Introducing B&T’s New Series: Q&A With Young Aussie Creatives Making Waves In NYC

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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 will ask the 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.

First up, we put Anomaly New York senior creative Ben Yabsley’s head (pictured above) on the chopping block.

Time in NYC?

Four years, two months.

What have been the biggest learnings moving to NYC?

That’s a really hard question, because I’ve learned so much. Professionally I’ve learnt a lot about the theatre of selling work.

American’s aren’t as shy when it comes to talking about their strengths, and that impacts the way they sell.

Over here you have to be really excited about your work before you can make anyone else excited about it.

What has taken you by surprise about the city?

I came over here with a huge amount of coffee prejudice… but I was surprised by how good American drip coffee can be. I was also surprised by how hard that would be to admit.

How do American and Australian adlands differ?

As a creative, the risks are greater, but so are the rewards. America is home to bigger clients and bigger budgets. But that also brings increased pressure and longer project timelines.

Bigger budgets mean clients can afford more time in creative development, so you can end up doing lots of rounds of presentations before selling in the final idea.

This means you can end up making fewer campaigns per year. But when you do get to make those campaigns, you have access to a lot of resources and some of the best talent in the world to bring it to life.

How are they similar?

While the scale may be different, the DNA is the same. We’re all experiencing the same tensions and thrills of trying to capture lightning in a bottle.

The camaraderie this creates is a universal thing and gives agencies a familiar feeling, not just in Australia and New York, but everywhere.

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

In Australia, if you want your work to be globally recognized, you have to win awards. In New York, if you’re working on a big international brand you’re under the global spotlight to some extent.

I think that makes Australians laser-focused on creating award-winning work.

The longer timelines here give you a different ideation experience as well.

While you have to sell an idea more to get it over the line, it also means you have longer to sit with that idea and find the best way to express it. More rounds of presentation can sometimes lead to a more refined and pressure-tested execution.

Or it can lead to a steady descent into madness. Usually, it’s a little bit of both.

How much bigger are the budgets?

Obviously, every job varies in scope, and there are a lot of global clients that have comparable budgets to Australian clients.

But here, you’ll see production budgets in the $1 million – $3 million range for big projects.

What has been the biggest benefit of moving?

Anything that you can do to broaden your scope of experience is going to benefit you as a creative. The best thing about New York is that it’s the most global city in the world.

You get to work with people from all over the globe, then walk out the door and experience the best parts of almost any culture in the world. If you can’t be inspired here, then you’re in the wrong job.

What has been the biggest challenge?

Winter. It never ends. And when it ends… it hasn’t really ended yet. The false starts to summer always break my heart.

I really miss Aussie beaches.

The ease at which you can go for a swim to cool off on a summer’s day is something I totally took for granted before moving here.

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

Most people in adland are too young for that reference. But I get a lot of questions about snakes and spiders.

Yes, there are a lot of venomous things in Australia, but I’ve seen more snakes in upstate New York and New Jersey than I have in Australia.

And they have bears here. I feel like we’re glossing over the fact that in America things live in the woods that will eat you.

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

I’ve never felt pigeon-holed. I think the onus is on you to bring more to the table than your Australian-ness.

If that’s all you have to contribute, then it’ll be the only frame of reference that people see you through. The great thing about New York is that it’s a meritocracy where you’re defined by what you do… not where you’ve come from.

What has been your favourite project so far?

Shooting the infamous Budweiser Clydesdales for a Super Bowl commercial was an unforgettable experience and a definite career highlight.

But the project I’m proudest of is the Made by You campaign for Converse. It was based off a simple insight – that Chuck Taylors are the only sneakers that people don’t like to keep clean. In effect, they start out as a blank canvas and are then made into works of art through consumer customization and the wear and tear of daily life.

You can tell a lot about the life someone has led by looking at the state of the Chucks they lived it in. We took this insight, collected 400 pairs of Chucks from around the world, and created an out of home campaign that was closer in spirit to an art exhibition.

It was a powerfully simple idea that felt genuine because Converse had the guts to let the brand take a back seat and give the spotlight to its fans.

Who is your favourite client?

Budweiser has given me the most opportunity for growth out of any other client I’ve worked on. It’s given me my biggest challenges and made me a far better creative as a result.

There’s no better way to immerse yourself in the culture of a new country than by working on their biggest beer brand. The free beer is also a definite bonus.

What is your favourite ad of all time?

Probably Harvest by Tooheys Extra Dry, because it proves that ads don’t have to make sense to be effective. It’s a really tough balance to get right, but it’s okay to confuse people if you provoke a strong emotion and convey an attitude that aligns with your brand values along the way.

These are the types of ads that resonate with me the most and stay in my head the longest.

Stay tuned for more Aussie expats in NYC profiles in the coming weeks. 

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