Creative Lives — Throwing ideas around with creative duo at Creature of London, Josh Dando and Steven Dodd

Posted 06 June 2017 Interview by Marianne Hanoun

A love of the beautiful game led creative duo Josh Dando and Steven Dodd to bump into a partner at advertising agency, Creature of London. They reckon it was their ability to maintain a positive attitude that led them to landing a full-time gig at the agency just a few months later. It’s something that has served them well in their time at the London-based agency, and helped keep them afloat when new briefs find them thrown in at the deep end. When they’re not behind a Mac making stock images more twinkly, they’re literally throwing ideas around – or more specifically – at a dartboard. Josh and Steven talk to us about playing good cop, bad cop with your stress levels and remind us why you should always check who you’re sending emails to…

Josh Dando and Steven Dodd

Job Title

Creatives, Creature of London (2016–present)

Based

London

Previous Employment

Creatives, VCCP (2010-2016)

Education

BA Creative Advertising, The University of Lincoln (2007–2010)

Personal Website
Personal Social Media

Inside Creature

Day-to-Day

Tell us a little bit about your role within the company.
We’re a creative team which, to massively oversimplify it, means we turn a client brief into ads, films and who-knows-whats. Along the way, we’ll work with the strategists and account teams to make sure what we’re doing is right. Or if it’s wrong, how to make it right or make clients realise it might not be wrong.

What does an average working day look like? 
It depends what we’re working on, really. Most of the time we’re on two or three things, so depending on deadlines we split our time between them appropriately. Our only morning ritual is trying to get in before 9 so the half an hour of tea and online scrolling doesn’t cut into actual working time. 

How did you land your current job?
We actually met Stu – one of the creative partners – at a football match. A few drinks later, we were anyone’s. (We weren’t. It was more like a few months, once we’d met the other partners). You’d have to ask those guys what our edge was. We’ll go out on limb and say it’s because of our refusal to be bogged down by the ‘this is a bit shit, innit?’ attitude that seems to creep into this business every now and then.

“The main skill we’ve found to be useful is ‘don’t be a dick.’ If you’re not a dick, people tend to like you and you work better together.”

Where does the majority of your work take place?
We’re in the agency most days, with our time split about 50/50 between sitting behind a Mac and sitting around a dartboard while trying to work out how to answer a brief. We’re still awful at darts.

What are your working hours?
It depends on the project. Some days we’re out of the door at 5pm (trying not to feel guilty that we are). Others it’s pushing on 11pm (trying not to feel guilty that we are).

How collaborative is your role? 
Apart from working with each other, most projects see us working with one or all of the creative partners, account managers, and strategists. Usually on a day-to-day basis. External projects range from directors and photographers, to people who make organic honey and fill it with edible insects (it happened) to getting a mate to draw pictures of another colleague’s Dad weeing into a plant pot (it also happened).

What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job? 
Good bits: not knowing how eat brief is going to end up and working with a bunch of crazy talented people. Bad bits: not knowing how a brief is going to end up and time sheets.

Steven Dodd

Josh Dando

What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
Our first brief at Creature was to tell the world that Carling were sponsoring Premier League football again. You couldn’t have picked a better brief. We came up with a bunch of stupid ideas, then had the stupidest one of all: why don’t we just make a TV show to put them all in? And then we got to see a lot of them come to life on Sky Sports 1 live on Friday nights. This was a pretty massive project, so we worked with the animators and designers at Art&Graft to create titles for the show, HSE Cake to handle the relationship with Sky Sports, and the Sky Sports and Soccer AM team to work out what actually looked good on TV and then how best to make it happen.

What skills are essential to your job?
Beyond the usual grasp of what makes a good ad – how to say something in 4 words or 400, coming up with a new twist on well-trodden ground or an interesting visual style – the main skill we’ve found to be useful is not being a dick. If you’re not a dick, people tend to like you and you work better together. Anything for an easier life, right?

Would you say your work allows for a good life-work balance?
Like working hours, it varies. The best bits are when they cross over – the Friday night we got to spend in a pub in Manchester making a live TV show wasn’t bad. The bad bits probably happen in most creative industries - the odd late night or weekend when plans have to go out of the window. But we’ve got a pretty good life-work balance at Creature, and everyone in the building works hard to make sure we stick to it.

Stress levels are usually fair to middling. I (Steve) probably get stressed easier. If I (Josh) do get stressed, things must be pretty bad. It’s your standard good cop/bad cop stress management system, but it works.

Carling In Off The Bar - The Post Match

How I Got Here

What did you want to be growing up?
Josh; an ice cream man. Steve; a bin man, or someone who fixed kerbs. I think we both still yearn for the open road and roar of a shitty van some days.

How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
We spent three years studying advertising, so you’d hope we got something useful out of it.

What were your first jobs?
Our very first jobs were quite similar, and we got straight in without the need for internship! (Chinese takeaway for Josh, Pizza shop for Steve). Our actual, proper first jobs were at VCCP in the Digital Creative department. We did a placement for just over six months and made ourselves feel like part of the furniture. We suppose the placement was kind of like an internship – we learnt a hell of a lot.

“Bang out a load of strategies for generic, boring products that say something about them that you’d never heard before, or come at the same arguments from a new angle.”

What in particular helped you the most at the start of your career?
Two people gave us an amazing bit of advice, which we now repeat as our own whenever we can. Chris and John at Fallon (they’re at 4Creative now) told us to bang out a shit-load of strategies for generic, boring products (sorry, white bread) but to make sure they said something about these products that you’d never heard before, or come at the same arguments from a new angle. We’re still getting their advice wrong to this day, and still getting away with it.

Was there a particular project you worked on that helped your development?
Our first placement was at AMV/BBDO for two weeks. Not long enough to really work out what we were doing, but we learnt the ins and outs of agency life. The main one we learnt was ‘if a suit shouts at you asking for work, don’t just give it to them without checking with your CD.’

What skills have you learnt along the way? 
How to present work well, how to argue your case when you’re convinced by an idea, how shoots work, how to argue with a taxi driver in Bucharest about short-changing you, where to find the best people to help bring your idea to life, the list is probably endless. But every brief is different, so you end up in the deep end quite often, and have to learn something new each time.

“Don’t think you need to have done a ‘relevant’ degree. Just have some experience in something.”

‘Kids Bounce’ – 17 stories of traumatic (but totally non-fatal) events

‘Kids Bounce’ – 17 stories of traumatic (but totally non-fatal) events

‘Kids Bounce’ – 17 stories of traumatic (but totally non-fatal) events

What mistakes have you made and what’s been your biggest challenge?
Bigger mistakes than ‘if a suit shouts at you asking for work, don’t just give it to them without checking with your CD’? Josh once sent an all-agency email mocking the MD for nearly losing his leg thanks to a wildly dangerous tackle in an all-agency football game. But he bounced back, and has an award at VCCP named after him now. Biggest genuine challenge is probably the dropped-in-the-deep-end feeling you can still get on new briefs.

Is your job what you thought it would be?
It’s a bit of a leap from ice creams or emptying bins, but it’s pretty much all we thought it’d be. A mix of excitement, fear, disbelief it’s a real job, and fun. There’s a bit more Keynote than there should be though.

What tools do you use most for your work?
We both use MacBook Pros, Pages and Keynote for scripts and presentations. Then the occasional spin on Photoshop if an idea needs a little more twinkle than a stock image. We’re also suckers for a mechanical pencil. In fact, confession time, I (Josh) pinched a box from our last place when we left. Sorry.

Thinking Ahead

What would you like to do next? 
I’m sure inside every creative there’s a failed or not-yet-tried-to-be something. Directing has always been an interesting thing we’d like to try. We just haven’t found the motivation to try and do it yet.

Could you do this job forever?
Probably not. Would we want to? Probably not. There seems to be a lot less older creatives the further up you go. Hopefully by the time we can’t do it anymore they’ll have sorted out the health and safety issues around combining ice cream vans and bin lorries.

What do you feel is the natural career progression for someone in your current position?
I think we’re just hopeful it keeps progressing the way it has been so far. Although how ‘high’ we’d like to go is a different question. We struggle to run our own lives, never mind an agency. There’s some great creatives gone on to be proper, actual writers and directors. Who knows…

Words of Wisdom

What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a creative?
Don’t be a dick. Take in all the advice you can. Work out which bits are useful. Don’t think you need to have done a ‘relevant’ degree. Just have some experience in something. Know when to blag. Get involved with the YCC. If a suit shouts at you asking for work, don’t just give it to them without checking with your CD. Get as much experience as possible. But don’t work for free.

This article is part of our In the Studio With feature on Creature of London.

Posted 06 June 2017 Interview by Marianne Hanoun
Photography: Jake Green
Collection: Creative Lives
Disciplines: Advertising
Mentions: Josh Dando, Steven Dodd, Creature of London, Art&Graft, VCCP, Fallon, 4Creative, AMV BBDO, Young Creative Council, HSE Cake

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