In the lead-up to the hotly anticipated Women in Media event on Friday August 19, we chat with the lovely Barbara Humphries, senior art director for The Monkeys, about trusting your gut and scanning avocados as brown onions at the supermarket.
Describe your average day?
It could involve anything from reading up on current gun legislation for semi-automatic weapons or figuring out the sound a scoop of ice cream would make if it could bounce. There isn’t really an average day.
What’s the most challenging thing about your job?
I think one of the most challenging things can be remembering it’s a job. When you love what you do and you genuinely care, it’s easy to get totally absorbed in what you’re doing. Things can turn around in a heartbeat, so a sense of humour and perspective is vital.
What drives you?
I’m constantly seeing things that inspire me, spark my curiosity and make me hungry to create something new. It’s probably true of all creatives – no one gets into this job for the meetings.
There’s a real joy in making things, solving things, then seeing them through until they physically (or digitally) exist. While at times it can feel like so many great things have been done, each new idea that impacts around the world in seconds proves there’s always a new way of doing things.
What’s the hardest brief you’ve ever received or hardest job to execute?
Even the easiest ones can be deceptively hard – the trick is to protect them and make sure they stay simple and don’t try to be all things to all people.
Or, to badly paraphrase Charles Mingus: ‘Weird is easy. What’s really hard is making the simple, awesomely simple’.
What would be your ultimate role?
I love people like Carlo Mollino – he attempted everything, working as an artist, architect, writer, photographer, stunt flyer, race car driver, fashion designer, and furniture designer. His statement, “Everything is permissible, as long as it is fantastic”, is a pretty ideal job description.
What’s your proudest professional moment?
Hearing our IKEA Christmas film made parents want to go home from work early to hang out with their kids was pretty special.
What are advertising / marketing’s biggest challenges or threats?
To be really blunt, outside of our industry itself, no one cares about advertising and marketing.
People can easily make and find their own content and entertainment, and ignore anything they’re not into, so whatever we do has to be really relevant, informative or useful, or it isn’t worth doing.
What do you think are the most exciting things in the marketing and creative world at the moment?
There is a lot that’s fun right now. Having recently tutored AWARD School students, witnessing their fresh, uninhibited and often hilarious way of looking at a brief – and life in general – was really inspiring.
I’m also fascinated by the weird and unexpected ways people embrace or reject the latest technology. To use a recent example, those home-made signs people and businesses are making to get rid of people playing Pokemon Go have been pretty funny.
If you were CEO what would you do differently?
If our value as a business is based on the quality of our ideas and finding new ways of talking to people, then getting away from our screen and having conversations, experiences and seeing interesting things is really important.
Maybe a system where meetings took place in the day no later than 4pm would mean there was more opportunity for people to manage time outside of the office to accommodate whatever they needed to be effective and happy people – as well as creative people.
Hardest lesson you’ve had to learn (in or out of workforce)?
Trust your gut.
What turns you on, emotionally, creatively, spirituality?
What turns you off?
What’s your quirkiest attribute?
Unread-email-notification blindness. It doesn’t bother me but it seems to really bother everyone else.
One thing no one knows about you?
There’s this thing called synaesthesia, where you have involuntary colour associations with words, letters and numbers, and see numbers and dates in a three dimensional space. I have that form of it. Sounds fun – but is completely useless.
Scanning avocados as brown onions.
What’s your favourite TV programme?
The Simpsons or Seinfeld – everything else comes and goes.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I’d love to work on art full time at some point. Last year I got back into painting for a little while and sold one which got me thinking about doing more. But working on it solo will definitely take more discipline and attention span than I have right now.
What profession would you not like to do?
Some people who wake up in the morning, look at themselves in the mirror then go and write those horrible infomercials selling diet shakes and mechanised tummy toners. That one.
Women in Media is coming up fast, with tickets available here, a sneak peek at the goodie bag here, and all other info found here. It’ll be one hell of a night celebrating women’s achievements in the industry, so don’t miss out!
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