Creative Lives — “The projects that are the biggest pain in the ass end up being the ones you learn most from” Christos Savvides, senior digital producer at 4creative
To this day, Christos Savvides claims that working at his parents’ cafe as a teenager was the hardest work he’s ever done. It’s not difficult to see why when you find out what he gets to do as a job. After working for a string of small companies, Christos joined Channel 4’s in-house creative agency, 4creative as a senior digital producer. He now spends his days at Channel 4 HQ coming up with ways to complement and build on core campaign ideas and has worked on award-winning campaigns for shows including ‘Humans’, ‘The Aliens’ and ‘Hunted’ as well as the much-applauded Paralympics campaign for the Rio 2016 Olympics. We caught up with him as we lets us in on life at 4creative.
Senior Digital Producer, 4creative (2014–present)
Digital Producer, Hi Mum Said Dad (2012–2013)
Digital Producer, Bloc Media (2011–2012)
BSc Multimedia Technology & Design, University of Kent (2005–2008)
MA Image and Communication, Goldsmiths, University of London (2008–2009)
How would you describe your job?
My role is to ensure we have digital and social elements for our campaigns and that these are integrated into the core creative idea as much as possible. I also manage a small but very skilled team that make this happen to a consistently high standard.
What does a typical working day look like?
I commute in from south east London by National Rail and it takes about 45 minutes door to door. My mornings start with some fruit and catching up on emails. Throughout the day I jump between projects sometimes working on creative ideas, strategy, planning and production. The exciting part of my role is that I work across so many different areas throughout the day.
How did you land your current job?
I heard about the role through a recruiter and a week later I was offered the job. It was all very fast moving as I had received a few offers and needed to make a decision quickly. 4creative was an easy choice for me… who wouldn’t want to work here!? I believe I was offered the role as I had a mixed skill-set with experience working across websites, games, apps, mobile and social. As I had worked in small agencies previously I had to wear different hats which was something our ECDs (Chris Bovill and John Allison) were looking for.
“My first ever job was working in my parents’ cafe when I was 15. To this date it’s the hardest work I have ever done.”
Where does the majority of your work take place?
I’d say half is in front of the computer and half is either in meetings, creative sessions or out of the office. At the Channel 4 head office, it’s the people that make it feel like a very creative, exciting and dynamic place to be.
How collaborative is your role?
Extremely – collaboration is probably the most important part of my role. I have to work closely with most people in 4creative (business directors, creatives, directors and producers), with the Channel 4 marketing team, with our Media Partner OMD, with external production companies, with platform partners we advertise on and with other teams in Channel 4. I strongly believe collaboration is a key part to a successful integrated campaign and utilising each person and each team’s skill-set is vital.
What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
The most enjoyable is really tricky as there are so many parts. I enjoy selling in ideas and getting the go ahead to move into production but I also love the making and the first few days after a campaign has launched and seeing the feedback. There’s not many unenjoyable parts to my role but it would probably be the more admin-based side: contracts, NDAs, finance, budgeting and writing up award entries.
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
It would have to be between Humans 2 and the Rio 2016 Paralympics. Both campaigns were massive collaborations with innovative firsts across digital and social. Hugely challenging in their own unique ways with very successful creative outcomes and results across both.
“Starting out working in small businesses showed me how companies run from top to bottom – something I wouldn’t have seen if I started in a large company.”
Christos at work
What skills are essential to your job?
Creativity, communication, passion and an understanding of emerging technologies and platforms.
Would you say your work allows for a good life/work balance?
Channel 4 are brilliant at ensuring there is a comfortable work life/work balance for their staff. Occasionally we will have pressing deadlines and need to put in some extra hours (as with every job) but we have options for flexitime, health care on site including a GP and nurse and exercise classes. We try to run frequent away days and inspiration sessions which help break staff out of the day-to-day grind. Not only does this help staff clear their minds but it also helps create a vibrant and upbeat working environment leading to even better output.
Do you run any side projects alongside your job?
I have recently started attending events as a speaker, giving the audience insights into how we work at 4creative and our project learnings. I find this a good way of challenging myself but also as a way of giving something back to the industry and the students that attend. I also arrange inspiration events for the department to make sure we are up to date with the latest trends.
What tools do you use most for your work?
Mac Pro; Monitor; iPad; Android phone; Adobe Suite; Microsoft Office; Keynote and whatever I can steal from the post room.
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
I went through phases. Superman, Rambo, a police officer or undercover cop. I wanted to save people. Now I just sell to people. What a disappointment.
How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
Everything I studied after school has been extremely useful to my working life. I didn’t do A Levels and instead, did a BTEC in computing. This gave me fundamentals to all aspects of PCs. I could build them, code them and design on them. After that both my degrees were about the digital arts so when I started my first job I had a good understanding of everything I would be using from the off. This helped a lot.
What were your first jobs?
I’ve always worked from a young age and I believe this instilled me with a good work ethic. My first ever job was working in my parents’ cafe on Saturdays when I was 15 which became Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout College. To this date it’s still the hardest work I have ever done. Then I worked in bars and pubs all throughout university.
Then I became a designer for a free, advertising-funded, student-run magazine called The Font, which we distributed to local businesses. My ‘proper’ first job was at Bloc Media, a terrific boutique agency specialising in advergames. It was an amazing place where I learnt so much and worked on a range of campaigns for a range of clients which was great fun. Starting out in small business showed me how companies run from top to bottom – I was involved with many aspects that I wouldn’t have otherwise ever seen if I started in a large company.
“The [projects] that are the biggest pain in the ass end up being the ones you learn most from.”
What in particular helped you the most at the start of your career?
Joining 4creative. I’ve been here just over three years now and in that time have (somewhat) helped us win over 50 awards, including a BAFTA. I wouldn’t have been able to achieve that if it wasn’t for the teams I get to work with here. It’s crazy and hard for me to believe most of the time but this has been an amazing step in my career.
Was there a particular project you worked on that helped your development?
Every project has its own unique challenges and every single one has helped my development. The ones that are the biggest pain in the ass end up being the ones you learn most from.
What skills have you learnt along the way?
Skills change frequently because technology is always changing and evolving. I’m always applying a combination of old skills and new skills in the work that I do.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Probably the first six months of 4creative. Coming from small companies and then joining Channel 4 (a large company with many different departments) and trying to figure out who I needed to speak to and how I went about enabling us to create great digital and social campaigns. This was really difficult and I learnt a bunch of things along the way – mainly that it doesn’t matter how big a company is or how things currently work, they can always be changed if there’s a chance it could lead to improvement.
Is your job what you thought it would be?
Yes, I think so. I have sort of been going with the flow and adapting based on the companies I work for and the work I’m given. I don’t think I ever really had expectations about what I would be doing. I just try to ensure I keep challenging myself and I think that’s the best way to keep satisfied in any role.
What would you like to do next?
I think I would like to move away from broadcasting and into more experiential marketing.
Could you do this job forever?
No. I don’t think I could do any job forever. As soon as you get comfortable and stop challenging yourself, that’s when it’s time to move on.
What do you feel is the natural career progression for someone in your current position?
Difficult to say but in my specific situation I think the next step would be to move on to somewhere that I can manage a bigger team.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a digital producer?
Get your hands dirty and take time to learn anything you have the opportunity to. Sometimes information can feel unnecessary, but you never know when it might come in handy.
This article is part of our In the Studio With feature on 4creative.