair advantage there.

But without sounding silly, I do like to work across different types of media. And they each got their own challenges as well, which It is part of the fun, I suppose.

TNG: DO YOU HAVE ANY UPCOMING PROJECTS THAT YOU CAN SHARE WITH US ?

BP: Yeah, I am not sure how top-secret they are or whatever. So I can’t really get into specifics. Because we are part of the BBDO network, occasionally we get some global briefs on some global clients. And a lot of the times from what I heard, you send some ideas out to New York and then you never hear it from them again. Apparently, it seems to happen a lot. But Scott and I worked on something, about October of last year, for a big global BBDO client. And somehow we managed to get our ideas through. And it should be into action soon. There’s gonna be some global TVCs and some global digital work, which will easy be the biggest thing we’ve ever done. It’s very exciting. And quite frankly, I can’t believe that some young guys from New Zealand will pull something like that off. We are very lucky.

TNG: WHEN YOU SAY THAT YOU ARE YOUNG, BECAUSE YOU DON’T SEEM THAT YOUNG WITH ALL THE DIFFERENT EXPERIENCES (THE PARTIES, FOR EXAMPLE) THAT YOU’VE ALREADY HAD IN YOUR LIFE. HOW OLD ACTUALLY ARE YOU ?

BP: I am 27, but I will be 28 in February. I think I’ve maybe come to advertising later than some people, but I still feel quite young in advertising. But I think that I’ve been working hard and I managed to achieve a lot, which is great.

TNG: WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU THEN ?

BP: I think definitely Bangerritos is very exciting. And I will continue eating a lot of burritos. Just to keep up the good work. And I am excited, we’ve got some work that might be rolling out soon, which will be really great and I am looking forward to that. And just continue to work with some really clever people. It’s quite cool everyday. Especially in New Zealand, we are living in a parallel world from the network abroad. It’s cool, we are lucky.

TNG: BUT DO YOU HAVE THE AMBITION TO MOVE ELSEWHERE, TO FOLLOW THE BBDO NETWORK TO NEW YORK, FOR EXAMPLE, OR TO GO TO AUSTRALIA ?

BP: Yeah, for sure. It definitely crosses our minds, Scott and I, and it is on the cards for sure. Timing not 100% sure. I have travelled a little bit overseas and stuff, but I have never lived overseas and I definitely would like to do that before I get too much older and get all serious with a wife and a mortgage.

TNG: IT WILL COME EVENTUALLY.

BP: Yeah, so I am looking forward to another adventure.

TNG: WILL I SEE YOU IN CANNES THIS YEAR ? DO YOU THINK THAT YOU WILL MAKE THE TRIP ?

BP: Honestly, it might depends on how the work comes on time and if we think we might have a shot. So we will probably wait and see what happens there. I didn’t go last year but I went the year before.You are very lucky to be so close, because from New Zealand it is so far away. There is a lot of tun in there. It’s great to be around all that work.

TNG: WHAT’S THE CAMPAIGN THAT YOU REALLY LIKED LAST YEAR ?

BP: In terms of advertising ? Hmm, Anomaly, I think their model is quite interesting, in terms — maybe I make this stuff up — but I understand that they let the creatives own some of the IP (intellectual property) of the work that is coming out that they create. I think it is sort of the advertising agency of the future potentially.

But then again BBDO New York is doing some really incredible things. W+K are doing some great work and I’ve always loved Barton F. Graf. It is interesting, because in New Zealand, we are sort in the bottom of the globe and we get to see all that play out. But there are a lot of pieces that are really cool.

Ben Polkinghorne

Colenso BBDO

Creative

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