'We let ourselves down by always asking if we’re creative enough' - Creative Q&A

PRWeek grills creative comms figures on how they got where they are, their career highlight, solving creative writer's block, and more. Today we speak to Tom Rouse, director of creative & strategy at Don't Cry Wolf (DCW).

'We let ourselves down by always asking if we’re creative enough' - Creative Q&A

How did you get where you are now?

By having a very short attention span. I started off doing a mix of journalism and political campaigning - learning an awful lot from the Yes2AV campaign about how not to win. A chance meeting led me to agency land, first with 33 Digital, then with Hotwire, where I became its first specialist creative within a month of joining.

After five years at Hotwire it was time for a change, so I went freelance with the goal of working for 10 agencies in a year. It’s the best decision I ever made - I learnt a ton about how agencies of all sizes work and worked on great projects with amazing people. The pandemic put an end to it, but I was lucky enough to be working with the amazing team at Don’t Cry Wolf and when they offered me a full time role, I bit their arm off.

What's been your creative career highlight?

Delivering HomeAway’s first PR-led creative campaign: The Teddy Express. It was a brilliantly simple concept - a lost teddy ruins a family holiday, so we’ll reunite lost teddies with their families free of charge. It struck a huge chord with audiences - everyone remembers crying as a child because their favourite teddy had gone missing.

We backed this up with some heart-breaking photos and some hilarious research into the lies parents tell their kids about missing teddies. We got covered by every national and somehow got two whole features on the PA newswire... even better, the wider business loved it so much it got rolled out in the US too.

... and lowlight?

Every creative has a whole bunch of campaigns they’d do differently second time around. For me it was launching Supercard for Travelex. We did a brilliant experiential event in Spain where we solved holiday makers' problems and got a ton of social and real-world engagement, but it was missing a genuine PR hook. From a business perspective it succeeded, but the lack of meaningful coverage was a huge personal frustration.

What's your favourite campaign of the past three months (not one that you or your organisation were involved in) and why?

EA adding Kiyan Prince to FIFA 21 to mark the 15th anniversary of his murder. It’s a brilliant example of going to your audience rather than expecting them to always come to you and a brilliant brilliant way of highlighting the tragedy of a lost life. It’s the campaign from the last two years I look at and go, 'I wish I’d worked on that' - even if it was just for a day.

How do you solve creative writer's block?

I believe in the power of the shower to a worrying degree. I used to keep a towel in the Hotwire office for emergencies and even now if we have a particularly tricky strategic or creative brief I’ll get a message from John, the DCW CEO, suggesting I go hop in the shower.

How should PR grow its creative prowess?

Back ourselves - there’s so many great creatives in our industry and we have more specialist junior talent than ever before. But we still let ourselves down by asking every week if we’re creative enough - I’ve lost count of the number of social posts and blogs on the topic. They’re frustrating enough to read if you work in an agency, but imagine being a CMO hiring your next creative agency. Read just one of these and you’re going to dismiss PR out of hand.

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