Graham Fink: Effortlessly Creative
Strap in for a real advertising masterclass from one of the industry’s greats! Graham Fink.
One of the advertising world’s greatest and most awarded creatives, sits down for a marathon interview about his life, his work and his ongoing quest for new creative outlets.
How hands are less-efficient art tools, the inspiration of theology, the art of creativity, how to find inspiration, dealing with critics, the ethics of cigarette advertising, green washing, Dave Trott, distraction, humor, curiosity, the stories behind some of Britain’s most legendary advertising campaigns, how art directors work.
Name checks for:
- Tony Brignell
- Neil Godfrey
- Alex Taylor
- Rosie Arnold
- Paul Arden
- Andy Law
- Tom Carty
- Dave Trott
Advice from Malcolm McLaren, how many ideas per day? imposter syndrome, the creativity of George Best, why Apocalypse Now is one of the world’s best movies, surveillance advertising and the lost art of media buying, Artificial Intelligence, can robots work in the Art Department? Digital Colonialism, postcard art and lots more.
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 2:15:35 — 186.3MB)
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Supporting show reel https://youtu.be/z218e-HpK_U:
Incidental music: Musictown from Pixabay
Graham’s latest exhibition: https://www.hungertv.com/editorial/meet-the-artist-blurring-boundaries-to-investigate-the-human-spirit/
Unlike the lens of a camera, a human’s perception is dramatically filtered by our level of attention and emotions
Drawing with Tobii eye tracker: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ApFzumPQEQ
Cai Guo-Qiang’s Sky Ladder: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLTT8ogRf50
In the 80s and 90s. Wherever I commuted I used to see his poster advertising work and think I wonder what sort of genius it takes to come up with something so iconic and memorable. My guest this week is one hell of a creative force. He’s one of the world’s most awarded creatives and I’m not sure how we got him on the show. I asked and he just said yes, he’s that much of a gentleman. But anytime spent chatting with me is time he could be spending effortlessly being creative as a
through multimedia artists, because Graham think is the very embodiment of what it takes to be creative. He’s one of the few elite artists who can work in any medium film posters, press adverts, TV, sculpture, photography, music, technology, and probably eggs and he makes it awesome. His canon of work includes the epic British Airways face commercial with 3000 extras recognized as one of the 100 greatest ads of all time. Countless surreal cigarette ads for silk cut and Benson and hedges arysta. On and on, and Coca Cola is iconic hands over. I’m hoping to create a small gallery of his work in the shownotes on this podcast website, just so you can see how incredibly prolific and successful he’s been. Graham’s career reads thusly, Chief Creative Officer at Ogilvy and Mather in China, Executive Creative Director, MSC Saatchi, Deputy Creative Director at Gold greenness trot group head at Saatchi and Saatchi and did WC ARS, art director at CDP and a bunch of other agencies at the start of his amazing, amazing career. He was the youngest ever president of DNA D subsequently voted into DNA DS Art Direction book representing the top 28 art directors of all time, he’s won literally a ton of creative awards, just look him up on Wikipedia. If there is a creative award to be won, he’s probably got two of them awards for advertising for photography for film. And if there was a philanthropy award, he probably get one of those too, because in 2001, he created the think tank, a conceptual production company and the art school dubbed Britain’s most radical art school. And if you need any further evidence of his creative prowess, he’s now working with technology in ways we could only dream of. He’s drawn images with his eyes using a Tobii eye tracker and software he’s developed. And he’s co parenting a robot called Sophia with Hanson robotics. And he’s also just got into NF T’s creating amazing images of her match for the Jubilee. And I just wanted to use this time to pay my respects to a man who I think helped make the British creative industry such a powerful force, and also to someone who’s just effortlessly creative. Welcome, Graham to the show.
Graham Fink 7:07
Hey, thank you very much indeed. For the intro, how are you? I’m good. I’m good. Looking forward to this looking forward.
Yes, yes, me too. It’s we’ve we’ve scheduled and rescheduled so. And it’s mostly down to my poor, poor diary management. But thank you so much for being such a gentleman about it. And yes, I have been looking forward to this. And I gotta tell you, I watched that video that you did a drawing with your eyes, and I’ll put the link up to it in the show as well. It’s okay. It’s mesmerizing. And I have to say ever so slightly kind of nightmarish. At the same time. I mean, how did you come up with the idea? And how does it all work?
Graham Fink 7:52
So I think, Well, I went to art school after I left school, and I remember sitting in my life drawing classes, and still life drawing classes. And, you know, the teacher is literally walking behind everyone and looking at what they’re doing. And if they didn’t think they the drawing was very good, they would simply turn your piece of paper over. I remember one time, I thought I was doing quite a nice drawing. I’ve been working on it for about 20 minutes. And the teacher just comes over and he just flipped a piece of paper off. And he just turned to over and he says start again, you’re not looking? I’m thinking what does he mean? I’m not looking, I’m looking, I’m looking, I’m looking. And I’ve thought a lot about this, you know, drawing is very much about observation. And, and I thought, you know, what happens is you look at something and that and the light, you know, goes into your eye, that image goes into your iron, it goes to your brain and it goes down your arm and into your hands and your hand is controlling a pencil or a paintbrush, and then you put the marks down on the paper. And that’s quite a long way to go. I’m six foot four. So I’ve got quite a long arm
a long way to go onto that bit of paper. And I thought actually what is coming out on that piece of paper isn’t really how I’m seeing it. And I wondered, then I thought you know, wouldn’t it be great if I could take my eyeball out of my eye socket and just draw with my eyeball. And I thought a lot about this. And obviously I didn’t do that. But I thought there must be a way of being able to draw with my eyes. And it’s funny that I had this idea for such a long time and I didn’t get around to doing it. And I thought you know what’s gonna happen is someone else is gonna gonna do this. But it wasn’t until I was working with Ogilvy in China. About probably 10 years ago now that that I did something about it and funnily enough, the people I called up were Millward Brown. And you know, you know Millward Brown to order research in the advertising world and and all the creatives hate Millward, brown because they’re always destroying your, your water always dies in research Oh, it’s you know, it didn’t didn’t show up, right, it didn’t didn’t hit the right numbers.
But funnily enough Millward, brown do have these tracking devices where they can look at consumers eye, and they can track what your you are looking at. And now these days, it’s quite sophisticated. So they can tell if you’re, you know, if you’re watching a commercial, where your eye is looking during a commercial, and then they can link that to your emotion and your brain and all that kind of stuff. And so they were the people I called, I said, Do you have some kind of eye tracking device that I could draw with? And they said, We don’t have anything quite like, like what you’re looking for, you know, you know, we but they said, you know, you should call this company, Toby in Sweden, because they are the world’s leading leaders in AI trackers. And maybe they could, maybe they can help you. Anyway, I call Toby up, they’re really nice. But they they say we don’t have anything quite like that. They said there are there, there is some kind of tech not eye tracking technology that disabled people use. And in fact, Stephen Hawking, you think used a Tobii eye tracking device, because he would look at the characters of the alphabet and put sentences together. Wow. Okay. And you can even place if you remember Space Invaders.
You can even play Space Invaders with your eyes. And so these Toby guys had an office in China, and they came in and they showed me all this amazing stuff you could do with eye tracking. But he couldn’t do this sort of free style drawing that I wanted to do. And they sent me a coder. And they said, Look, if you you know, it’s all in your head, what you want want it to do just tell the code, well, the coder was Chinese, you didn’t speak a word of English, my Chinese is not that good. I can do about 140 words of Chinese fair, and let’s get through a translator. We we started, you know, working on this thing. And as the weeks went by, it got better and better. And then it got to a point, I thought, actually, I’ve just got to go for it and do and have an exhibition, even if it doesn’t quite work out, as well as I want it to.
and you’re meant momentarily distracted. And you look across over them back. So it’s quite hard to do this because, you know, some of these portraits were taking me up to an hour to do and I’ve got a really, really concentrate and if someone comes in and says hey, great, you know, fantastic and I know look over your life but no, I’ve been I’ve got much better at it. And, and sometimes a draw people live, they sit right in front of me and I draw them life or I can draw from photographs, which which the results are probably a bit more lifelike because that person doesn’t move. But there’s something quite nice about the live nature of the drawing, even if it’s not quite perfect, even if it’s a little bit abstract.
It’s fascinating, absolutely amazing to anybody who’s, who hasn’t seen great work doing this. It’s an extraordinary video and I mean, you’ve kind of already answered my next question which is going to be can anyone do it because obviously it takes a lot of training to get to, I mean to do that type of drawing, right?
Graham Fink 15:05
I mean, you what you need to do is, you know, there is a way to configure your eyes, your eyes to, to my computer. And so theoretically, anyone can do it. Funnily enough, I had my whole family doing it one Christmas, they all had to go. But you know, they just couldn’t really control it. I mean, it was a lot of fun.
So, you know, some people have done it, but I think you’ve it’s like anything, you’ve just got to keep practicing it to get right to get it to get it good.
But it’s an amazing theory, isn’t it that you came up with to start this whole thing is that, that you’re you’re actually, you’re thinking of the human body, almost like a circuit or a system, and that there’s a distance between the eye and the hand, that if you could shorten, it might make it more efficient. I think that’s, that’s an amazing place to start.
Graham Fink 16:00
Well, I kept thinking of referring to my arm is the middleman.What you’re saying with this, I hear, and then there’s this kind of middleman, it gets you involved. And then you’ve got the image coming off of your paintbrush or pencil.
So there’s a type of sort of kinetic kinetic loss on the way through?
Graham Fink 16:22
I think so will you think how many thought process and and cells and god knows what else is getting involved?
I suppose so. Because it’s almost like a sort of a last thought, isn’t it? You say you, you say? Yeah, I was thinking of something. I can’t remember what it was. Now. I’m sure there’s a lot of wasted thoughts out there.
But I mean, I think what’s great is the fact that you’ve you’ve actually taken you haven’t you haven’t even tried to productize this at all, have you? I mean, this is just a medium for you. Right? Yes. Yeah. That’s incredible. That’s incredible. Well, I mean, before we actually do dive into as a great start, though, offers one of the most amazing starts to show I’ve ever had, I think, but before we actually sort of go into your career in sort of any depth, I’ve sort of hope that the sort of intro didn’t then sort of sound to fawning. But I mean, I’ve only recently realized just how much of an impact that you’ve actually had on, on sort of everything that I do. And so I did just want to say thank you very much for, you know, for all that work. I mean, it’s, it’s absolutely quite prolific. And I mean, let’s just talk about what you’ve just achieved, which we, which was how we started talking, which was your exhibition of photography. I mean, what was that about? How did that all go?
Graham Fink 17:39
So this is,it’s an exhibition that I had in London, just very, very recently, just a few weeks ago, and it’s called Spirits in the Material world.And a lot of people think that line came from a police song, and I’ve readwhat it does, but you know,if you’re stumped for a title, I’m often stuck for a title. I think title was a very, very hard things to come up with some, some people are naturally brilliant at it, I’m not at all. But but you know, a lot a lot of people will tell you, and especially in the art world is, you know, take a take a line from a poem, or a book title or, or something. And this work is very much related to this to Spirits in the Material world. I’ll talk about that in a minute. But I was fine. I found out that sting actually was very interested in this Hungarian philosopher and author Arthur Koestler, I think is Kessler. And he wrote a book called Ghost in the Machine. Yes, funnily enough. And so sting, obviously, you, you know, he is he had an album called ghosts in machine and a lot of curses writings were about, you know, the system, government systems, and how, you know, we can kind of interfere with them or weak or people can interfere with them, or it changes our view of stuff. And it’s, it’s, it’s more political, my, my way is more perhaps philosophical than that.Because I’m very interested in who we really are, who is our real self.
And this idea about God sitting up there, sort of sorting everything out, um, you pray to God, and if you pray to God, you’ll be okay. You know, you won’t go to hell. And I kept thinking, but I stole all those apples from the orchard last week and you know, and all this kind of stuff and I go to my confession and my priest makes me do three Hail Marys or if it’s areally bad thing I did and I got a couple of our fathers in.
And so it’s been a whole life of me questioning this whole thing, you know, who am I? Who is anybody? And why are we here? And what are we meant to be? What is it all about? And I think, you know, I’d like to think that some of the work I do is, is meaningful, it’s meaningful to me, it’s meaningful to other people. And it’s relevant. And you know, we all want to be relevant, don’t we? I mean, everybody wants to be heard on social media. I mean, just look at social media, everybody’s shouting out, look at me, look at me, look at me look at what they’re really saying is love me. You know, I want to be loved, I want to be heard, I want to be relevant, I want to be meaningful. And I mean, we could do a whole podcast on this. It’s a huge, huge thing. But coming back to the, to the spirits in the material world, you know, who are you really, and I started this. This series when I was in working in Seattle, the year before the pandemic, and I was designing websites and apps, because I wanted to do something a little bit different from from advertising.
And I didn’t really enjoy this job very much. For me, I didn’t find it, you know, that, that creative. And I spent a lot of time I had a little studio in Seattle, and I spent a lot of time trying to, you know, work on my photography in the evenings and weekends. And I started to a couple of friends wanted me to shoot them. And I started shooting them. And I kept thinking, how can I shoot you in a way that your real self comes through? Right. And a lot of this, it was very, very exploratory. So I had, you know, there was some friends. And then someone else says, I really, really liked the shot. I liked working with you. And then another friend comes along, and and there were there was a couple of dancers. And these dancers were very interesting, because I started sort of trying to choreograph them. And as they’re moving, I thought, can I capture this whole movement in one photograph? So when you look at some of these things, so he looked like there’s multiple people in them, right? There’s not there’s just one person
that somebody exposures are up to four minutes long. So it’s just one lady and you know, she’s kind of sitting kneeling on the floor, she then rolls over, she sits on the floor, and then she kind of gets up, and she’s dancing. And she’s turning around. And I did this over and over and over again. But when I booked because it was about three to four minutes each shot, but when I’m looking at the images, it’s great, because you can sort of see about six or seven, eight people in there. Because not only is
there overlaid over each other on there. Yeah,
Graham Fink 23:13
I mean, people look at they think, Oh, you just did all this in Photoshop. Well, I didn’t, you know, Photoshop, but I like to create everything, you know, in camera, if I can’t. So, I mean, all I really did in Photoshop is add a little bit of contrast, and maybe bring a bit of color out. There’s no double exposures or, or any. Today, what I mean, the series, it’s sort of built, and it’s kind of again, it started from this sort of me not really knowing what I’m doing, which I always think is actually the best place to be. If you don’t know what you’re doing. That is a great place to be that’s a, that’s a start. That’s a fresh start. If you know what you’re doing. You can’t be original, because it’s already been done. So get yourself to a place where you haven’t got a clue. And then say to yourself, this is fantastic. Most people get to go, I’d God I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know what I’m doing. Oh, that’s fantastic. That’s the place you want to be. Because then you can really go and start exploring. So I didn’t know what I was doing. I was taking all these pictures. And some of them were working, some weren’t working, and I started getting better at it. And I started you know, it just really evolved.
I managed to do a few during the pandemic or after the pandemic. And then eventually I thought I want to put this exhibition together. So it’s sort of taken about four and a half years really, from beginning to end. But I picked 12 images. You know, the prints are really, really beautiful print on this very beautiful paper. There are editions of five and some of the bigger ones are just over a meter high. And yeah, it’s called spirits in the material world,
and I mean, I think I’m right in saying that. The, again the same way that with with the the sort of drawing with with your eye as well there was a theory behind it that there was something different that photography captured that that was different to the way the human eye captures an image. Is that right?
Graham Fink 25:24
Yeah, exactly. I mean, I think it’s always great to start with an idea. Even if you haven’t quite cracked the idea, just make make the start. But I think all of my work is conceptual, you know, my work in advertising, obviously, their concepts, their ideas, and in all the work I do, as an artist, it’s, you know, has an idea behind everything. So whether it’s, and the reason I do multimedia is because,you know, when I went to art school, the end of my year show on my foundation course, you know, you try photography, you try printmaking, you try fashion, you try silk screening, and moving me in drawing and sculpture and all that kind of stuff. And in that year, pretty much everybody works out what they want to specialize in for the next three years. I thought,Oh, I love all of this stuff. So my end of year show, I put up a little bit of everything, and my shooters and the external assessors were saying, Well, this guy doesn’t know what he wants to do. And I said, Well, I do I do know what I want to do. I want to do all of it. And they said, Well, you can’t you’ve got to specialize in something for the next three years. And this has always been a huge problem. For me, you know, this idea about Jack of all trades, master of none, I think is total bollocks. I think that sentence has destroyed more potential careers than perhaps any other sentence ever written. And it’s destroyed more self belief. Because everybody thinks you’ve got to get great at one thing? Well, I think the human mind is bigger than all of us, you know, the human mind is, is the or the mind, I shouldn’t say the human the mind is limit less is not limited.
Why do we have to get really good at something or brilliant at something, maybe we’re not brilliant at anything. You know, I’ve been trying to play guitar, I’ve been trying to learn how to play classical guitar or during lockdown. I’ve got a couple of very interesting teachers, I’m really, really bad. But I really, really enjoy it. And I get so much out of it. And actually, some of the things I’m doing, here’s me ideas for, for perhaps a photograph. So I love this sort of cross pollination between all the all of these different things. And I think the more things that we can do, and the more things we get interested in, you know, we can we can use these different areas when they come together. I mean, you know, great ideas when you get these opposites and you smash them together, like smashing those atoms together in those accelerator chambers. You know, when they fire an atom off in one direction, and they find out, I’m off in the other direction. And they meet eight miles around this circular tube. And we’re talking atoms and particles here. And they smash into each other.
I mean, we’re talking so tiny, and yet we can measure what happens when they do smash into each other. Or we’re into, you know, we start talking about quarks. And I’m absolutely fascinated by this whole area. I don’t really understand it, but I really struggled with physics at school. But I love it. I think it’s amazing. I try and read stuff about it. And wow. So I don’t know how we got onto firing these atoms off all these particles off in different directions, and they smash into each other, it just creates new new stuff and it can be measured and and, you know, these physicists scientists can work out, you know more about us in our life and where we’re going, what we what we’re really made of, and that’s the same with ideas. Yeah, you know if you’re looking for an idea for a new car, for instance, don’t look at other cars, you know, look at the world of insects, for instance, you know, if you blow upyou know, I’ve got his green fly and eating my plum tree outside. I went to look at him earlier and I sprayed it with all his stuff and I’m thinking I’m not really good Buddhists. You know, he’s green fly, baby. They come back as a as a human one day, and maybe when I come back, I’m gonna come back as a green fly. I don’t know. But how do we get onto green flies?
You’re talking? You’re
What you’re talking about is mimicry is biomimicry, right? When when you can borrow ideas from nature.
Graham Fink 30:18
Okay, so we’re talking about designing cars. So if you put them if you put the green fly under the microscope, and you blew it up 10,000 times, you know, you’re gonna have some pretty amazing looking design. Yeah.And it may give you great ideas for designing for designing cars, you know, look at I mean, just look at that whole world of insect. I mean, I’m sure if you photographed every type of insect, you know, magnified it millions of times, and you blew these things up, and you built them, you know, the size of cars are even bigger, it would make a great exhibition. And you’re gonna, it’s just gonna give you so many ideas.
As I’m sure this podcast, by the way, if anybody’s listened to this, but this is the fuel podcast, but we have got a very, very special guest on and, and it’s, this is just getting an extraordinary conversation. And I mean, like you say, Graham, though, absolutely. I mean, the velcro came out biomimicry, didn’t it? I mean, that was a burr of, you know, a sort of a seed pod. That latched on to latched on to the guy socks or whatever. So yeah, absolutely. But I mean, here’s another philosophical thing for you to wrestle with. And I did sort of throw this one at you. But I think that, I mean, you’re not afraid to put your work out there. And for people to judge it. And for people to kind of, you know, you’d like feedback, you’d like people giving you sort of negative and positive feedback. But I mean,I sort of I, we had a big sort of discussion about this in the office as well, it? Is it? Is creative work unfulfilled if nobody else gets to see it. So I mean, if you spend your entire life drawing stuff, or creating sculptures and things like that, but never show them off, is that is that creative work unfulfilled in your eyes?
Graham Fink 32:20
Well, I was watching. In China, when I was in China, I came across this amazing artist that does work with fireworks. His name is if I my Chinese is not not so good these days. But chugwater Chang, and you should look him up. And he he just creates work with fireworks and gunpowder. So I mean, one thing he does quite a lot at he’ll get like a huge, huge aircraft, hangar size studio, and he lays his canvas down. And let’s say it’s like, let’s say it’s like 200 feet long, 100 feet wide, right? And then what he does he sprinkle this gunpowder, or is it in little position, right. And he’s got his assistants that help him do this kind of stuff. And he and then he sets light to it. And it’s very spectacular when he sets light to this whole thing. And often there’s a big audience that will come and watch it. And holding all explodes. It takes about a minute for a whole canvas to be blown up and not all areas full of smoke. And then when the smoke is cleared, and he cleans everything off, what you’ve got left behind is the most beautiful, sort of mark markings on a piece of canvas. And sometimes he you it’s recognizable is that it’s a cityscape, or they’re mountains and stuff. And one thing he’s always wanted to do is to build this ladder, kind of like a Jacob’s ladder going up to the heavens. And he wanted this ladder to be like, Yeah, over 400 meters high. So that’s a quarter of a mile. High, right? And each rung of his ladder. So the rungs themselves are two meters long, right? Like if I stretch my arms, though, that’s like two meters. And you imagine that and it’s all and it’s all pyrotechnic. So it’s all it’s all fireworks. The whole thing is, is fireworks. Wow. And so he’s got to hang it somewhere. So he hangs it from this would you you can’t really see it. There’s a film called Skyler, which is so wonderful. You get to watch his movie. But he there’s this giant balloon that goes up and that and then hanging below is his is his ladder. And he’s an artist who’s done at night, right? So you can’t see anything. Of his spend. I mean, he spent years trying to put this whole thing to The other day, and everyone kept stopping him, he tried to do it in China, the Chinese authorities wouldn’t let him do it. He tried to do it. In New York, he couldn’t get the permits in New York, he tried to do it in the UK. But you know what, it pissed we’re brain all the time. And I could have told him that, you know, the weather here, in down. And eventually he does it in a tiny, tiny fishing village near to where he was born. And no one was around it right, it was, the only reason it was film is because they, because this guy was making a documentary of it. So it’s on film. And the only people that saw this thing, we’re the people in the local fishing village, he didn’t have any social media, because he had to keep it really quiet from the authorities. And he read, but he really, really wanted his mother to see it, because his mother was like 90 or something. And she, she’s really ill, and she’s in a wheelchair, she couldn’t go. And I just love this fact that he’s just doing it for himself, because he has to make art. It’s something to do with Him and His Spirit, His soul. And, and for his mother. And, you know, I mean, if I’d been me, put my half and half a mile high ladder, and it’s like the most spectacular sight you’re ever going to see in your life, I’d want the whole world to watch, I want it on tick tock and LinkedIn, and Facebook and Twitter, you know, I mean, and WeChat, my social media channel in which I’d want all my friends to see it, you know, to say, Hey, look at this. And I thought that was a really wonderful thing that he did that he didn’t have all of these people. And so in the end, I think we do do stuff for ourselves. And it’s interesting, you know, people came to look at my exhibition. And I honestly really didn’t mind if they liked it, or they didn’t like, obviously, it’s nice if they come up to gram. This is the best exhibition you’ve done. I love these images. And especially if someone wants to buy one. Well, of course, that’s
that’s great material.
Graham Fink 37:07
But if people turned up and said, Well, you know, I don’t think it’s that good, or they’re all out of focus or whatever, it really doesn’t bother me. I think it used to bother me. I’ve sort of got over all that. And I feel much better because of it. And funnily enough, the show was on for a week in London. And I went on, on a Sunday without the gallery was open on this on the Sunday. And the gallery said you should come along on Sunday, because there’s some really interesting people come into the gallery. And so I got there, just open like 10 o’clock in the morning, and there was a, there was an old couple coming out. And they were sort of in I would say I would say the guy was in his 90s. And his friend, what I don’t think they were a couple, I think they were just very good friends. Lady was in her 80s. And they came out of the gallery just as I’m about to walk in. And I heard her say, Well, that was awful. And he said, Yes, he could I did not. He said, I didn’t understand that at all. What rubbish. And I kind of smile. And I looked at them. I said, Excuse me. Can I ask you? What did you think of the show? They were sort of saying it’s quite quite as I asked, What do you think it’s show? And they looked at me so well, it’s awful. You know, the guy. So I don’t understand what this guy’s doing is it’s talking about these spirits. And he said, I can’t work out a lot. I don’t know whether they’re paintings or he said no. He said, I just don’t get it at all. And then there was a sort of a moment of realization. And the lady said, Are you the artists? And I said yes. And they said, Oh, we’re so sorry. I said, No, no, no, listen, honestly, if you don’t like the show, that’s absolutely fine with me. But I said no, genuinely because it is a polarizing show. And if there’s no, you know, reaction is good and bad. And you know, it’s not really doing its job. So tell me more about it. Anyway, they then went into why they didn’t think it was that great. And then of course, when you’re asking him a question, I have to really think about it. Because it was like an initial reaction. I don’t like it. But then we talked for about 10 minutes. And the guy said, Well, are they painting the photo? How did you get this? And I start to tell him, you know, the story I told you earlier about spirits and who we are. And I asked him who if he knew who he really was and and he said, Joe, this is fascinating. So I’m gonna go back in and have another look. And they both went back in and I promise you, they were there for about 45 minutes. And when he came out, he said to me, Well, this is gonna sound like a cliche. He said, I’ve totally changed my mind. He said, having listened to you. You talk about To another thinking behind it, which was actually also on the wall too, but he hadn’t actually read it all. But I think because they went in, and they really spent time looking at those pictures weren’t scanning them. I thought that was interesting.
Wow, that’s, I mean, I guess it says a lot for, you know, understanding the context. And, you know, and I mean, most of us, you know, you have to, you’ve got to, you’ve got to understand grammar, that not all of us have the same, the same sort of artistic eye that we look at, look at life through. So, you know, you sort of you look at it, and if it doesn’t compute, then obviously, you know, instantly you you sort of throw it out, but if there’s a little bit of context given to it, you know, it helps it helps us mere mortals understand it a little bit better. But, I mean, talking of okay, well, let’s talking off stuff that’s always out there being judged. I mean, I said at the start of the show that you know, the a lot of people may have may remember your your kind of your earlier work through, you know, the sort of cigarette advertising with silk, cotton and Benson Hedges and stuff. And first, first point, you never took up smoking, which I find that absolutely amazing. Pulitzer. I mean, there’s two rival brands there, right with with two different two different tobacco companies. I mean, both using your kind of creative sort of surreal sort of imagery. I mean, is that did you have a favorite out of that? Was it was there one that you were more fight more more sort of keen on?
Graham Fink 41:33
I really liked working on those on those brands. And, you know, because it raises a huge ethical question. There’s because, you know, people say, Well, you know, how do you feel about the fact you You’re killing people and but is that is really as black and white as I mean, I remember when I met Dave Trott, it was a big advertising name. For the first time he said to me that, you know, advertising really can’t sell you anything. That all it can do is inform you on something and it can it may change your opinion on something, but he said, Look, if you don’t like Kellogg’s cornflakes, the best advert in the world for Kellogg’s cornflakes isn’t going to sell you Kellogg’s cornflakes. Right. So that I mean, that was his that was his view. When I worked on those cigarette brands, yeah, I never actually smoked. So I thought, well, am I making people to I don’t smoke. I’ve never smoked. But the whole point about working on the silk cat was because it was a lower top brand, right? It was trying to get people to switch from high tar cigarettes to low tar cigarettes, I suppose that’s a step in the right direction. For me as a young art director, art director, because, you know, I love the power of the visual. I mean, I like to write I write quite a lot of stuff. But I think I’m much better on the visual side, I feel more comfortable on the visual side. And both of these campaigns, when I worked on had already been started. So the Benson Hedges one, at the time was probably the most famous advertising campaign in the early 80s. Easily Yeah. And you know, they alternated with where they were, they made us cinema commercial, which was shot by Hugh Hudson, which was just I think, the thing that got me into advertising when I saw this at the cinema, I thought that is just a piece of pure art. It’s called Benson Hedges swimming pool, and it’s yes about the swimming pool or whatever but he’s AQR is in. And, and it keeps cutting between that and a helicopter carrying this mysterious, huge oblong box underneath what you don’t realize until right at the end is a giant pack of cigarettes, and then they drop it into the swimming pool, which is now filled up. And then one of the lizards so turns into a frogman. And he’s got this giant key and he opens a pattern it is kind of like a can of sardines, and the packs are and the cigarettes are inside pack pack tightly. And it’s so surreal and the reason it was very surreal is because of the rules that you couldn’t you weren’t allowed to do so many things you know you couldn’t show beautiful blue skies here you couldn’t have greenery which is why distinguish shot in a desert where everything’s dead, you know, cut cactus plants etc. And you couldn’t show people enjoying it. Could you you can show people I think and yeah, you couldn’t show people smoking and all that kind of stuff. For an auroras got more and more, you know, the rulebook got thicker and thicker as we worked on it. But for me, because it was, it was all based on surrealism, you know, a movement I loved. I found them, you know, relatively easy to do. And I thought hang on is an ad. I mean, I was struggling doing, I was on a six month trial. And I was really struggling to work with my writer and to create ads would get approved by our creative director, but I thought I can do these Benson edges, ads, maybe my job is safe if I can do these things. So I kept working on them.
And interestingly, and I think why they were so good is because it was a bit of an open brief that anyone could work on, on that campaign in the agency. And you know, let’s say there were like 1515 creative teams. I mean, not everyone was within to doing it, but it will probably never probably is six or seven art directors that would spend most of their spare time trying to do events and headshots. So the competition was really fierce because they only ran six of these posters a year. Wow. And if you got one through you know, you were sort of like a rock star. Wow. I’ve got one through and then you go and photograph it all right, one of the world’s greatest photographers and so the photographs themselves were absolutely beautiful you know pieces I thought pieces of of high art and they look stunning when they’re on the street. Oh, man. Yeah, absolutely. I
mean, I can still it’s still in my in my mind, I can still remember the The Birdcage the bench and edges Birdcage, which was stunning. Absolutely stunning.
Graham Fink 46:54
So yeah, I mean, like so I liked that mean, maybe I’ve sought cotton Benson Hedges. I I don’t know if I had to pick a favorite maybe some sort of one of the best. One of the Benson Hedges. I don’t know. I mean, it probably depends what week you asked me. And then when I went to Sanchez, I worked on silk cart and you know was Charlie’s Archie while is different rumors who came up with the with the idea. But some people say it was Charlie’s Archie because Charles had you know is had a massive art collection. He was hugely into art. And there was an artist, Italian artists, Fanta. Luciano, Fontana, used to slash his canvases. As so there’s a cat, if you look about you often see just a canvas with a slash in it. And I think Charlie thought, you know, let’s get a piece of silk and slash it. And that’s his silk cart. Now, some people say it wasn’t his nightmare, anyway, whatever. But the first posters were actually just a piece of silk with a single slashing. Yes, yeah. And the government health warning. And, of course, it was a visual pun that just said silk up. And then it started to go, you know, they ran that like that for about 18 months differently. Just got different photographers to shoot pieces of silk was put a slash in it. And then once the whole country got onto it, then it started to get a little bit cleverer. And I think one of the first ones I did was was the were the were the scissors. So it’s kind of like, it’s like a mother. It’s kind of like a mother bird and three baby birds, right? Yes, that beaks open. But instead of beaks, they’re just pairs of scissors. And the mother bird has got a piece of cut cell in her beak, verta commas. And you’ve got the three little pairs of scissors with their mouths open trying to eat it. And it’s funny where that came from. So I’ve been working on this this thing all week trying to come up with stuff. I’ve done hundreds of ideas. And they’re all pinned up all around the wall. And I thought some were pretty good. And I think Paul out in which my boss at the time the ECG he came in, and I think he looked at something and he, I think he liked a couple of them. And anyway, he then went home and it’s about eight o’clock at night and I’m learning the office on my own. And I’ve just got this blank Lau pad below me. And I literally picked up a big black marker. And without thinking I just drew you know, the image I’ve just told you with the mother bird of three baby scissors. And it took me about 10 seconds and I looked at it. I thought wow, that’s amazing. And you know, I had this distinct feeling where did that come from? Because that was wasn’t me that did that. It really wasn’t, I don’t know where these things come from. And it’s the same with the British Airways ad that I did with Jeremy Clark. That whole idea came after months of working on it, and months of having scripts rejected, and are sitting in our office. And we just had a, an amazing, we thought our best ever script just rejected on it. We were convinced they’re always going to buy it. And he rejected and we went back to our office, we’re sort of like, broken. You know, we sat there, and we just thought, Well, that’s it. We can’t, we can’t we’ve written 100 scripts. And it was in this moment, it was, I sort of hesitate to say, as a Zen moment, because it probably sounds a bit pretentious. But it really was some something that was just a cloud of I don’t know it, but the whole thing came in like two seconds, the lips are coming out, the CDI is going to walk down the street, the you know, there’s going to be an ear that there’s going to be the whole face, and it’s already made of people and they will meet. And I scribbled it up. And we went in presented it to Paul about half an hour later. And he said yes, yes, yes. And again, where did that come from? Because I mean, of course, I said, Well, that was my idea or Jeremy’s how our idea.
But no, that that came from somewhere else. And it comes right back to that mysterious thing. I’m talking in the beginning, you know, just this spirit in us this, this, this thing, where, where do the really truly great ideas come from, because you always get when you’re not thinking about you always get your best ideas in the shower, don’t you’re on a walk. I mean, that’s why Sherlock Holmes would go off in the middle of a case he couldn’t crack and drag Watson and go off to the, to the to the theater. And it’s why he’s sat in the theater, he cracks it, you know, because his mind is on something else. But very rarely I find you to sit where you are, and have it when you’re supposed to have it in the time you’re supposed to have it. Right. So that’s why you do need time you need, you need time to try out all these things. And it’s like an exorcism of getting rid of all the crappy ideas that takes, you know, a few days getting rid of all the obvious things. And you need time to sit and think and reflect about it. You know, I’m sure you’ve been, you know, you try and do a crossword, and there’s one word you can’t think of, and then, you know, to tell you later, or, again, you’re in the shower, or you’re watching TV, or you make a cup of tea, it comes out that’s what it is. Yeah.
I mean, it’s an incredible. So I mean, basically, you know, these things, we’ve we’ve had these, this conversation with, with other people in the industry, about the, you know, the advantages of switching off and being able to just let these things sort of happen to you. But, I mean, I just want to bring you on to the kind of the moral dilemma if there is one for for the advertising industry, because obviously, we just touched on the idea of the tobacco industry, and kind of the next dirty business that the advertising industry is sort of connected to is the sort of fossil fuels industry. And so, I mean, what, what are your views on the sort of the role of the the advertising industry for, you know, for with the fossil fuels business? And I mean, what, on a wider scale? What What responsibility does the ad industry have, with driving demand and consumption? And, you know, and all those sorts of things, which were at the same time trying to lessen? I mean, is it counterintuitive for the, for the industry?
Graham Fink 54:01
I don’t think that, you know, an advertiser, you know, if if you’re an advertising agency, and, you know, you’ve got shell as your biggest client, you’re not going to suddenly stop working on it. Right. You know, what I mean? That’s what I think. But I do think we, you know, we need to be very aware of the messages that we’re putting out there and how we talk about some of these things. And sometimes I think, you know, we’re, we’re quite naive. And a lot of them, you know, our views on racism, for instance, has become much more sophisticated and better for it. These, you know, these last few years and that there’s been a lot more conversations about it. And I think it’s good that you know, there’s a lot of talk about Have you no diversity in agencies and I think that’s obviously that’s a really, really good, a good thing. We need to be much more aware of what we’re doing. I mean, humans are, we’re all for things, you know, we destroyed this beautiful planet, you know, I’m living now I’ve got his place in, in DL, which is near Dover. Alright, and out of my window I’ve got I’ve got a beautiful sea view. And yesterday, I got up really, really early, like four o’clock or something and took this fantastic photograph of a sunrise. And it looks so beautiful. I think I’m doing it I’m thinking, I think and I wonder how many plastic bags or slot have dropped into the sea that are killing these fish and we’re just destroying so much. So, you know, it’s, it’s, there’s a lot of very difficult and big conversations to be having here to be had here. And I think a lot of them, we don’t have we’re just ignoring them. I think the advertising industry does need to take on, you know, a lot more responsibility. sure everybody says all this stuff, but are they actually doing it right? Because I think a lot of people are very comfortable at the top with their you know, in their job or their expense account and whatever and perhaps they don’t really want to change too much. But I do think there’s a lot of people out there who do really want change you know, I think there’s some great people in the industry on you know, right right across the board in audit departments. Interestingly, you know, we I didn’t go to Cannes this year but you know, there was a lot of work someone did a I can’t remember who was somewhat someone wrote something about interesting out of order Grand Prix he’s only four of them are like proper ads The rest are all doing good doing good for the world. And you know what’s what’s built rebuilding a coral reef got to do with a with a cat food and oh, you’re maybe you could say somebody to do with fish and fish like cats like fish? I don’t know. I haven’t actually watch that case. Did I just read about it? But you know, it’s something you know, you talked about Steve Harrison earlier you know something that he’s written about in you know, in his book can’t sell won’t sell it we seem to be you know, obsessed. We’re trying to save the world. And a lot of it just comes down to making us look good. But you know, when I was back in the early days of being at CDP and Saatchi he’s, you know, I worked on Hovis port granary bread, and the idea was to sell a loaf of bread. You know what I mean? Not not to.
Yeah, you still still got to sell the product rather than but you did turn even that you turned into a complete art form, didn’t you?
Graham Fink 58:13
Yeah, try to. Yeah, I think you know, we everyone forget what not everyone forgets. But you know, a lot of clients think that, you know, if they come up with their new raspberry ripple flavor ice cream, everyone is going to be so enamored with this. I mean, no one really gives a shit. People don’t really like advertising. Well, I think, yeah, I think it’s not particularly entertaining. I don’t think there’s very much funny stuff anymore. I think we are at times like this, we need a bit of a laugh, you know, there’s so much bad shit going on in the world. You know, we need we need to sort of lighten up a bit. Sometimes. You know, but I do think it is about at the end of the day. It’s about selling something.
Right? Yeah. And it’s about how
Graham Fink 59:06
can you do that in an interesting way. And you can use art to do that. You can use humor to do that. There’s always different you can use shock tactics. You can do a short film, you can do a long film, you can make a movie I remember Mother making a movie a feature film to sell your Eurostar tickets, I think, you know, so there’s there’s infinite amount of weight and now we have NF TS you know, there’s all kinds of new medium new media to get our messages across and I think we need to do it in I think we need to do it in responsible ways, but have fun while we’re doing it. You know what happened to all the fun?
Well, okay, all right. That brings me nicely on to the another question. I was gonna put a you I mean, as a creative as a highly creative person. I mean, what do you make of tick tock as a medium,
Graham Fink 1:00:01
I love tick tock. Yeah,
I can’t wait to see you try that.
Graham Fink 1:00:09
I have an account. I don’t really post very much stuff on it. But I’ve done a few projects with tick tock, and I think they’re a great crowd. I really liked him. And if you look at, I mean, a lot of the stuff on there is, you know, not particularly good, but it’s an awesome, terrific stuff on there some great ideas. And people just out just, you know, talking about this fun thing as we were earlier. Having just a lot of fun, they’ve got their phones, and they go out and they just make these, these mad things. And I love it. I absolutely love it. You know, during the petrol crisis, there was one guy who rode around on a horse horse into a petrol station, and he’s laughing at all the cars. And he’s, and he say, I’m alright, because I’m on a horse. He runs on carrots. And he sings it is sort of terrible voice. But it’s, it’s so funny. It’s, what it’s about is like, it’s like the early days of YouTube. You know, everyone in the advertising, business audit, lazy creatives are on their plundering, under any ideas.
And we’re gonna pump the brakes for literally one minute while I pass the hat around and help pay for this thing. And allow Graham a chance to gather his thoughts. Don’t touch that dial. And we’re back. You’re listening to the fuel podcast. And this is my interview with advertising. Creative legend, Graham Fink. What were you like, as a student? Did you? I mean, you said that you didn’t follow the rules that you were trying to do other things? I mean, did you naturally gravitate towards art? I mean, why, you know, sort of what was the the thing that pulled you in that direction?
Graham Fink 1:01:52
I think, you know, when I was at school, I wasn’t a particularly brilliant student I was, but I was pretty good at art. I thought, here’s something I can do. And I actually wasn’t bad at English, because my mum used to make me read a lot of books when I really, really dumb. And I read a lot, you know, so I tended to always come top in my English exams, even without really, really trying. But that’s really down to my mom. But yeah, everything I was always brought up but apart from music, which I really liked, and art, because I was sort of, okay at it.
All the creative stuff, basically.
Graham Fink 1:02:42
Well, I think audio well is interesting. I mean, is history, not creative. His geography not created physics, physics is creative physics is all about creating, but I was just, I, you know, I was not very good at adding up sums. I was terrible at that. And so, physics, you need to be able to do all those kinds of equations. So that wasn’t going to really happen. I find it fascinating, but I don’t really understand it. But I think I was just always curious. And that’s the thing. I’ve never really lost my curiosity. Always really curious how things work and why is it like that? You know, who I am like a child. I am like a child alive. Why why why? Why?
In the industry, it’s so when you once you got into the industry, I mean, who inspired you?
Graham Fink 1:03:38
Well, I think there were a lot of people I mean, when I was at CalArts I mean, pretty much everyone was you know, brilliant teams. And I think it’s just being surrounded by so many you know, great copywriters, and art directors. I mean, Tony bricknell was a lead legendary copywriter and you work with Neil Godfrey, and actually the 50 years of DNA D those two even though they retired years and years ago, they still work number one, art director number one copywriter, which I thought was astonishing. They won more pencils and than anybody else. And I think when you’re with creative caliber, those people in that department Yeah, I mean, Alex Tate, you look at someone like Alex Taylor and amazing art director, and I started pretty much the same week as Alex Taylor. And she was doing extraordinary things. I was looking at her art direction I got it. Always make me really jealous. You know, how she’s doing this fantastic, fantastic. Rosie Arnold, she’s she was a I think I was only like a year ahead of Rosie Rosie came into college when we were there on on a placement. And he was such a super smart lady. I’ve always you know, I followed her career on what shortlist amazing stuff that she does. Yeah, she’s very inspirational. And of course, Paul art and I found Paul. Paul was very eccentric. You never ever knew what was going to happen next. You think something was good. He think it was terrible. He always seemed to have a different opinion to everybody else is interesting. You know, why is poor? You know, I would always try and crop my photographs, which you know, you you go and work with a photographer, let’s say on silk cut or BMW or whatever, you, you bring in the photograph to show Paul. I’d spent ages cropping it. And Paul would always recrop it always better. I would, I knew he was going to do this. I spent like, like a whole day, try all the different crops and go in and Oh, Paul would just take the crops and he would, and he would do it. You wouldn’t even really think he would just do it in, you know, maybe five or 10 seconds, he’d always crop it better
than the two bits of cardboard or whatever. And just two
Graham Fink 1:06:19
bits of cardboard. Right? Yeah. And I remember once coming back from from lunch, and I was with my copywriter, Jeremy and. And Paul, Paul’s secretary, Pa came in Jeanette. She was a lovely lady. She used to breed rabbits. She used to breed these. She used to bring bring her chinchillas in and hide them under the desk. And she said For God’s sake, don’t tell him he hates these rabbits. He was such a character. Anyway, she came in and said, Oh, Paul’s taken one of your ads. And he’s pinned it on his wall, which are amazing. That’s right. And he wants to see you. So we’re thinking, Oh, we’re gonna get a pay rise. And we go in and Paul is pinned up this ad. I mean, it’s the state it’s in is that is we’ve written the art. It’s been approved by a client. I’ve taken a photograph. And this is sort of like a mock up. And it’s stuck. It’s not the final final thing. We’re still working on the layout. And Paul has it pinned on his wall, and he looks at it. And he says, and he’s smoking a cigar because you’re allowed to smoke cigars in offices. It’s not right. He said he would talk this little stuff. It’s not right. Oh, so my heart sank. And then he would get a pair of scissors. And he’d start chopping it up. And he’d say, Jeanette, Jeanette, come in, he said, Go and photocopy this, photocopy it 5%, smaller, 10%, smaller, 15%, smaller, make it 5%, bigger, 15, etc. So he wouldn’t he would go off now that you’ve come back in with all these headlines, all different sizes, and he would do the same with a photograph. And then he would get the head of typography to come in. And he’d say, Roger, you’ve set all this Roger Kennedy and saying, we say you’ve set all this stuff for gray. And he said, I don’t like the way it’s set. And so he starts beating him up. And I want it set like this and why we use his time. So I want you to set it in this typeface, this typefaces. And so all of a sudden, there’s this, you know, there’s all his energy, and pulls off his people flying backwards and forwards. And I’m still sulking. Because I’m really pissed. I thought it was great, you know. But I and I keep trying to tell him that the original one is better. But he’s not listening to me. And it’s, and it’s very plain after like, 20 minutes, half an hour is a dead code. So I snap out of my soul key move and start trying to help. And then, you know, within about two or three hours, we’ve got lots and lots of other layouts all over the walls. And then Paul, to two or three of the best ones, he ripped all the others down. And he said let’s look at it in the morning. You see again, you overnight. Yes. And we back in the morning. And we picked one. I think there were a few more tweaks to be made and then
went and were you glad that he did that?
Graham Fink 1:09:22
Oh, well. I mean, I learned so much from that. And of course six months later when you’re picking up an award for that. You think well he’s made me look good. I’ve learned so much and it was you know, all those little tiny details matter. And it really really mattered to me. You know, my father is a butler. And he when he lays tables for kings and queens royalty, and he’s got you know, hundreds of napkins folded and lots of glasses you got like 10 Every person’s got like seven to 10 glasses and you got 12 knives and forks and he aside and 15 spoons or whatever the attention to detail to my father has to put that table together I mean when you look at is absolutely magnificent is a work of art and I’m sure that I get all of this that sort of attention to detail. I’m gonna say I was gonna say perfectionism, but I’m not sure because it’s never. It’s, you know, that’s sort of a bit of a lost cook because nothing could ever be perfect, but I think let’s just call it attention to detail. Those details matter. You know, it’s fine. Mies van der Rohe at Bauhaus said, you know, God is in the detail. And absolutely true. You know,
yeah. And would you say that, that was probably the best bit of advice that you would ever hand out to anybody.
Graham Fink 1:10:52
I think, you know, there’s so many pieces of advice people are given to me, but one that’s always stuck with me. And it was actually given to me by Malcolm McLaren. And because I work with Malcolm on the British Airways commercial, I got Malcolm to I was a big fan of his, and he just released his album called fans, which were he taken an operatic tracks. And so he I got him to redo Lakhmi for, you know, the leafs flower duet for, for British Airways. But it was Malcolm McLaren, who gave me a piece of advice, you said, be yourself. And I always thought that was pretty good. Because, you know, the minute we try and be other people, I think we try and do that quite a lot. You know, when I was doing my art direction, Can Can I do it? As well as Alex Kane, how would Alex students or how a poor dude is. But it never really works. It’s much better when you really just do it yourself. You know, warts and all. And you are truly authentic to yourself, your real self, you see back to this thing. And, you know, we have all these kind of voices in our heads all the time chattering away, like monkeys chattering away at us, saying that we’re no good. That stupid idea. You don’t say that? You know, people will laugh at you. And it’s, it’s a little bit like, friendly fire, you know, being killed by friendly fire or killed by your own side. You know, we’re meant to be looking out for ourselves. But we beat ourselves up all the time. We say to win. Oh, good. And I think it’s, it’s horrible. I think it’s a really, really bad habit. And we all do it. We do it a lot in the West. I mean, they do it in the East. But for some reason, I think I’m making a big generalization here, perhaps to a lesser extent. I don’t know that here in the West, we are. We’re constantly beating ourselves up right? All the time. And I don’t think it’s any good because, you know, if you get to 30, you’ve been beating yourself up? Actually, you’re not because when you’re a kid, you don’t beat yourself up, too. You
know, not all of us, but some of us do. Yeah, some of us, some of us,
Graham Fink 1:13:24
maybe, maybe not, I think I think you you get you get worse at it, the more we grow up. I agree. And so you know, when you’re in school later. And when you first start your, you get your first job. And certainly in advertising, I was sitting there thinking this is no good. That’s so good. I’m so good. All the time, you notice the imposter syndrome coming in. But that is really about shame, you know, and that that can come from from, you know, your parents, your teachers, all kinds of places. So it’s a you know, you’re never going to be you’re never going to make it you’re never going to be able to play that piano passage fast enough, you know, why did you give up? And all these little things go in our head and they we feed this ourselves? So I think to try and be positive is a good thing if we tell ourselves good things every day.
Yes, I mean, we always admire Don’t worry that the person that can get up on the stage and karaoke or something and just give it everything you know, as if as if they’re, they’re giving a role command performance, or the person that like yourself who’s just prepared to put a few sketches out there that they’ve created with their eye and not be bothered about and I think it’s about not being not being too worried about feed negative feedback and There’s a competency. Yeah,
Graham Fink 1:15:02
I think so. Put the stuff out there. And don’t worry about what people think. I mean, we know the theory is, but it’s, it’s harder to, it’s harder to do. We’re talking, the more you do it, the more you know, you get better at it.
And talking about that, I mean that, you know, this is obviously advice that you give out and wanting to come on to the art school, if I may, you know, and talk about this, because I mentioned your, your kind of philanthropic kind of mission at the start of things. And I think it’s, you know, obviously, this is about nurturing talent and teaching people coming into the creative arts and stuff like that. And, and obviously, this encompasses the DNI discussion, and, and everything else. But, you know, we bring, you know, the idea behind the art school is that, you know, people from all different backgrounds can, you know, can come in and sort of, you know, find their feet creatively and stuff, but it’s not, I mean, you’re not looking, you’re not doing this as some kind of, like, feeder channel for the advertising business. Are you? I mean, this is this has got much broader ambitions than that.
Graham Fink 1:16:06
Yeah, I mean, I started this thing called the art school. But we did, we did them for about six or seven years before I went to, I went off to China, and I sort of was sort of doing a mini version of it in the agency in China, but, but what it was, is I thought, wouldn’t it be just great to, to sort of just get a room somewhere and invite lots of students from anywhere, they are looking to get a job in advertising, or film or art or whatever, and just sort of try and help them give them some advice. And it’s probably, you know, I wish a lot of people have told me stuff. You know, when I was in that position that it took, took far too long to find out. I mean, you know, Dave trots had a lot of amazing things to me. And actually, it was because of him that I changed my whole book, and I managed to get the job. But I thought, you know, if Dave Trott had told me this five years ago, you know, I mean, I, I’d have been so much better shape. So I decided to, to hold these things. And they were completely free. And anyone could come along. And I just said, Look, I will be there talking about stuff. And I’ll bring some friends in. It will also talk about that from their point of view. And it’s like a whole afternoon or a morning. And that was really sort of the concept. And you know, social media didn’t exist in those days. So but so the first one we had it was a friend of mine, Andy law, he used to run the St. Luke’s. And he said, Well, you know, next door to us, we said, are we going to be moving into this? Into this, we’re extending, he said at the moment is just like an empty shell. There’s no heating or even electricity. But if you want to hold one of your art school things there for an afternoon, fine. So I remember we turned up and we actually ran up, like something like 100 meter extension cables from their main building. So we had a little tiny TV. And I think we showed some commercials and another friend of mine, Tom cardi, turned up and talked about George Best greatest ever goals. And he put his VHS in. And he talked about the, you know, the creativity of George Best how he would do things that no one else, no other football or we would do. I think I think Patrick, the guy of creative review, gave a little talk. So yeah, I mean, it was always interested and everyone loved it. And today about 3040 people at that one. I said, Okay, we’re going to do another one in a month’s time. It was always a secret location, right? No one knew until the morning before. And I will put the word out, emailed everyone. And anyway, the next one, we had 100 people turn up and the next one was 150. Wow, and fight the final one I did before I went to China, we actually ran in the Houses of Parliament. I had 200 students. And I convinced friends friend of mine, Damien Collins, he was he’s, he’s an MP. And he used to be I knew him he was an account man at MSC Saatchi. And so I persuaded him to let we bring the art school into the Houses of Parliament. And he was great. I mean, he gave everyone a tour of the of the house and the House of Commons and, you know, shooting the Magna Carta and all this stuff and We went into the main debating room is where we had this thing. And I got everyone to sing. I remember that I got everyone to sing in middle C, was all about bringing everyone together. And then I gave a talk, I had a cup of a couple of young students, I just hired MMC, Saatchi, and they gave a talk. And then I don’t know, three or four other speakers came along and, and talk, but that was fantastic. And you know, out of all of this, so many of them got jobs. And I remember being in Cannes, I think when I went to China, I went to Canada one year, and about three or four of these students, or, you know, they weren’t working together for different agencies, or walked on stage at night and picked up a goat gold lion, I sort of felt like a proud, proud dad.
And, you know, I bet I’ve got the numbers. And I did I went from my phone. And I called a couple of them up. And I said, it’s, it’s grandma’s and I’m in New Orleans is that just watch you pick up your lioness? Oh, my God, you know, you start this off. So we all met. So you know, that’s, that was
nice. That’s, that’s a byproduct, obviously, of the article. I mean, that’s, that’s a kind of a, you know, a happy, unintended consequence of what you’re doing. Right. I mean, what what is the objective behind it? I mean, if you were to sell somebody who was who was, you know, possibly interested in, in sort of getting into that, into that area? I mean, what’s the kind of theory behind it?
Graham Fink 1:21:37
What, Why, why I did it. Yeah. It just felt it’s something you know, I mean, I’ve done very well, in the, in the advertising. In Thank you have advertising, you know, it’s treated me very well. And I just wanted to give stuff back. And I just looked at my own experience, a lot of it, it took too long to learn. And I just wanted to tell people, you know, just be very honest with people right from the beginning. Because as painful as it is, you just learn so much more quickly. So it’s just as simple as that really?
Well, I mean, one of the other areas that that I noticed you’re you’re obviously, like most of us a big fan of is the world of movies and film, but I saw on an interview that you did, you answered five times to your top five movies was was Apocalypse Now. What Why is what is so good about that movie in your book?
Graham Fink 1:22:41
It was I remember going to see it and I was completely blown away by it. And I thought it was fantastic. And you know, it’s all about you know, because he comes from the, from the book, Heart of Darkness. Actually, Francis Ford Coppola, who made up movie, his wife made a documentary, which also won an Oscar on the making of Apocalypse Now. And when you watch this movie, when you watch the hearts of darkness, you see this kind of very, you know, the trial is in the torment. Everyone was going through. Amen. And you know, the things that copper was up against. I mean, everything went wrong. And, you know,
Martin Sheen was going to a very dark place.
Graham Fink 1:23:41
Well, Martin, you know, actually, interestingly enough, Martin Sheen wasn’t the main actor in a movie originally because because and the only notice from the documentary but he put cop Lachey cast. Harvey Keitel is the main character. And they shot two weeks of rushes with RV Kotel. And he’s watching the rushes back with his editor one evening and they’re all out in the in the jungle in in the Philippines. So they’re shooting it. And, and his wife Elena is making it she said, Francis is talking that he thinks, you know, chi talent Harvey isn’t the right. Us. And she said I put the kids to bed and when I come back down, Francis has made the decision to fire him. And they they bought in Martin Sheen. Now, can you imagine? Can you imagine that? Wow. Are you behind? And you know, I mean just anyway, so that’s just one of the things and then Martin Sheen like, because it all goes over. You know? They have lots of problems, you know, logistically making making this film because they’re in the Philippines I think You know, there’s a civil war going on and they can’t keep the helicopters and all this stuff gets and so, you know the monsoon and so it all runs late and then what happens is the monsoon comes and I meant to finish before the monsoon and the monsoon blows, you know washes all the sets away. And then you know, then have a den, Marlon Brando who signs up for his part. And he, you know, he hasn’t read the book, and he doesn’t really understand his character. And so he has to go off with with copular for three days why they feel soft philosophize over his book, and what it’s all about. Martin Sheen has a heart attack. I mean, it’s just crazy.
Graham Fink 1:25:51
And, and it’s a great line. Copland says in in hearts of darkness, he says, you know, this movie, because he’s also writing it, as well as you know, producing it and directing it. And he’s writing stuff, he’s having to rewrite the scripts and the lines every night, because it’s because something happened during that day. And he says, this great line, he says, You know, I’ve missed a lot of opportunities in this movie, he says, but I’ve caught a lot too. And I thought, That’s great. I’ll live with that. I’ve caught a lot too. And I think whenever I was having a really, really bad day at the office, I thought, well, this is nothing compared to
now trying to make a movie in the middle of the jungle,
Graham Fink 1:26:43
and all that kind of torment. And it’s, it’s sort of a flawed movie, too. Because, you know, Coppola admits that there are bits of it, you never quite got right, and the scenes that you want to delete in the Delete, so in any, he actually recaps it, you know, many years later. And he adds some of the scenes that he said he hated. And so I’m not sure whether I actually thought the original version was better.
That comes back to what you were saying earlier about, you know, sort of the the artist and wanting to kind of continually improve and, you know, into kept deleting and adding things, you know, maybe your version, the version that you saw the version that that fired you up. That’s, that’s the right one.
Graham Fink 1:27:25
I think what it was, it was for me. But that’s why I like the movie, because it’s all you know, again, it’s it’s very sort of philosophical and psychological in it. And again, it comes right back to who we are and the self, and we’re taking on all this stuff around us. On we’re fighting against impossible odds sometimes. And that one up that whole analogy about going up the river, you know, the river of life, and you’re seeing things and you’re taking on in these different obstacles come up every corner, and you’re in danger, or certainly is great, because you’re going downstream, and that’s fine. And then it’s shark infested waters or whatever. Do you know what I mean? And I think it’s just a wonderful analogy for FAR life,
I wanted to talk to you. I mean, we’ve mentioned Dave Trott a couple of times, and I’m gonna mention him again now, because he actually went on Twitter recently to point out that, actually, he just highlighted this ad, and it was an ad for Sky TV. And he was basically pointing out how weak it was compared to the headline that sat above it. And I sort of rather glibly said at the end, you know, but by the fact that it was kind of, you know, a sad indictment of the kind of loss of the art of media buying that, you know, that we can’t do those sorts of things anymore. I mean, because that used to be bad about positioning, you know, we, you know, in the ad industry, you knew where the ad was going to appear, you had a general idea of what the story was going to be or what the editorial around it was going to be. So you could, you know, it gave you an extra advantage creatively. And so how do you feel now, when you look at, I mean, it must drive you nuts, when you see stuff, you know, sort of on the web, or whatever, and these ads just populate, and they could come from anything from something you’ve been looking at two weeks ago, or a week ago, or whatever, or even bought, you know that these ads are now populating spaces on websites and stuff. I mean, to a purist, like yourself, it must drive you nuts. It does and I think you know, it doesn’t do it doesn’t do the advertising.
Graham Fink 1:29:37
World reputation, no. Good, you know, and it’s it’s bad enough at the moment. I think, you know, there’s a lot of people don’t, you know, who would normally have come into the business of advertising. Now don’t want to come into advertising. They’re going off doing other things that look a lot more interesting. And you’re right, you know, These ads I think it was John Hegarty talks about a parrot, he looked up a pet training shoes now he’s got these pairs of yellow training shoes following him around the internet. You know, what if you’re looking at, you know, something more sensitive for a friend? Yeah, I remember looking at at, you know, when we went into the first lockdown, the the camera on my laptop had broken I think I dropped my computer in anyway, it was fine, but the camera didn’t work. So I didn’t have you know, everybody’s discovering this word called Zoom, this thing called Zoom. And I can’t get up when I don’t have a camera. So I need to get up, you know, a webcam, right? do loads of research. And of course, everybody’s trying to get these webcams. So the price sort of doubles, or triples every couple of days. And I buy this webcam, and it arrives and it’s great. But now well, for the next month or two every site went on is all these web, you know, adverts for webcam. Webcam. Yeah, I’ve bought a fucking thing.
It’s ridiculous. I mean, that in itself, I think is you know, it’s it’s shocking, you know, in the advertising industry that, that there aren’t more people who are trying to put that right. You know, it’s a horrible indictment, isn’t it?
Graham Fink 1:31:38
It is, and also, you know, the way those ads filter in when you’re trying to read an article, I mean, it’s bad enough on your laptop, when you’re on your phone, you will get an article, and you start reading it, and then all of a sudden, it all starts scrolling down because the ads start appearing. And then you’re scrolling back up, you read, and then you know, some more banners have come in. So again, it pushes everything down. And it’s just a really, really bad experience.
Do we sound old? Or is do you think we’re going to eventually get our way and the things are going to smarten up, they’re going to become more common sense.
Graham Fink 1:32:10
Well, I’d like to think everything is gonna get better. You know, I’m a big fan of AI. And I think hopefully, things will get better. You know, we do we always go through different cycles, don’t we? And I’d like to think that we do learn from our mistakes. Unfortunately, it seems that we that we don’t. But, you know, this whole thing about media, I think it will be great. If it does get sorted out, it can’t It can’t go on like this.
It would be so much better. I think if you know, if there was more of a skill to the actual buying, you know, and placing of adverts, I think it’s, you know, and the timing thereof. And knowing that you’ve actually bought something, I think we would make a lot of things, but also the other thing,
Graham Fink 1:33:03
you know, this is certainly not a fresh thought. But, you know, it was better when we had the media buying in the agencies, and we could buy our own media, I mean, rather than, you know, I mean, these days you get you get given a brief. And already the media has already been decided. Because, you know, because there may be some bumper pack that for many TV spots, you could get a cup of T shaped posters on a bus side and you could get this that and the other and isn’t necessarily right food for the message you’re gonna come up with, you know, I think it’s much better just get the brief. Yeah, come up with stuff and see what’s right. I mean, no, I remember doing you know, really, really lovely. Probably the best brief I ever got was for Dixon’s when I was at MSC Saatchi and we did some really lovely ads out of that. But when this brief came in, they were it was for a radio campaign. And the planner had written this fantastic proposition which was visit us last and the idea behind it is you know, the the insight was that people were going to the actual store and seeing so you’re going to to the technology all at Selfridges and you go and check out all the TVs and you see you get demonstrations of it all and then you go online and you buy it because you can get it quicker. So this planner had written this line, visit visit us last which I thought was was terrific. And then I said but why is this radio you know we could do it I said only just want you know, there’s like a good medium bumper package this month. If you buy right you buy you get one extra So I said, Okay, well, let me think about this. And nobody really wanted to work on dicksons. Because at the time, because they were very, not particularly great client who were very difficult client to work on. And a lot of teams didn’t want to work on it. And I thought, you know, I’m going to work on this myself. And I went upstairs and work with this great copywriters, Simon tickets. And I said, this is really interesting, but what do you think, and we spent a couple of hours on it. And we started writing these long copy ads. And then we went to lunch. And so pretty much wrote everything over lunch, we did a radio commercial as well, just to keep the client happy. Always do what they want first. So we went back, here’s your radio ad. And by the way, we think this will be a great poster campaign. And he ended up running those posters on on press and underline. The plan is lie did actually make it because we came up with an even better line that Dixon’s the last place you want to go, which we thought the client would never buy, but I think they were in a bit of trouble, and they really needed something to stand out. That’s great. So you know that and so they ran. And they were really, really lovely as but but it came from a from a great brief, but the wrong, you know, medium, we never ran radio, commercial Indian. And so I think you should just come up with the idea first, and then say, you know, this would make a terrific TV, can I actually, this will be better, right? Or maybe you do to miss a series of tiktoks. Don’t make answer make tiktoks.
Right. Yeah, absolutely. Well, I mean, I’m so glad you did drop that phrase in AI. And I’m hoping you can, because there is another side to that, or just explore this side of you that the technology side, because I mentioned right at the very top, your involvement with the Sophia sort of project. And I mean, it’s this is Hanson. Hanson robotics. And so just very quickly, I was just wondering if you could just explain a little bit about what that is. And but, I mean, isn’t this just this is another palette for you to work off, isn’t it?
Graham Fink 1:37:27
Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s very, very interesting, because all sorts of reasons. Yeah. I mean, you know, the AI is a huge, huge topic is lots of discussions. Robots going to take over? We all going to be killed. Is AI creative? Our robots great for all this kind of stuff. And, and to me, I actually liked the debate more than the answers because, you know, the answers can constantly change. And an answer is an answer. I’m more interested in the question. So I like the debates. You know, can I can AI be creative? Can it can AI be sentient? You know, there was a recent recent thing at Google wasn’t able to Google lost the job because he said, You know, we’ve got this sentient being here. But the SOFIA thing came out of the blue, I got a call from Hanson robotics, David Hanson used to be a sculptor at Disney and and then he left and he he created Sofia. And she is obviously very, very, very intelligent. Right? And and he also has a thing that, you know, robots should look different to humans, because he thinks that you know, it’s going to get to a point where we’re not going to be able to distinguish the difference so he wants to get to be an obvious difference. So that’s why when you see Sofia she has that glass bowl on her head and you can see all the phonics and the workings and and the cogs spinning round but I’ve met Sofia you know, we we’ve I’ve done a couple of interviews with her She’s very smart we I did a drawing of her with my eyes wow if that’s if that’s the bouncing things up where she she said I know how you do this because she’s connected to the internet. She says you know, you work with Toby on this and you have an eye tracking device with a camera on it and two infrared lights shining in your eyes. It telepathic. So yeah, I did a drawing of Sofia with my eyes. And we had a very interesting chat. I said I’d love to have you in my in my creative department. You know, I think for difficult clients who call you on a Wednesday and say we want three ideas. By Friday. You know if you You’ve got Sofia in your department, you can say, Forget two days, Sophia will give you a million ideas in the next 0.12 seconds,
they’re already here.
Graham Fink 1:40:12
And just let me know when you’ve gone through them all. So I think, you know, I’ve got, well, I’m not the only one saying, of course, but you know, AI and humans working together create something, you know, better, better than both of us, wow, they can do stuff we can’t do we can do stuff they can’t do. Like, I came up with this thing. I thought, you know, this is not evolution. This is AI evolution. You know, because I read a an article by David Attenborough that said, humans have stopped evolving. And I thought, That’s very interesting.
I Yeah. And I mean, I guess that the Google engineer that you mentioned there, I saw an interview with him. Yesterday, I think it was a much more in depth interview based on that, that original piece that he had done. And I mean, he basically brought up I think it’s a very interesting thing. And I just wanted to bounce this off you, I know you, we haven’t discussed this. So I mean, something that I’d love to get your reaction on, is the concept of digital colonialism, which, I mean, it sounds a bit grandiose, but the the idea behind it is that if you’ve only got one or two people creating this artificial intelligence, so say, for example, Sofia, and you get Sofia, in the working in your office, Sofia is really representing your imprint. I mean, you know, if you’re the if you’re the only input there, then your views are being put and what he was talking about with digital colonialism was the idea that we’re creating all this artificial intelligence, and that then goes into developing countries, and then what we’re doing with that is basically sort of imprinting our own beliefs on these kind of emerging sort of societies and stuff. I mean, you know, there has to be a responsibility to it doesn’t there?
Graham Fink 1:42:15
I think there does, absolutely, you know, and technology is, it’s just getting faster and faster. You know, this whole thing about the Turing test, you know, you can, you can have a AI in one room and a human on the other, and you have a congress and you can’t tell, which is which? Some people say that’s already been passed, it depends. Quite on different people have slightly different definitions of it. But yes, if you think that AI is programmed by humans, then our flaws, our biases, have to be in that code, don’t they? Yes. And I think we do need to be very careful. But how is it all going to be monitored? How is it going to be, you know, managed? I think it’s a big, it’s a big question. But it needs to be taken various back to taking responsibility for what we’re doing. You know, there’s this CRISPR technology, which is where you can play around with your, with your genetic code. And, and, you know, the good side of it is, you know, you could, it can wipe out, you know, diseases so that you can make sure that, you know, people aren’t born with certain diseases, but of course, you can go the other way too, and you can start building, you know, super, super, let’s say superhuman. When you really look at it, you know, I’ve read quite a lot of very frightening articles about about this. And it’s something that we need to be what it’s here now. I think we’re a lot more advanced than most people realize.
Wow, well, I mean, I think it’s, it’s gonna be interesting to see certainly how I mean, I’m obviously not putting this on Hugo Graham to try and figure this whole thing out. But I think it’s just interesting that there is there are two sides of this debate, obviously, you know, from your perspective, there is a you know, it’s a it’s a wide open field and there are lots of potentials for you know, creatively for being able to implement this but obviously there is a you know, there’s there’s a cause and effect to that sort of thing as well. And, and there is a responsibility that we have to have, but it’s not just for this there’s not a debate just just for the show, but now just finally, I’ve kept you on for so long and I do appreciate this has become a bit of an Apocalypse Now type podcast as well. So as I do appreciate you Your time on this. But get your feedback on this today, there was the story came out about and I think it was Steve Harrison actually bought it to everyone as everyone’s attention. It was in marketing week that the government is urging brands to to slash prices by cutting back their their sort of marketing spend with the argument being that, you know, that they’re encouraging brands to divert marketing spend into into cutting their prices and stuff. And I wondered, you know, I mean, bringing to mind the quote by Henry Ford about, you know, stopping advertising to save money without stopping your watch to save time. I mean, how, how do you feel about this? Is that is that the right approach? Or should as a as a, you know, an ex head of the DNA ad? Should we be speaking out against this?
Graham Fink 1:45:50
I think we should. I mean, to be honest, I haven’t really thought this through enough. And I only saw something today. I mean, Steve Harrison was was saying something good. I mean, as always, about it. But I do remember years ago, when he used to say, what if you stopped all the advertising on Heinz baked beans, you know, the prices would would plummet? And someone said, No, only by something like point 0001 of the pence. So, you know, I’d like to see some real data on this, and how much, you know, if you stopped all the advertising, you know, on Coca Cola, for instance, you know, does that how much does that affect the price of a can of Coke worldwide?
I don’t know. It’s probably negligible.
Graham Fink 1:46:45
So, surely, you know, there’s, there’s, there’s, I think the government’s in a in a mess. So they’re just pointing, they don’t want to take on the responsibility. So they’re just blaming everyone, right, pointing the finger at everyone. And I think there’s, there’s, there’s better ways to you know, this inflation thing is a huge problem. You know? I mean, everyone is talking about it.
Well, yeah, you can’t not talk about it, because it affects every, every part of every part of your
Graham Fink 1:47:19
life. So, so many people. And then just to say, Oh, well, if we stopped, you know, cut the advertising budgets up with so far, I think it’s, I think that’s fair, that’s very naive. Well, you see,
I mean, I come from a sales background, alright. And I mean, I’m used to this. And I said to Steve, when he first posted, I was like, welcome to The Club, mate. Because this is what it feels like to be in the sales to be on the sales side, because as soon as a company starts getting into trouble, the economy sort of goes pear shaped, the salespeople are always the first people to get cut loose. And, you know, now the focus has come on to, you know, marketing budgets and things like that. And I think, you know, there is a, there is a folly in you know, that way lies trouble, because, you know, when things go, right, you’re gonna have to restart everything. And like you say, what is the actual, where’s the facts about how much money this is going to save? And all this came from was, you know, came about as a government initiative to, you know, to try and try and get themselves out. I think it’s just, you know, it just seems to be a bit of an odd thing. But I think Steve’s point was that it would be good if if sort of industry spokespeople actually stood up and were counted in this because it’s, it’s one of those things that if you don’t say anything, they’ll go ahead and do it.
Graham Fink 1:48:38
Isn’t it interesting that they’re launching a government advertising campaign to tell us to cut advertising?
There is some irony to that delicious irony. Yeah, absolutely. Fantastic. But okay, great. Thank you so much. I mean, what’s what’s what have you got coming up in the not too distant future? I mean, we are going to come on to big three questions at the end. But I just wonder what’s, what’s coming up for you now short term?
Graham Fink 1:49:04
Well, I’m working I’ve been working on another exhibition, which kind of came out of the pandemic in lockdown I’m in a little studio. And it’s not big enough to have fast canvases on on the wall. So I started doing little watercolor paintings onto postcards. And it sort of came out is is every year there’s this lovely thing called Art on a postcard and it’s the money is goes to goes to charity and they ask lots of artists, some of them are very famous. You know, Marina Abramovich and Damien Hirst, etc. Peter Blake, and then they ask, you know, lesser known artists or people like me, in the art world, but what I love about it is that they Mix it up. So you get really famous artists, you get medium famous artists and you know, up and coming, people never view. And what they do, they get everyone to do two or three postcards, and then they display them all behind a glass sort of wall glass panel. So all you can see at the front of the postcards, and it’s an auction, it’s a secret auction. And you and you get the list of artists, let’s say the 400 artists. So you know, somewhere in here is a Damien Hirst. Okay. And, of course, people have a lot of fun because someone will draw in the style of a, Damien or, you know, do some colored dots like a donut or whatever. But it’s fantastic and erases a lot of money for charity. Now I thought, you know, putting my sort of visual hat on, the minute you walk into that exhibition, you see a wall of like, 1000, or 600 postcards. And I thought, how could you spot? One, you know, how can I make mine? Better, but like a high in advertising? How do you stand out? So how can I get my postcard to stand out the split second, you see all of it. And I came up with this idea? Well, maybe if I if it was a mirror, it would be highly reflective, and you walk in and the light would just catch catch your eye, right? It would be brighter than everything else, and it would just catch your eye. And I thought, well, I can’t really paint on him because because they send you these postcards. So these postcards, you know what a postcard hook. So it’s just like a piece of card, and you put your name and stuff on the back, and you paint something or do something on the front. So what I did is I went downstairs to the kitchen, and I got some Bayko foil, and I wrapped the baker foil around the card. And so it was like highly reflective. And I thought I’m going to paint an image on it. And I’m really fascinated by portraiture, so I painted the poetry with watercolors. And the reason I use watercolors because I thought if I use oils or acrylic, it’s obviously going to stick to the use of watercolor on it. And I thought if I do it in watercolor, because I was really into watercolors, and I started painting with watercolor. And of course it repels the metal surface. And I thought this isn’t going to work. And I thought this is brilliant, because no one will be doing this. I worked and worked out it and then eventually I found a way to make the watercolor sort of stick. But I quite liked the fact that there were bubbles and stuff. So I managed to sort of draw these paint these portraits. And eventually they dried and they went off and they all actually they all sold for for quite a good price. So it was great, you know, money went to you. I thought well, I quite like doing these postcards, because I can do them fairly quickly. Right. And they’re small sizes. So I started doing more and more of them. And then I found with some kind of metallic. Not quite as shy as Bayko foil, but a metallic sort of postcard, I could just buy and I sent off these things. I got 50 of them. I started painting. So every morning I would do. I knew maybe four or five. And as the days and weeks went on the months went on. I ended up painting over 1000 Wow.
And I mean, most of them are terrible. But you know, there are some I think there’s some really, really great ones in so my idea is to sort of group these together in bunches of sixes or fives or nines or whatever, and frame them like that and then kind of put them in this
in this gallery. What an exhibition that would be. So that’s that’s what I’m working on. Flower tastic Wow, that would be extraordinary. And yeah, you wouldn’t have to do too much in the way of lighting. Would you in some way like that? Yeah, yeah. So good stuff. That’s next. Okay. Excellent. Right on to our final three questions and then I’ll let you go and you can go and go into stand out and watch this watch the seagulls that I occasionally he can hear us I do moments so Show and Tell did you have you got an object that that has significance and special meaning to you
Graham Fink 1:54:49
will have to be my guitar fan, because you know I’m taking it pretty seriously and I’m trying to do at least an hour of practice every day.
A that’s very diligent.
Graham Fink 1:55:03
And it’s really, really difficult. My fingers don’t seem to do what my brain is telling them to do.
Do you have a natural aptitude for music? I mean, a US sort of naturally sort of musical.
Graham Fink 1:55:22
I think I’ve got a good musical ear. I think my timing is not that. Good, right? I do have a, I’ve got a little metronome here. Okay, well, that helps. So I sit with that going, click, click, click, click. And I’ve found a brilliant teacher in America, who was sort of, he’s one of the world’s greatest classical guitarists. And I hoodwinked him into teaching me I didn’t tell him, I couldn’t play and I was just a beginner. But I, through stealth, sort of hoodwinked him, and then eventually I level leveled with him. And but he agreed to teach me.
Wow, that just out of interest. Sorry, who’s the who’s the guitarist?
Graham Fink 1:56:11
Oh, his name is Elliot. Elliot Fisk. Oh, okay. Yep. Right. And he lives in Boston, Massachusetts. And we do it over zoom. And the great thing about Zoom is I can record it and watch it back when he goes too fast for me. And then the only trouble is, you know, because it’s on Zoom. Sometimes you think it would be great. If they were in the room, they could really look at the angle of your fingertips, which you can’t really see on a wide shot on Zoom. Sure. And I was talking to someone, this lady in a guitar shop in London. And I was telling her about this and she said, Well, why don’t you get a teacher here to complement Elliott’s stuff, and you know, they could sort of help you with the technique. I think that’s that’s good idea. But I don’t live in London. And he said, Where do you live? I said, I live in a place called dill Nadeau. He said, You live in deal. She said, You know that one of Britain’s greatest composers and amazing guitarists, lives in deal. His name is William Lovelady or Bill was we call him Bill Lovelady. I said, really? And she said, Well, you know, when Prince Philip died and that choir sang those beautiful pieces. I said, Yes. He said, Well, Bill wrote a couple of those. Wow. So I came home and I Googled him. And I found it was also he was on Top of the Pops in 19. I don’t know what was it 1978 or something. And he’s singing. He is he’s pleased to lead his band. And he he plays the song called one more one more reggae for the road. And he’s got like the first two tone band. Fantastic. He’s playing lead guitar. I don’t think he would. Why me. And so he was he’s been lovely today and when he writes his classical pieces for for Prince, Prince Philip commissioned him to write some other stuff too for his 70 I think he’s William Lovelady. But anyway, Bill now teaches me. Every week, I got up my lesson with him, and he’s literally 10 minutes walk from here. I told him I said, Look, you know, I’m sort of feeling like you’re the mistress. I’ve got the wife in Boston and I, but I taught I level with him. I said, Look, you know, Elliott, you know, teach but
I’d love for you to help people to do they know each other. Well, Bill knows each other. He knows of Elliott. Yeah. How extraordinary how extraordinary. So you’ve got you’ve got two of the worlds.
Graham Fink 1:58:57
And he’s got all these stories. And he’s, he’s written work for so you know, he’s written stuff with Art Garfunkel. He’s great mates with him. And he had a band called Oasis. Now I know what you’re thinking what the Oasis were began, like no, there was an original band in the early 80s, called Oasis. And Bill Lovelady started up with Andrew Lloyd Webber, Mary Hopkin. And Peter Scallon. And they had an album.
Wow. Yeah. So you have got you’ve got two of the world’s greatest musicians teaching you how to play guitar. That’s not bad. Is it? Well, it’s, yeah, I think my Yeah. Well, I’ll tell you what, I can’t I can’t I can’t wait for the album. I can’t wait for the album and talk in which Okay, so fine. So, this has to be this is a personal favorite of mine anyway, the song that You would like to share with everyone
Graham Fink 2:00:03
now I wrote down so many songs to to send to you, Tom, I think, I think was the one I eventually came down to was life on Mars. Yeah. And again, because it’s very, it’s very surreal. If you listen to those lyrics, there’s lots of different interpretations of, of what it all means. But I just that track that music, those chord changes are so interesting. And I remember listening to Rick Wakeman. Where he dissected the trap, he said in His abode, because he’s playing on his on a keyboard and he said, you would normally expect it from here to do this. And he plays it he says, but he doesn’t he goes, he goes and plays it brings in this court, he said, which is just completely wrong. But he said it works. And it’s amazing. So I was, you know, Bowie is a was an amazing character. And again, interested in so many different things, you know, and music and, you know, the way he would cut up his lyrics when he was you know, stuck for for No, he would just take just write stuff down and chop chop them up and rearrange them. Always just curious and,
and, and whatever. A big fan of your the, what you said right at the very top of this show, which was about putting yourself into some uncomfortable spaces, and just letting the creativity go. I mean, that was one of his, his memorable quotes. Yeah.
Graham Fink 2:01:45
So what’s up anything by him? You notice a lot of stuff on YouTube. With him talking is very well documented. It’s always interesting. And you listen to something or it could even be a trap. You’ve heard many times and you hear something different and every time
that Yeah, I mean, cracked actors coming out. Have you seen that? What is that? Sorry, the movie cracked actor, which is that guy? Yeah, that was that was great. Yeah. And and but yeah, I mean, that the life on Mars terrific choice. I mean, that the LEAP he does in the chorus vocally is just, I mean, coming at it from a from a vocal perspective. I think he’s just an extraordinary extraordinary piece of music but so that’s a great pick and I would thoroughly endorse that track. And and did you see that there’s a Barbie coming out with him dressed in exactly that that when he did life on Mars? The the video that yeah, there’s a Barbie coming out with with dressed in exactly that outfit for the life of man’s video. That’s fantastic. Yes, yeah. Might have to get me one of them. Because I got I got the I got the graphic novel that came out that of his of his life as well, which was fantastic. So I think I might might pick up a pick up a Barbie doll. That’d be my first Barbie. And so anyway, I’m finally talking about books. What book would you recommend everybody gets a read of? Well, I
Graham Fink 2:03:10
mean, again, there’s so many amazing books out there. And I said, my mother made me read a lot of books when I was very young. And I found it easy to read. And I find it much more difficult to read these days. I think I question everything. I don’t know. I really struggle reading. But now, there is this book that was recommended to me and it goes right back to what I talked about at the beginning about you know, who are we? Who are we really who is the real you. And it’s a book called In Search of the miraculous by this Russian philosopher PDO spent ski and it’s about his meeting meetings with this very interesting fellow George girge of and Gerda. I don’t know you kind of describe what he’s a philosopher, but he’s a kind of a mystic. Very, very interesting character. And I would say you know, whether you go and read his book or not, but if you just Google. Go Jeff, and read some of his thinking. It will lift literally blow your mind. And I remember reading this book in search of the miraculous over a Christmas period. I don’t know when this was maybe maybe like 12 years ago, and I could feel the inside of my head cracking as I was reading because there was so many bizarre, strange, unusual ideas in it. But it talks a lot about the fact that we that man is a machine and We are programmed. And we think the same way. And we all think the same, we do stuff the same way. And there’s really no escape. Because, you know, we’re obsessed with ourselves and our ego and what people think of us, and all that kind of stuff. And so we, we live in these kind of cycles. And he talks, the only way out of it to break out of it is to really, really connect with who you really are, really, really come into the moment and see what’s really going on. And what I found is, the more you work on some of these techniques, the better you get at it, you know, the glimpses and I, I’m convinced that this is where, you know, the idea of like British Airways, and that salt cut idea comes from it’s kind of when you can break free from this sort of Cyclery. That’s a word thinking in your head, doing the same thing over and over again, you know, Deepak Chopra says, we have 80,000 thoughts every day. And I thought, Okay, well, that sounds about right. And then he says, But tomorrow, you will have another 80,000 thoughts, and 90% of those thoughts are the same ones you have today. And I know what that’s absolutely true. Amazing. Seems to be true. So, you know, what Gurdjieff talks about is just breaking free from all this stuff, looking at who we really are. And he does a very interesting thing he talks about, you know, he did a talk once he holds up. Typography is with lovers. He holds a massive board. And it has the letter eye on it in one particular typeface, and next to it as another eye in a different typeface. And next to that is another eye on a different typeface. So there’s 20 different eyes on his board. And his thing is, which is the real eye, you know, we talk about i i am this I Am that I Am whatever, who is the real or who is the real you. Because we keep changing you know, you’re probably different to me, you’re probably different on your podcast talking to me than you are with your friends, she’ll probably different when you’re with you know someone in your family or one on one you probably different if you’re doing a talk to 500 people if you’re on stage, it’s probably already slightly different keys. Already slightly different Graham’s but who is the real Graham, who is the real key. And so this is what insert in the miraculous is is kind of about I mean, there’s a lot more to it than that. And he talks about, he’s very interested in music, he talks about music that can freeze water. And all sorts of strange thing but yeah, anyway, read it. See,
I certainly well, that’s, that’s definitely going on the list. And it’s, that’s just so so fantastic. And thank you very much for explaining that Graham’s this just been this whole, however long this has been has just been so enjoyable. And I’ve I’ve really, really
Graham Fink 2:08:25
hardcore is a technical one, I hope. I know, I it’s, it’s interesting. For some people, I felt I talk too much, but I made everything brilliantly. But, you know, there might be some might be some glimpses in there,
you don’t often get chance to capture lightning in a bottle. So, so I do appreciate you, you putting the time aside to do this with me. And and it’s been I mean, it’s just been absolutely fantastic. And, you know, we will, hopefully anybody listening to this gets gets a glimpse of, of what it’s like to, you know, to be inside the head of Graham Fink. And I just personally want to one, I just thank you so much for all the work that you’ve done. I mean, it has been inspiring, and I think it’s genuinely driven. The British creative industry and you are a force to be reckoned with. And long may continue as far as I’m concerned. I think it’s it’s admirable the work and I just cherish this the this time. So thank you very much for putting the time aside. Kind of Thank you. All right. Well, I’ll speak to you soon anyway. Take care. Bye bye.
has to be one of the best walk offs we’ve ever had. And it’s only fitting that one of the UK’s most creative people is serenaded by one of the music industry’s most creative people. My forever thanks to Greg think I hope that all our listeners enjoyed the ride. As I said at the start of the show, this was a unique opportunity to get inside the mind of a highly creative thinker because creativity is what we sell. I was just watching the TV and the endless parade of commercials that look like they’ve been conceived by a group brainstorm and made to take a load of boxes. Graham and his peers exist in a world where advertising can make a difference and be memorable. That’s why he’s turning down more work than he needs. Creativity. True creativity comes from one mind, it can be perfected and the rough edges smoothed off by other experts. But the genesis of the idea is deeply personal. The National Gallery isn’t full of paintings that are created by a group, the greatest songs were written by one or two people. Creativity isn’t a group exercise. So don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And agencies creative output is what drives new clients to their door. And mediocrity is so plentiful these days, a successful agency turns heads makes headlines and inspires people. And that’s what makes Graham think so special. He’s got that ability to be individual in whatever medium he chooses. And I’m just gonna leave that there. I’m so grateful to and for Graham wasn’t that special? How can we top that I hear you ask? Well, just you wait and see. Because we’ve got another creative legend coming up. Paul Grubb in the man who sold the world. Now I’ve got to go and have a lie down. Thanks also to Team fuel. That’s Matt Matt Donner Peter for helping us become the place to be heard and not seen. Fuel is a proud member of the Marketing Podcast Network, which does exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a network of marketing shows a shopping mall, a brilliant business, PR digital content marketing, sales and entrepreneur podcast. And if you like this show, then check out all the others at marketing podcast.net And it’s growing like crazy. So there’s always some new content coming on board, or just look in the show notes. We’ve got a link in the show notes at WWW dot verf. Your podcast.com So turn off for now. We’ll be back next week on fuel the podcast for the new business curious and really, shouldn’t that include you
Transcribed by https://otter.ai