HOW TO MANAGE CREATIVITY AS A PRODUCT, with Simon Jerome, Production Director at Now Advertising.
Tell me about the first hour of your day, what does it usually look like? Specifically any habits or morning routines that you have.
First hour at home: once up and showered, go downstairs and make a cappuccino, listened to my daughter moan about the bus being late, watch BBC London at 7.25 to see if there’s any major delays on the A40.
First hour at work: Arrive early so that I can look at the day’s workflow and take in a quick snapshot of advertising news on Campaign, LBB and London news on BBC London.
Tell me what do you for a living, without using your job title?
Manage, Resource, Produce
What did you do at work yesterday?
In the process of hiring so spent a lot of the day looking over CV’s and LinkedIn trawling.
Tell me your career story in three 1-sentence bullet points.
I was into cars, so with limited careers advice thought driving a bus was a good option.
Passed the driving test but I failed to turn up for the blood test.
Applied for something totally new and never looked back.
Why do you do what you do?
I get great pleasure out of seeing our work and telling others ‘We made that’ and I get to work with and meet some wonderful, talented people.
Tell me about a day in your career that you’ll never forget and why.
I once spent an evening betting on frog races in a hotel nightclub in Cebu, Philippines.
What was your first real experience with what you do now for living? When you thought — I’d like to do something like that?
Started out in the post-room gave me access to all areas in advertising and my first experience of production. I was taken to the Mill to recreate a foot shot for a Pirelli advert in the late 90’s. I think this was my halo moment.
Tell me the journey from that moment to landing your first, paying job.
My first paying job was a paper-round which was the ideal experience for my first full-time salary job in the post-room at Y&R. Between paper-round to post-room, I worked part-time at Safeway supermarket and Top Rank bingo halls.
Where did the drive or the confidence come from to do that? Who or what made you feel like you could do it? Or that you had nothing to lose by trying?
Being an Aries, I think you’re born with confidence. Starting out in the post-room, having to work with university graduates and being just as competent encouraged my belief.
What advice would you give to a smart, driven 18-year old trying to get into your field?
A wise woman (my mum) once said to me; your journey may take a different path than others. Be prepared to take the long road. If you believe, you can persevere.
If you could put your brain in the body of an 18 year-old who can’t afford to attend higher education, but wants to end up in your job… what might a rough plan look like for getting that first job?
Find a way in. It could be at the bottom in an unrelated position. Once you’re in, you’ll be able to get noticed, find out who to impress to get you to your goal.
Tell me about your first year of trying to get or getting your job/ trying to launch or launching your company? What did you do right, wrong? What did you learn?
I thought I would walk into any job. After several failed interviews, I learnt that I had to be realistic about my expectations. In an interview that was going badly, I was brave enough to say to the interviewer ‘ This interviews going badly and I know I’m not getting the job but can you advise me on what I need to improve for my next one’.
Describe the plan, dream or desire in your head at that time?
The plan was to make money. The dream was to make money. The desire was to make money. I was young!
Tell me about a mistake or an obstacle that you wish someone had warned you about?
Your point of view doesn’t always need to be heard. Listening can be a powerful tool.
Tell me someone who massively helped you, or had a huge impact on you, but has no idea.
There are so many people that I would want to credit but the honour goes to…………
He hired me to work in the post-room and Y&R, so I think credit should start with him.
What’s your measure of whether or not someone is going to be a good person to work with?
I like to keep it real. So that’s my barometer.
As some rapper said in the 90’s; real recognise real.
In your job, what three things separate the game-changing from the good?
Only one thing, the people.
Tell me about a time in your career that you’ve struggled? Or felt lost?
I’ve struggled a few times in my career when dealing with people who use convoluted vocabulary or technological jargon to say simple things.
Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours?
My biggest failure was to supply an advert with the word ‘knowlege’ spelt incorrectly in the headline. Proof that what doesn’t kill can make you stronger. The other person responsible is now a CEO of a rising UK agency.
If there had to be an enemy of your job or company, what would it be? What bugs you?
Bullshit. People not telling as it is.
How do you stay disciplined in your work?
I hate being wrong or letting others down. This keeps me focussed.
What’s your personal approach for making proactive projects happen and choosing what to focus on?
I’m hands on. Talk (not email) to people. It helps me get things done.
What does “networking” look like to you?
It used to look like 3 courses and many pints. Now it looks like the LinkedIn app.
Tell me about an event in your childhood or teen years that has shaped the adult you are now? Are there any people who have greatly influenced you? How?
As a teen, I saw the devastation hard drugs were doing to the inner cities and what youths were doing to support their habits. I vowed that wouldn’t be me.
What book has most made you question your life decisions?
If you had a gun to your head and had to have one phrase tattooed on yourself, what would it be?
Love the life you live. Live the life you love.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made?
My wife and kids. They’ve given me real purpose and given me extra drive to succeed.
When you hear the phrase “against all odds, he/ she/ they prevailed” who or what comes to mind?
I think of myself and some of the friends who grew up with on a tough, West London council estate, that have made it and are doing positive things.
In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most positively impacted your life?
Healthy body. Healthy mind. Since entering what I call the decline years, I’ve been more conscious of my health & wellbeing and therefore eat better and exercise regularly.
If you could change anything about the way you were raised, what would it be?
To change my upbringing would make me a different man. I’m content with me and the cards I’ve been dealt.
Tell me 3 things on your bucket list.
Tour the Caribbean
Go on a Jamrock boat cruise
Spurs season ticket
If you could enter a time machine that guaranteed return and also made you invincible in the time period you’re visiting, where would you go?
1400s Western Africa to fight the invaders.
Tell me about a fun thing you’re currently saving for?
I plan on to taking the family to see their granddads birthplace, Carriacou Grenada
What do you miss about being a kid?
Playing outside Sun, snow or rain.
What constitutes a perfect day for you?
All smiles, no frowns.
If you could live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or body of a 30 year old for the last 60 years of your life, which one would you choose?
Body. I didn’t know my own mind at 30 so I wouldn’t want to be a confused for 60 years.
Your house is on fire and no person or animal you love is in it. What one object do you save?
My slippers. The most comfortable item I possess so I may as well be comfortable in my time of distress.
What’s your one paragraph idea for saving the world?
Free Africa of its unjustified debt burden and let the continent be the master of its resources — Wakanda style.
Simon Jerome is Production Director at Now Advertising.