Interviews

Tom Webster

Executive Creative Director, HELO

Izzy Ashton

Assistant Editor of BITE

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Tom Webster - HELO

Career to date:

2015, Executive Creative Director, HELO
2004, Creative Director of Experiential, Mother
1999, Creative Director, US Concepts
1997, Director Special Projects, Swatch Project
1995, Project Director, Virgin

Creativebrief: As the Exec Creative Director at HELO, what is your primary focus?

Tom Webster: Making sure everyone, from the assistants to the partners, are truly passionate about everything we make.

Creativebrief: Please could you outline your career to date, talking us through anything of particular interest or that you’d like to highlight?

Tom Webster: Left formal education at 15, newspaper boy, pig farmer, mechanic, beach bum, ski bum, bartender, rave promoter, bike messenger, truck driver, worst ad Account Handler in the world, failed rave promotor, Director of Special Ops, Creative Director, father, car mechanic, Executive Creative Director.

I have been very lucky to have worked on some of the best brands making some wonderful things for the last 25 years.

“When you do something wonderful and genuine in a place that rarely gets any love by a brand, it has a special effect." 

Creativebrief: What's unique about your agency? Why did you join HELO?

Tom Webster: The HELO team is a core group of extraordinarily different personalities with a really mixed set of superpowers. Key in helping us come together is that we all share some core common values we believe to be true. Through this diversity, mindset and of course our far-reaching community of wonderful creative and production partners, we work at the nexus of live experience and content.

Creativebrief: What has been your agency’s best work in the last year?

Tom Webster: I am happy to say that we made a few things that I feel are really pretty good. Standouts for me are Kyle Ruddick’s Living with Cancer films for Pfizer. They are really extraordinary. Warning: you might tear up. Kyle has a special touch.

I loved Jeff Tremaine’s Fast and Furious stunt for Comcast, especially the attention to detail and how we destroyed a facsimile set and cars with unsuspecting members of the public.

The State Line Rivalry for Chick-fil-A was really special for me. The amazing creative team at McCann led by James Dawson-Hollis had an incredible idea.They moved mountains to bring the project to life and to make it so successful. When you do something wonderful and genuine in a place that rarely gets any love by a brand, it has a special effect. Working with the Mayors of Lanett AL and West Point GA, their teams, local contractors, vendors and the whole community in making this event come together was very special and it was reflected in the experience and the content that came out of it. Go Deep Local. Mike Marshal shot the experience with a really sympathetic eye; the creatives crushed the edit.

We wrapped up the year creating a Winter Wonderland/Terrain Park in an abandoned shopping mall in the suburbs of Milwaukee with Casey Niestat and adam&eveDDB New York for Samsung. It was a Herculean task as we only had three weeks to make it happen. Everyone on this project learned so much. It was a great inside look at the new school of content. We also learned more about the individual superpowers of the HELO Team and our partners at adam&eveDDB and Samsung. I had fun, hanging out in Northridge Mall. It was closed for 17 years and owned by a company in Shanghai. There are at least 25 of these incredible buildings standing idle. History moves very fast in retail and consumer goods. It's slower in the arts. I dreamt of a mall filled with creativity in Milwaukee. It was good to dream. 

Creativebrief: What work or agency from outside the UK do you think is particularly influential?

Tom Webster: Donald Trump's Twitter campaign and especially his PR spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders [the White House Press Secretary]. It's terrifying as they are nailing how to engage a populist psychographic. 

I think the work Ron Faris is making with Nike at s23NYC is really interesting in the way that it's disrupting a street sneaker ecosystem. 

To be frank, having left the agency side of the business a couple of years ago, I stopped taking an interest in other people's work. It was not a conscious decision. I just like to focus on the things we are making at HELO. I know that some people are making great brand initiatives, but I guess I digitally filter most of that stuff out.

Creativebrief: How do you see the advertising industry evolving over the next two to five years?

Tom Webster: La Brea Tar Pits [an Ice Age fossil excavation site].

“Try to be humble. The people cleaning the toilets at your music festival are as important as any VIP."

Creativebrief: What are your ambitions for HELO over the next two to five years?

Tom Webster: Stay out of La Brea Tar Pits.

Creativebrief: The changing nature of the traditional pitch is something that we are increasingly interested in. What’s your opinion?

Tom Webster: Try to only work with people you trust.

Creativebrief: Personally, who or what are you inspired by? (outside of the industry)

Tom Webster: I am inspired by everyone I meet but some standouts that immediately spring to mind are Delia Webster, Milo Webster, Maggie Webster, Trish O’Callagan, HELO Fam, Sam Speigal, Claudia Gold, JCRT, Candide Thovex, Sasha Markova, Lawrence Lenihan, Richard Branson, John Robison and the guys behind Yondr.

Topic of the moment

The theme for BITE LIVE this year was From Insight to Action. Can you talk about a piece of insight that you have put into action? 

Try to be humble. The people cleaning the toilets at your music festival are as important as any VIP - see Rudyard Kipling's poem If.

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