Industry Talk – Week 5

This week, Dave Birss gave us a talk on his career in advertising and life beyond the industry. Dave achieved two degrees of “uselessness” at university- Computer Programming and Advanced Maths. After graduating he got into marketing and landed a job at a record label making music for session musicians and recording engineers. This job offered little money and he became bored of it. Keeping with the music industry, he played for a BBC comedy tour.

The same week Dave was offered a TV show by the BBC, he also found his first job in advertising, so his music career came to an end. With no previous experience in the industry and no portfolio required for his interview, he had no idea how to communicate an idea. Dave found that the best way to dissect an ad and find what makes it funny, what makes it work.

Further down the line he became an art director, and worked with a copyrighter. When his partner left, he couldn’t find another so he swapped roles- he became a copyrighter and found himself a new art director to pair up with. After dabbling in copyrighting he began reaching our to creative directors, and visited one of the highest paid creative directors in Scotland, who gave him an hour to come up with concepts for 2 briefs. Dave hand drew two full pitches and within a matter of days he’d gone from copyrighter to a role paying twice the money.

He spent the next 5 years working for some of the largest companies in London. In the early 2000s, at age 29 he was the creative director at a London agency- one of the largest in the world, Crispin Porter. With his knowledge of the internet and degree in computer programming, Dave was able to to program sites himself and create digital work. He soon became a digital creative. Other roles he has taken on in his career include head of copy, head of art and head of digital at a variety of companies, and his work involved sales, promos and events.

Dave eventually quit advertising due to boredom, he believed that advertising was no longer solving the right problems. He began a podcast, talking to some of the top brains in advertising, including Dave Trott and Rory Sutherland, about what they thought the future of advertising would be. He has also worked on a 6-part television series, worked as an editor for an online magazine, spent some time involved in VR, and has written a book. Despite leaving advertising, Dave did say he would gladly return to the industry if the right job came along, he enjoyed his experience immensely.

Dave’s tips on how to be a kick-ass creative:

  • never stop feeding your mind- be active
  • don’t just think, do. Don’t be afraid of your emotions
  • ask for criticism
  • don’t confuse execution with idea
  • remove- minimalism is key, leave them wanting more, not less

Today’s presentation was an example of diversity, you don’t have to stick to just one role throughout your career. It is ok to take risks to find a better job for yourself and great experience for future employers. Dave’s story truly inspired me to do everything I possibly can to blow people away at first impression.


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