'Get enough sleep and stay hydrated' - 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 Tristan Cavanagh, creative director at 23red.

'Get enough sleep and stay hydrated' - Creative Q&A

How did you get where you are now?

By accident mostly. I was a Gen X teen with a love of beautifully designed magazines, so my first job was as an editorial designer. Unsurprisingly, it was not like working for The Face or i-D, so I gave up quickly and went to pay my dues doing wine labels and logos for a few years. Then I had a friend who started working in an ad agency and when I saw what he was doing I got hooked. I quit the wine labels and became an art director, ending up at TBWA in Cape Town doing work for clients like South African Rugby and Pfizer, before moving to the UK in 2006. After freelancing I ended up at 23red, which had such a lovely culture that I just stayed: first as an art director, then deputy creative director and then finally as creative director.

What's been your creative career highlight?

I love our co-created campaigns with young people. A few years ago, we were given a brief to educate teens living in the Midlands about the dangers associated with the electrification of the railway line. We knew emotive short film was a great way to reach them, but we needed to do a wider schools education programme too. So, we put them together and partnered with social enterprise Fully Focused to workshop a believable storyline with schools from the area. The result was a short film called ‘18’, starred Harry Kirton and it completely ‘blew up’ – getting over seven million views on YouTube, and still being watched over one million times a year.

... and lowlight?

Years ago, I did a Christmas promotion that went a bit awry and became an agency inside joke for ages after that. Any time a project started going wrong people would simply say it was turning into a ‘Santa in the Caribbean’. It still haunts me.

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

‘Long Live the Prince’ by Engine for the Kiyan Prince Foundation absolutely knocked everyone at 23red over recently. It’s an idea that’s simple to describe but put together with such insight, passion and sensitivity that it ends up having huge emotional resonance.

How do you solve creative writer's block?

On a boring note, get enough sleep and stay hydrated! But also, I go and read the brief again or some articles on a relevant subject and then forget about it for a while and try to do something else. It’s amazing what the brain comes up with subconsciously when you’re not trying to force it.

How should PR grow its creative prowess?

There’s a familiar playbook which it’s easy to fall back on. These things work – and we use them - but my favourite creative PR campaigns always have some sense of broader creation or entertainment at the heart of them. They might be designed to ultimately get coverage, but it could just as easily be called an installation, a new product, a piece of content or an event. That’s where the creative opportunities are.

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