Ivan Johnson of 140 BBDO explains creativity – in 140 characters or less

Life is short. So is effective communication.

You begin to realise that an agency isn’t named 140 on a whim, as soon as you see the lengths they go to, to explain the beauty of brevity.

CopywriterJournalist enjoyed reading why 140 BBDO is named the way it is, and if you’ve not read engaging long copy for a while, we suggest you do too on the 140 BBDO website here. It’s a little more than 140 characters though.

We interviewed the Ivan Johnson, Executive Creative Director of 140 BBDO Cape Town South Africa, and found out that he walks the walk and talks the talk as he was in Dubai as juror for Dubai Lynx in the Film, Print, outdoor, Radio, Craft and Integrated categories.

Ivan was tasked with re-launching Network BBDO, renaming it and adopting a new model and behaviour. It was renamed 140 BBDO and in its first year increased its billings by 30% and helped BBDO reclaim top spot at South Africa’s Loerie Awards in 2011.

Ivan Johnson 140 BBDO Cape Town South Africa Dubai Lynx“Don’t ever lose sight of your craft. There are bloggers, Kardashians and clients who think they can do what you do.”

Ivan Johnson
Executive Creative Director
140 BBDO – Cape Town, South Africa

Ivan, along with his agency, has won more than 30 Loerie Awards, eight Cannes Lions, D&AD Pencils, Clio Awards, One Show Awards, New York Festivals Awards and London International Awards.
He is the only South African to have been invited as a juror at all four of the biggest international award shows in the world – Cannes Lions in France, D&AD in London, Clio Awards in Santa Fe and The Art Directors Club in New York.

Here’s Ivan Johnson’s exclusive interview with CopywriterJournalist – in 140 characters or less.

CopywriterJournalist.com: What is your opinion of advertising the Middle East? Which areas do you think offer the most promise?

  • I must admit that I don’t know too much about it. And that’s fine.
  • I will evaluate the work like I do for any award show.
  • Fresh ideas with relevance.

CopywriterJournalist.com: What do you see as the future of advertising? Is it digital? Social? Print?

  • The future is the past – and that is big ideas.
  • Ideas good enough to transcend any medium.

CopywriterJournalist.com: What are the 3 things you look for when hiring people for your organisation?

  • If you’re an art director: draw, scamp, craft and explain your idea in 140 characters.
  • If you’re a copywriter: write, write and explain your ideas in 140 characters.
  • If you’re a suit, wait, wear a suit and explain why we missed the deadline in 140 characters.

Who inspires you most in advertising?

  • Anyone who risks failing.

If you had to recommend 3 books/websites to a young advertising professional, which would these be? And why?

  • Perfect Pitch by John Steel. As much as I loathe reading books written by admen, I must admit that this one is well worth it. Too much puffery but it will remind you of that which you already know.
  • The Life of Pi by Yan Martel. Optimism, spirituality and the power of imagination. If you’ve lost faith in anything, this is a book that will inspire you.
  • Your own.

If you had to convince someone to attend Dubai Lynx, what would be the 3 reasons you would give them?

  • Essentially this is a new market but with communication talent and enthusiasm that has risen to the challenge.
  • Like South Africa, where I am from, there are challenges. And that brings out the real creativity.
  • If lessons have been learnt, whatever does well here should do well in Cannes.

Editor’s Tip: 140 BBDO is currently looking for a middleweight art director and copywriter team – so if what you’ve read so far sounds good, you can shoot off your portfolio and CV to careers@140bbdo.com – and let them know who sent you.

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About Farrukh Naeem at www.copywriterjournalist.com

Farrukh Naeem is the Managing Editor of CopywriterJournalist.com. Connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. His blog is at FarrukhNaeem.com

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