Creative Lives — Full-time fun, part-time panic: 4creative’s Stacey Bird and Jack Croft on takings risks and being resilient

Posted 02 May 2017 Interview by Marianne Hanoun

Not many would be brave enough to turn down a full-time position to go on a placement with no guarantee of a job at the end of it. But for Stacey Bird and Jack Croft, it was a risk worth taking. This enthusiastic and dedicated creative team is now working full-time at Channel 4’s in-house agency, 4creative, but making sure only part of that time is spent at their desks. Opting to work in a plethora of different places, Stacey and Jack keep collaboration at the heart of their creative process, working closely with everyone from directors to 17 members of the general public with a unique connection to the number 4 – all the while picking up new skills, confidence and a remarkable capacity for churning out GIFs.

Stacey Bird and Jack Croft

Job Title

Creative Team, 4creative (2013–present)

Location

London

Previous Employment

Placement, BETC (2013)
Placement, Grey (2012)
Placement, Creature (2012)

Education

Both studied BA Creative Advertising, Buckinghamshire New University (2009–2012)

Social Media

Day-to-Day

How would you describe your job? 
Our job is akin to being children in a nursery, but with added coffee and Earl Grey. We work daily to panic, answer creative briefs, and create ads for Channel 4 for a wide variety of media. We find the best way to do this is to forget we are grown-ups doing a real job.

What does a typical working day look like? 
Stacey gets a Southern Rail train into Victoria (if she’s lucky, I’m not sure if you’ve heard but they LOVE striking) and Jack lives out of town which means he cycles, gets a train and then the tube. It’s pretty tiring just typing it. Stacey listens to podcasts about the apocalypse and Jack reads the Bible, his commute may be long, but it will take a few years to finish it. 

We arrive at work at around 9:30 and usually catch up on what we have to do that day over breakfast. We then spend the day working through some badly cobbled together to-do list that’s been written on an old scamp, and usually finish up by 6:30. We prefer working away from our desks in different areas all over the building or externally. Stacey likes to break up the day by talking to other people (it’s not personal, she promises), so we come back to our desks every now and then. Our ideal working day is probably our typical working day; we like working from home, but it’s difficult when you’re in a team. 

How did you land your current job? 
A collection of odd pieces of work in our portfolio caught the attention of our CD Alice Tonge. We turned down a full time job at an agency to come here, and after a few months on placement trying to make ourselves as useful as possible, we were made freelance. 4creative tend to only hire when there’s a full solar eclipse, so we were pretty luck to land a full time role here, back in 2013!

“We find the best way to do this is to forget we are grown-ups doing a real job.”

Voices of 4 campaign compilation

Where does the majority of your work take place? 
We mainly work in and around the Channel 4 building, but occasionally we head out to a coffee shop or gallery for a bit of fresh air and more expensive cake. Our ECDs (Chris & John) encourage us to get out of the office. I think it has something to do with being inspired by different environments – not that they just want us to go away. 

How collaborative is your role?
Collaboration is key. Whether we are sharing and working with producers, directors or designers in-house or working externally with production companies and photographers, we like to be as collaborative as possible. We hate sitting behind a screen at a shoot scrolling through Facebook. We are always up with the photographer or director and involving ourselves in the process. You can’t moan that they didn’t try something in the edit if you aren’t actively involved at the shoot. We also work very collaboratively with our CDs here, which always helps to make work better.

“4creative tend to only hire when there’s a full solar eclipse, so we were pretty luck to land a full time role here.”

What are the most and least enjoyable aspects of your job? 
Most enjoyable: Thinking about stuff and then working with people to bring that stuff to life. Least Enjoyable: Just having meetings about stuff.

What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months? 
We’re on a pretty exciting project right now, but we’re not sure if we’re allowed to talk about that (what a tease aye!) But before that we worked on a project called Voices of 4, where we asked a diverse range of people from across the country with a connection to the number 4 to introduce shows on Channel 4. This was not only incredibly fun but also taught us many skills in a short amount of time. We worked closely with director Barry Dyer and Producer Liz Arnott to deliver over 150 different spots, shot in 17 different locations with 17 totally unique people. 

Inside 4creative

What skills are essential to your job?
Resilience; you’re gonna get told a lot of your ideas are shit. And mainly thinking based skills. 

Would you say your work allows for a good life-work balance? 
4creative is an incredible place to be for life-work balance. We’ve never worked in a place that is so productive, makes good work and where everybody generally goes home at 6. Like, what are the ad agencies doing that takes so long?

Do you run any side projects alongside your job?
Stacey is currently doing a stand up comedy course, and plans to do another comedy course after this. And Jack is pretty busy with his three children, though it’s probably not right to call them a ‘side project’. We feel like we should be saying here that we’re making coffee tables out of old skateboards or writing and filming our own short film, but we’re really not.

What tools do you use most for your work?
Apple Mac Pro with Adobe Suite; desktop Mac screen; iPhones; notebook; pen; scamp pad and markers.

4creative

How I Got Here

What did you want to be growing up?
Stacey wanted to be a science teacher or a speech writer. Jack wanted to be a cartographer.

How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
We studied creative advertising at uni, and we’re working as creatives in advertising, so, really useful. 

What were your first jobs? 
Our first job in the industry was at 4creative. Before that Stacey worked as a manager in Debenhams and Jack worked in the Morrisons wine and beer department until we both jacked it in and went to uni, where we started working together!

What in particular helped you the most at the start of your career? 
Deciding to come to 4creative on placement when there was essentially no chance of a job was pretty career defining. It was a tough decision, Jack had 2 kids already at this point and after a year of placements and living in London Stacey was hardly flush. The money was such a big juicy swinging carrot and the people were great at this other place, but we chose the work and it really was for the best.  

“The money was such a big juicy swinging carrot and the people were great at this other place, but we chose the work and it really was for the best.”

4newswall case study

Was there a particular project you worked on that helped your development?
Each project has really made us improve in different areas. One that sticks out is a project called 4newswall. Along with designer Chris Rice, we were based over at ITN for two months churning out an insane amount of GIFs, with a selection going on air everyday. It was mega hard work but we learnt loads.

What skills have you learnt along the way? 
An absolute tonne of skills – too many to really list here. From the big stuff like presenting ideas and working with people with different skill sets to the silly things like GIF making.

What’s been your biggest challenge?
Having the confidence to ask for changes on things. We’re both people pleasers in our own way and breaking that mould to be forthright sometimes made us uncomfortable, but not speaking up was even worse. 

Is your job what you thought it would be? 
Yes, thankfully!

Inside 4creative

Thinking Ahead

What would you like to do next? 
Maybe make a film, maybe write a comedy, maybe invent a life changing product, maybe open a pie shop. We should probably be a tad more decisive first though.

Could you do this job forever?
We think we would have to do something else in life. The good thing about this role is you learn loads of different transferable skills and make lots of connections to other lovely people who could help you in the future.

What do you feel is the natural career progression for someone in your current position?
Creative directors. Wow that sounds so grown up!

Words of Wisdom

What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to become a creative?
Meet people in the industry and start getting crits on your book as early on as possible. Once you find a few CDs you want to work for, work your arse off trying to get a placement with them.

This article is part of our In the Studio With feature on 4creative.

Posted 02 May 2017 Interview by Marianne Hanoun
Photography: Kieran Pharaoh
Collection: Creative Lives
Disciplines: Advertising, Film
Mentions: 4Creative, Alice Tonge
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