'When Popbitch called it arse-puckeringly awful I knew we’d done a good job' – 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 James Cuff, creative director at BrandContent.

'When Popbitch called it arse-puckeringly awful I knew we’d done a good job' – Creative Q&A

How did you get where you are now?

I specialised in fine art and graphic design at college before completing a degree in multimedia design. Opportunities in Wales for a multimedia design graduate with a passion for interactive film and motion graphics were limited, so after six months of job hunting, I started as a graphic designer at Trinity Mirror.

As the publishing industry evolved, so did my career and, after a couple of years running the video department for WalesOnline, I was asked to join the multimedia team at The Sunday Times.

I moved back to Cardiff and joined Confused.com, where I was given the freedom to define and produce the brand’s creative output in their early forays into social media.

Following a couple of internal group moves and promotions, I realised I was getting further away from what I was good at. So an opportunity to work join BrandContent, a creative comms agency based in Cardiff, was too good to turn down.

I’m now creative director at the agency and we recently launched in Berlin. Exciting times!

What's been your creative career highlight?

Having a brand mascot at Confused.com gave us plenty of opportunities to convey ideas creatively to drive brand awareness and appeal. One of those was a campaign we worked on with Ogilvy to promote a ‘Quick Quote’ insurance product. Featuring a reworking of the lyrics to the So Solid Crew classic 21 Seconds, I shot and directed a music video starring the unlikely duo of Brian the Robot and MC Romeo. When Popbitch called it "arse-puckeringly awful" I knew we’d done a good job.

... and lowlight?

Hands down, the best response I have ever seen to a brief from an agency was one I had from Manifest when working in-house. I’m still gutted that it didn’t see the light of day. Our fault, not theirs.

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

My biggest agency crushes are Manifest and Uncommon, and I could choose any of their amazing work. But I’m going to say Uncommon’s recipe book for Merchant Gourmet, with the seed-filled cover you could plant at home. It was one of those ideas you wish was yours.

How do you solve creative writer's block?

It’s been a lot trickier over the past year or so, but two things usually work for me: changing my routine, whether that’s taking a new route to the office or listening to different music or podcasts; and getting back to nature.

How should PR grow its creative prowess?

We often celebrate our industry’s creative execution over its effectiveness. I’m certainly guilty of it and I know it’s harder to see the brand strategy or platform that defined a campaign’s ideas and executions. But it does run the risk of making an idea-first ‘leap’ and a homogenisation of safe ideas that could ‘work’ for multiple brands. Maybe it’s because 'brand' is perceived as being owned by the ad agencies, but I’d like to see more strategic brand thinking that drives bold, brave and unique creativity across paid, earned, owned and shared.

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