NYC Creative Series: SSCNYC Chief Creation Officer Sam Saunders

NYC Creative Series: SSCNYC Chief Creation Officer Sam Saunders

To celebrate young Aussie talent in adland, B&T has embarked on a series where we chat to creatives working at some of the world’s most prolific advertising agencies in New York City.

Speaking with a new up-and-comer each week, B&T asks Aussie expats everything from their favourite clients to more pressing questions such as how often they’re asked to “put shrimp on the barbie”.

It’s time to meet some of the industry’s brightest.

This week we put SSCNYC chief creation officer Sam Saunders’ head (pictured above) on the chopping block.

How long have you been in NYC for?

Eight years.

Tell us a bit about your position.

I consult to agencies and brands like We Are Social (was the consulting CCO for north America last year), Apple, Y&R, JWT, Chandelier, as well as work directly with brands and agencies on bigger campaigns that I run kinda soup to nuts.

The Captain Morgan campaign on my site is an example of that, as is Eureka. My last full-time role was as ECD of SS+K.

What have been the biggest learnings moving to NYC? 

When it comes to real talent, there’s a surprising amount of chaff. Like anywhere, you still have to find the wheat. Everyone has a side hustle or project, which I love and also have. It’s not all about applying creativity just to your employer.

What has taken you by surprise about the city? 

Everyone wants you to be successful. Everyone has someone they want to introduce you to. It’s a mindset that we’re all in this together and we need to succeed to stay. It’s the polar opposite of Australia.

How do American and Australian adlands differ? 

Money, for one. The salaries and day rates here are outstanding.

Budgets tend to be bigger, but not as much as you’d think. The bigger agencies here can tend to be very siloed. I’m not sure if that’s still the case in Australia.

How are they similar? 

The wheat really care about incredible creative in both markets and push themselves hard to attain new creative benchmarks.

How is the creative process (both in ideation and execution) different to Australia’s? 

They are similar as a general rule, though with my teams I have a range of processes I’ve developed over the years to help get to big ideas much more quickly.

How much bigger are the budgets? 

I’m constantly surprised at the budgets in the Australian market versus the population. They seem out of proportion.

They are bigger and can be really big, but as a rule, I’d say we’re not being given $1 million to make a spot here very often or anything.

What has been the biggest benefit of moving? 

Putting tall poppy syndrome firmly in the rear-view mirror.

What has been the biggest challenge? 

Going out on my own after years in agencies and starting my own agency. The hustle is real. Pitching as a 10 person shop against 50 or 200 people shops can be daunting. You sometimes wonder if the best idea will really win, or the comfort in numbers of the more established shops.

Roughly how many times a week do you get asked if you’d like to put a shrimp on the barbie? 

Zero, though I do cook my mum’s garlic prawns recipe about once a week on my BBQ.

Do you ever find yourself pigeon-holed into the ‘Aussie expat’ basket or is it fairly easy to carve out your own identity? 

Very easy. They love us here. The only thing is there are those who are here to stay and those who count down the ‘sleeps’ until they go back to Australia for a visit.

The temps. There’s a very different mindset in the two groups. The former are as entrenched as any local.

What has been your favourite project so far? 

For Captain Morgan, I created a campaign that challenged the US Constitution, to amend one of the rules to allow people under 35 to be able to be president. That was a fun one.

Who is your favourite client?

I get to work on my own brands since I launched two booze brands over here.

My current favourite is Cider Monkey, an apple cider in a see-through can that I’m about to launch. The campaign is going to be ‘Cider Monkey has nothing to hide’. It kind of writes itself.

What is your favourite ad of all time? 

For TV, The Guardian‘s ‘Three Little Pigs’.

As an integrated campaign idea, Nike’s ‘Write the Future’ from a few World Cups ago. Spectacular.


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