Creative Lives — We talk to Patrick Harvey, senior creative and ‘advocate of ideas communism’ at LOVE

Posted 25 October 2017 Interview by Marianne Hanoun

An English literature and creative writing degree taught Patrick Harvey to be persuasive. That, and being part of an improvisation group left him with not much to be scared of. So when he saw an ad for a junior role at LOVE – even if it was past the application deadline – he was determined to make it work in his favour. After braving the ‘wild west’ of placements, he eventually landed a full-time job at the Manchester-based agency. Although Patrick signals copywriting as his craft skill, the freedom within the role sees him writing everything from tweets to connecting and thinking about strategy. Believing that curiosity is the ultimate competitive advantage, for Patrick, growth as a creative lies in looking beyond the confines of your own industry. He tells us why you’re more likely to find ideas in poetry, than on Pinterest.

Patrick Harvey

Job Title

Senior Creative, LOVE (2010–September 2017)

Based

Manchester

Education

Postgraduate Diploma, Creative Advertising, Falmouth University (2007–2008)
BA English Literature & Creative Writing, University of Stirling 
BA English Literature & Creative Writing, Erasmus study abroad programme at Pécsi Tudományegyetem in Hungary (2003–2004)

Website

Patrick Harvey

Day-to-Day

How would you describe your job?
I’ve been at LOVE for seven years. I write ads, jokes, ideas and stories on behalf of brands. Copywriting is my craft skill, but it’s just one element of my job. Part of LOVE’s agency culture is that nobody gets pigeonholed. That freedom has allowed me to go beyond headlines, body copy, and tweets to concepting, strategy, and innovation.

What does a typical day, working day look like?
I’ll get a podcast going on my 20 minute walk to work. I’m in the studio at 9.20ish. LOVE is pretty chill, there’s no pointless presenteeism like you get at other agencies. I’ll check in with accounts and our traffic manager first thing. I try and turn my email off from 10am to 4pm. Reading emails never makes creative work better. An average day is randomly split between coming up with ideas, thinking of different ways into a problem, writing decks and presenting on client calls. There’s a lot of chatter at LOVE. It’s lively. The thing I love most about my job is that the people I work with are hilarious. The best ideas always seem to come from the dumbest conversations.

How did you land your current job?
I was doing great on a placement in Glasgow, but the agency lost a key client and so there was no job for me. I spent a few months back at home, feeling pretty depressed. Then I stumbled across a post on LOVE’s blog, advertising for a junior creative role. The only problem was that it was a few weeks old. 

I was worried I’d missed the boat, so I stayed up all night putting my folio together. I sent it and told that exact story in my email. It doesn’t sound like much, but I suppose it demonstrated how keen I was, and it resonated with Chris Myers (now senior creative director here), who invited me for an interview. I didn’t get the junior creative role, but he liked the weird ideas in my folio enough to give me a three month placement.  Being on placement is a bit like the wild west. Nobody is gonna hold your hand. So I stole some briefs and got involved in an Umbro pitch. My idea won the pitch, and that got me hired. 

“Truly creative people don’t find inspiration spending all day on Pinterest. It’s out there in wider culture: cinema, literature, music, poetry.”

Inside the studio

Where does the majority of your work take place?
The vast majority of my time is spent in the studio. But I’ve been exceptionally lucky to travel and make friends around the world with LOVE. I’ve been to China, Colombia, Mexico (twice), Thailand, India (three times), Singapore, Cuba, and those experiences have been legitimately life changing.

The atmosphere at LOVE is great. There’s very little ego. That works for me because I’m an advocate of ideas communism. We all share ideas in the spirit of getting to better ideas, and nobody takes themselves too seriously.

How collaborative is your role?
There’s a lot of solo time when it comes to writing. But I team up with pretty much everyone in the creative department, from people on placements to the ECD. It’s a really egalitarian way of working.

The creatives at LOVE are client facing. A huge part of that is presenting work. But we’re also expected to challenge them. So many agencies will say whatever to have an easy life, but the standard at LOVE is higher; work has to be original and provocative. Having a genuine relationship with the decision makers really helps that process.

“My London-based friends brag about all-nighters and all-weekenders like it’s a badge of honour. We work hard and go home at LOVE.”

What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job?
Most enjoyable: working for an independent agency that puts creativity first, being around funny people, the travel, every day is different. There are frustrations, for sure. Clients are becoming more and more obsessed with process, and the best creative work is intuitive. So I spend a lot of time post-rationalising stuff. We work with some of the world’s biggest brands, so there are thousands of layers of approvals to get through. Some of the projects take years to come to fruition. A good work-life balance is essential. Truly creative people don’t find inspiration spending all day on Pinterest. It’s out there in wider culture: cinema, literature, music, poetry. On a good day I go home at six. My London-based friends brag about all-nighters and all-weekenders like it’s a badge of honour. That (plus the commute) would be a deal breaker for me. We work hard and go home at LOVE. It’s way more like a tech startup than an old school ad agency

Work for unshackled.com

Work for unshackled.com

Work for unshackled.com

Work for unshackled.com

What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
We named and branded unshackled.com, a startup that breaks the mobile phone market by putting customers first. We built the brand from the ground up, from tone of voice to TV commercials. We wrote 20ish scripts for the TVCs and shot seven. One of the ads features a human-size parrot that shits on a sleazy salesman’s head, then squawks “bollocks” at him. That’s us at our best: original, irreverent and provocative. 

What skills are essential to your job?
Empathy. The ability to write in distinct voices. Salesmanship. A sense of humour.

Do you run any side projects alongside your job?
Some playwriting. Some comedy stuff.

What tools do you use most for your work? 
Google Docs, InDesign, MacBook Pro, paper and pen.

Inside the studio

Inside the studio

Inside the studio

How I Got Here

What did you want to be growing up? 
A fighter pilot in Top Gun.

What influence has your upbringing had on your work?
I come from a small town on the west coast of Scotland where you get beat up for being different. And there isn’t much to do. An older friend, Al, introduced me to interesting music and cinema. That was – and still is – a huge influence.

How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role? 
Super relevant. You have to learn how to read before you can write. I also learnt how to be persuasive, how to construct an argument. Another essential thing was being part of an improv comedy group at uni. After doing that, nothing in this job scares me.

What were your first jobs?
I did a bunch of placements in London and Glasgow. You learn fast. At uni, you get months on one project. In the real world, you’re lucky to get a few days. 

“Curiosity is a competitive advantage. Your output is defined by your input. You learn by looking beyond the confines of awards schemes and commercial creativity.”

What in particular helped you the most at the start of your career? 
Ira Glass makes a beautiful point where he talks about how every creative person is creative because they have great taste. That great taste and your actual ability do not match up. People get depressed about the size of that gap, and quit. 

What skills have you learnt along the way?
I’ve been exposed to some great minds, so I’ve learnt to be (kind of) strategic and thoughtful about how I approach problems. That’s a great skill for selling creative work to risk-averse people.

What’s been your biggest challenge?
You need confidence to turn ideas into reality. But there’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance. When it comes to ideas, many people get precious. Find people on your wavelength. You don’t have to be diplomatic with them. That’s really liberating when it comes to collaboration.

Is your job what you thought it would be? 
I assumed I’d just be writing scripts and headlines. But I’ve also been inventing new whisky brands like Haig Club and Smoky Goat.

LOVE’s work for Haig Club

LOVE’s work for Haig Club

Thinking Ahead

What would you like to do next?
I’m working towards writing and directing my own stuff. I would love to write jokes for a living.

Could you do this job forever?
No. Truly creative people are restless. Werner Herzog calls it “criminal energy”.

What do you feel is the natural career progression for someone in your current position? 
You climb the ladder to creative head and creative director. 

Words of Wisdom

What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a creative?
Curiosity is a competitive advantage. Your output is defined by your input. You learn by looking beyond the confines of awards schemes and commercial creativity.

Watch all of Werner Herzog’s films. Read everything by Gabriel García Márquez, Phillip Roth, David Foster Wallace, George Saunders, Cormac McCarthy, Don DeLillo, Italo Calvino, W.G. Sebald. Read the history of truly colossal ideas, the Cuban revolution, the civil rights and anti-apartheid movements. Refuse to eat at chain restaurants that falsely claim authenticity.

Have a sharp point of view. Creativity is not a battle between good and evil, it’s a battle between weird and normal. 99% of clients only want to do normal. You have to persuade them otherwise via your courage and craftsmanship.

You won’t get noticed by being competent. You get noticed by being compelling.


Since this interview, Patrick has left LOVE to become a freelance writer. See the rest of our feature on LOVE here.

Posted 25 October 2017 Interview by Marianne Hanoun
Photography: Richard Kelly
Collection: Creative Lives
Disciplines: Graphic Design, Advertising
Mentions: LOVE, Patrick Harvey, unshackled.com
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