'PR's fast pace means we can sometimes rush campaigns' - 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 Winterton, director at Mischief.

'PR's fast pace means we can sometimes rush campaigns' - Creative Q&A

How did you get where you are now?

I got my start in PR via the Shine grad scheme. I’ll always be grateful to Rachel Bell, Natalie Luke, Greg Jones, Katie Beeton, Kate Addy and anyone else at the agency who decided this slightly awkward 20-year-old who turned up at the grad day in a shirt and tie had some kind of future in their world.

I followed Misha Dhanak (hero) to Citizen Relations and then to The Romans with Joe Mackay-Sinclair (hero). Everyone knows the kind of reputation The Romans has built; both to produce work that wins all the awards, and an internal culture that made working hard a lot of fun.

After an in-house stint running comms at DICE I returned to The Romans as a director (thanks for having me back Joe – third time soon, yeah?) and am now giving the freelance world a spin.

What has been your creative career highlight?

Got to be the Twitter ‘@JohnLewis’ campaign, where we worked with the American lecturer famed for being mistaken for the British retailer on the social media platform, which bagged a D&AD Pencil. A clever idea that would not have been possible without Sam Hodges and Stewart Russell, our Twitter clients at the time, who recognised its potential and gave us the budget and freedom to produce something that did the creative justice.

...and lowlight?

At The Romans, I came up with this campaign for a major new business pitch which, in the room (and this might just be my memory), honestly felt like my Don Draper Carousel moment.

One of the clients later confided in me that it was a key factor in our winning of the business. Anyway, it got floated up to HQ and was killed by someone somewhere. That’s the game, though, isn’t it? You can’t just have an idea, you need to sell the idea and make the idea – “Real artists ship.”

What's your favourite campaign of the past three months and why?

Bit old-school, but I liked the 'WREXHAM' stunt, where a Hollywood-style sign appeared in the Welsh town to promote the sponsor of football National League – especially the ‘whodunnit’ aspect. I do question how much cut-through Vanarama (the brand behind it) got, but as a really simple, visual, timely stunt, I can’t think of many better. Doubt it cost them much as well; we can’t all be Balenciaga and just buy The Simpsons and Fortnite.

How do you solve creative writer's block?

It’s 80 years old but I’ve always found the general method of James Webb Young’s 'A Technique for Producing Ideas' to be an effective one. Gather raw materials and really focus on the problem. You can’t crack it? OK, that’s creative block, so now just stop working on it. Put your subconscious on the case. The idea will come.

How should PR grow its creative prowess?

I feel like the fast pace of PR means that we can sometimes end up rushing campaigns, to make a client meeting or some self-imposed deadline. Take the time to make ideas excellent. If a brand can land one or two campaigns a year that genuinely cut through in a meaningful way, they’ll be doing better than most.

Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto – one of the most creative minds alive today – says: "A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad."

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