Interview by Ben Mottershead
Stu Outhwaite Noel is no stranger to change and taking chances. After attending Bucks University he found himself in Mother London, where he spent eight years of his life-shaping and developing his career, before finally opening up his own agency Creature London in 2011. In Stu's own words, 'people are born creatives, advertisers aren't.
Back in February Stu took to the stage at our Shoreditch held event, 'Multifaceted' to discuss eight things he'd learnt during his 16-year career. During the talk, Stu addresses issues such as getting on with it, why you should give your ideas away and the three things he feels all great conceptual thinkers have personality, tenacity and initiative.
Stu begins by showcasing the first thing he and his advertising partner Ben ever created at Mother, Which was for 'drugs in sport' for an observer campaign. The original idea they had was to create an American flag made of pills, which in his words was 'really obvious'. Their creative director at the time then said during a feedback session, ‘what if you just showed the 100m but in 5 seconds.’, at which point Stu and Ben were the first ones to write it up, create it and bring it back to which their director exclaimed ‘woah that’s great’.
Stu's point isn't to steal for the sake of stealing, but if you 'Go out, grab things, take things, and make them your own' they can only become better.
Alongside his story, he also showed a couple of his favourite quotes around the notion of 'stealing'.
“Nothing is original, steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration, or fuels imagination." - Jim Jamuson
"It’s not where you take things from, it’s where you take them to.” - Jean-Luc Goddard
After a pitch for Boddingtons involving a cow firing beer from its udders their Creative Director Bob Saville rang them and said ‘If I was Tim Delaney I would have kicked you out by now.', unfortunately, Stu didn’t have the heart to ask him who that was. However, the response caused Stu and Ben to go into meltdown.
The next day their friend Danny Bush asked what was wrong, to which both men had an outburst of how they were going to be fired because they didn’t have any ideas. Danny apparently replied in an exasperated tone, ‘Chill out, it’s not like we’re making parachutes’.
There's something in this. As creatives we often put far to much pressure on ourselves which hunders our creative process. This is something I talk about in the article '10 things we wished we'd known after graduating'.
Stu then ended this section of the talk on another relevant quote.
"Creativity is intelligence having fun" - Albert Einstein
An important lesson for any budding creative isn't just to accept you will cock-up. It's to learn how to cock up effectively with as least amount of inflicted damage as possible. To showcase cocking up quickly Stu had another story to tell, this time of some work they produced for The Libertines.
After winning numerous awards for an animation they created for the observer music weekly which they were riding on cloud 9. Afterwards, feeling very cocky, they then created an advertisement for the Libertines containing a newspaper on the floor, which was of The Sun. Thinking they were being clever they replaced the S for a C, to make ‘The Cun’. Having nearly gone to print the client then rang Stu stating 'WTF?'. Stu admits it nearly cost them the client, but they managed to cling on, which lead him to come to the conclusion. The sooner you cockup the sooner you get on, the sooner you’ll get better and improve.
“If I had to live my life again I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner” - Tallulah Bankhead
Acknowledging you don’t have all the answer means you get on and make stuff. Such as making a musical for Pot Noodle in Edinburgh despite having no idea how to do it, or a comic book series of time out.
"Nobody knows anything." - William Goldman, Screenwriter
Stu set Creature up when he was 30 with a load of friends, they didn’t think they had a clue and they made a lot of mistakes and cocked up quickly, but he then showed a diagram of a man with his head against a brick wall which he said, 'speaks to what he thinks most creative careers look like.'
You’ll get to the point where you’re banging your head on a brick wall and some people will have the tenacity to break through that wall, and they'll be met with another wall and on and on it goes. However, something happens. The walls get slightly further apart each time, and the more experienced you become the longer it takes for you to reach the next wall. Stu refers to the space in-between as the ‘developing yourself space’ and thinks that becoming awesome just involves you going through more walls.
“80% of success is showing up”. - Woody Allen
For Stu the secret of overcoming this creative block is to get out, stand in front of more interesting stuff. Don’t get wound up to try and make yourself think about being creative as it’s often an uphill struggle. At Creature, they are very big on ‘Intelligent Misbehaviour’, which they try and instil in everyone as good stuff comes from it.
‘I always feels like the art’s there and I just see it, so it’s not really a lot of work” - Damien Hirst
‘If you want to be a better photographer, stand in front of more interesting stuff.” - Jim Richardson
The advice Stu came out with for this point was simple. If anyone ever wants to set up an agency just hire smarter people than yourself to do the work. It’s that simple. Collaborate and work with people who know how to do things you don’t. Except for the fact that you are not the smartest person in the room and you will fly.
"It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do” - Steve Jobs
At college apparently, their class was told they should all be giving their ideas away. They hadn’t a clue what the guy was on about, but in retrospect, Stu proclaims it’s the best bit of advice you can give.
"If you keep hold of ideas and hide them away you will get stale, but if you put them out there then there’s joy in anything you come up with being out in the world, whether it’s your name next to it, or not."
Stu ended by referencing a book he feels everybody should read to get themselves in the best mindset possible.
“It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be" - Paul Arden
You can check out Stu's and Creatures portfolio and channels by visiting their website.
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