Life outside of advertising

Life outside of advertising

Squeezed budgets, the rise of digital media and invasive technology are putting strain on advertising and marketing professionals. Jessica Kennedy finds out what some of these busy individuals do outside their day jobs to ease the stress levels

Work-life balance. It’s an elusive term that many of us struggle to define – let alone achieve. In today’s world of always-on, where your personal phone or tablet is most likely linked to your work emails, it is becoming increasingly hard to switch off.

‘Balance’ is almost non-existent in the advertising world according to a recent B&T survey, which revealed that almost half of adland believe their employers do not care about work-life balance.

Forty-one per cent of almost 500 respondents said their employer’s main concern was getting the work done, no matter the hours. If an employer does encourage balance, 30% still said office culture does not allow for it.

But to be a productive, happy and healthy member of the workforce it is widely accepted that you must have down time. “I think it is critical to have hobbies,” says Matt James, managing director of media at Mi9. “Diversity and balance of interests keeps you active and sane, and healthy distractions promote curious disposition.

“From a career perspective all of this prevents you from going stale and hopefully gives you a more rounded and intuitive perspective on things.”

B&T spoke to six adland professionals to find out what they do to recharge outside of work.

There are photographers, musicians, composers, small business owners and entrepreneurs.

For some of them, their stories have become tales of a life after, rather than outside, advertising. But all have one thing in common – their personal pursuits leave them with fresh eyes and new perspectives on their professions.

If you or somebody you know manages to nurture an interesting side project or hobby, we want to know about it. Email and share your story.


Matt James

Managing director of media, Mi9

His 21-year long media communications career has seen Matt James live in some of the world’s ‘hottest’ cities (including London, New York, Paris, LA and now Sydney), he has worked with big name brands (including Apple) and, at the age of 27, was named one of the UK’s youngest MDs of a top 10 media agency.

Despite this, he has still found time to put his classical music training to use, having created and produced more than 30 original scores. “It’s my escape, my figurative muse,” James says. “Music has such power to influence how one feels. For me, there is great satisfaction in the creative process and realisation of music.”

His love for music composition was ignited by his grandfather, who taught James how to read music from the age of five. In his early 20s he re-embraced his music studies and completed composition exams through the Royal Schools of Music in the UK.

In 2004 his amateur vocation turned professional when he signed his first deal as composer and producer for his family musical entertainment property Bush Tales. The project saw James work with the late entrepreneur Brian Bolly, music director Chris Walker, who has been associated with West End shows such as Oliver, and casting director Pippa Ailion, who cast Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Wicked.

Now he is working on two new symphonies which he hopes to start producing in early 2014. Classical music may not be the ‘coolest’ form of music today but it tickles Matt’s fancy. “There is such beautiful perfection, mastery and depth of creation,” he says.

Music composition, while creative, is also mathematically and logically challenging, especially when composing and arranging for a 100-piece orchestra. “Your mind has to digest and organise a ridiculous volume of component parts to ensure it doesn’t turn into a cacophony of shit.”

This has helped James in his day job, particularly when it comes to making sense of large volumes of data.

If he couldn’t find time to practice, James says he would become “vacuous and frustrated” but he is not tempted to go full time.

“To write and produce without financial and time pressures is the best place to be,” he says. “I’ve already seen music become people’s nemesis.” 


Derrick Kim

K-pop musician and ad agency creative

He’s a Sydney-based creative director with a flamboyant alter ego nurturing grand plans of bringing K-pop Down Under. Why? “Because I have nothing to lose and it’s so much fun,” Kim says.

That attitude has seen him star in an Oporto ad, score a fully paid trip to perform in America and, now, using the fame he has found with Gangnam Style, he is building the profile of his new character – Teddy Kim.  

“Who is Teddy Kim? He is a K-pop musician living in Australia,” says Kim. “What I’m doing is making K-pop music in Australia so people in Korea go ‘what the hell?’.”

And people appear to be paying attention. Teddy Kim’s Facebook page now has 165,000 likes and the video clip for his debut album Colourman (below) accrued more than 10,000 views in a week.

His advertising day job has helped Kim with his Teddy Kim ambitions. When it came to creating a character for the Oporto ad, he says he saw the script and knew exactly what to do. “I looked at it and thought ‘this needs to be like that and that like that’. So I did it and was like, ‘fuck I nailed it!’.”

Despite this, Kim says his after work experiences have tainted his view of advertising.

“All of my career I have chased awards, but now I just feel like it isn’t very important,” he explains. “People who organise awards are the smartest people in the advertising industry because they use creatives’ insecurities to get themselves paid.”

He is also enjoying more creative freedom and now finds advertising limiting, “as you can only be creative in 30 seconds”. On the other hand, he thinks this makes advertising creatives “the special forces” of creativity. “We are trained to make stuff happen, we think in one canvas, it has to be simple and crafted beautifully,” he says. “If creatives used that in something else they would be a force to be reckoned with.”

Asked if he would take Teddy full time he answers: “Let’s see, I mean who knows? Will it take off? Will it not?” For now at least, Teddy Kim will remain a consuming side project.


Carolyn Archibald

Former marketing manager, OohMedia

Carolyn Archibald’s story is less of a tale of a life outside of advertising and more one of after.

Archibald started singing at 16 and has a music degree, but, fearful singing may not lead to steady work, she fell into marketing. Now she is staring that fear in the face and, after three years with OohMedia, is following her heart.

That beat is taking Archibald back to professional singing studies “in the hope that I can dedicate the time it requires to build a classical repertoire to hold recitals, hopefully annually, at a prominent venue in Melbourne. All that to be determined of course,” she humbly laughs.

Making the decision to leave Ooh, a place she describes as “vibrant, fun and supportive”, was hard but necessary. “If I am working full time I will never sing,” she explains. “That realisation helped me take the leap. Singing is always something I hoped would find a way back into my life, but I’m dictating the path now.”

She won’t be turning her back on the industry, with plans to put her Masters of marketing to good use with

 some contract work to help finance her passion – which will potentially take her to France next year. 

And Archibald is still heard in Ooh’s St Kilda outfit where, in an attempt to satiate her vocal cords’ desires, she recorded all of Ooh’s phone messages and brand videos.

She adds: “You just don’t feel yourself if you are not doing what you love the most.” 


Adam Coutts

Creator and owner, RED Burlesque

“If somebody told me a year ago that I would be launching a lipstick range globally, I probably would have hit them,” laughs Adam Coutts.

It’s not any old lipstick range the self-professed “serial entrepreneur”, and former marketing and communications director at Dubsat, is set to officially launch in August. It’s a range of red-only shades that take cues from the sultry world of Burlesque.

The aptly-named Red Burlesque brand started over dinner with girlfriends. “I think one of them heard that her favourite lipstick had been discontinued and they all piped up,” he recalls. “Then it came out that the biggest range of red lipstick they could find was seven or eight. The light went on then.”

There are now 18 different shades in the range, all named after international burlesque performers who wear the products onstage.

After working for himself for roughly 27 years (he started his own ad agency at 23 before embarking on other creative pursuits), Coutts’ last “and first real job” was at Dubsat. But he got “itchy feet”, prompting his break 

into make-up. “I got used to having money thrown in my bank each month,” he said. “But going back to do my own thing was like going back to my place of comfort. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for somebody who has worked for someone else almost their entire working life to do what I’ve done.”

He adds: “My advice is that as long as you can cover yourself for six months without earning, you’ll be fine. If it doesn’t work after that, it’s probably not going to work.”

Red Burlesque isn’t Coutts’ only project. He and a business partner plan to set up a global creative community. It’s going to be a busy year for the start-up junkie whose favourite phrase is “amateurs invent, professionals reinvent”. 



Ivars Krutainis

Strategy director, Mindshare

When strategist Ivars Krutainis isn’t stuck in the daily grind he can be found behind a camera.

For Krutainis, his extra-curricular passion is all about control. “In an office environment there are lots of things that are out of your control,” he explains. “In photography I am 100% in control of whatever I am creating.”

He describes his niche as “human emotion”, choosing to work with young actors, up-and-coming models and athletes to create portraits where “the physical and emotional come through”.

You could say photography runs in the Krutainis family (his father was a wedding photographer), but this put the young Krutainis off the pastime more than suggesting it.

It was only eight years ago when he moved to London that he got serious. Since then he has shot book covers as well as small scale ad and fashion shoots.

But his most significant project was a personal one. In 2009 when he should have been celebrating his 27th birthday, he had a “premature midlife crisis”. “I started writing a blog, and came up with this idea that I should visit 100 countries before I reach 30 and do a photo essay out of it.” Once he had reached 100 countries he self-published a book about his exploits.

But earning money off his shots is not Krutainis’ driver  – it is a creative outlet for the Latvian who has worked in media agencies since 2006.

“I only take on projects I enjoy. I could be making money in weddings or events but it is not where my passion is. If I was going to make it full time, that’s the compromise I would make.”

Having interests outside his day job is vital for Krutainis. “The ability to disconnect is crucial – I wouldn’t be as good a strategist if I didn’t have these other passions,” he concludes. 


Michael Cleary

Partner at Sydney boutique ad agency, Task2


Working a 60-hour week wasn’t enough for Michael Cleary. So he went out and bought a restaurant and wine bar with two mates – and added an extra 10 hours on top.

“Finding work/life balance in this business is extremely hard,” he says. “We are under a lot pressure, it is something I’ve always struggled with and I find it even more of a challenge now with the bar thrown into the mix.

“In saying that, I’m a workaholic and enjoy everything I do, so I don’t look at it as work, it all goes into the same pot for me.”

Day-to-day as a partner at the agency can be extremely stressful for Cleary. The restaurant – called Sede, which means ‘venue’ in Italian – gives the people person the chance to leave the pressure of deadlines behind.

He believes its every ad man’s dream to open a bar. For Cleary and his mates (one a banker, the other also worked in advertising but now runs Sede full time) it became a reality after a weekend in Melbourne enjoying the bar scene. Now what was once just a vision is being described as “the future of wining and dining in the Inner West” by food bloggers.

To launch Sede a local marketing campaign involving social media and PR was employed. Cleary says it was amazing to see advertising in action: “The power of these channels was incredible and we could see the spike in customer numbers throughout the campaign.”

The ultimate dream is to own multiple establishments but, as much as he loves it, Cleary is not tempted to leave his day job: “I would never give up my day job to be a full time waiter,” he jokes.


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