Q&A with Adam Smith

We meet The Gate's Creative Director

In his role as Creative Director, Adam is responsible for uniting strategy and creative at The Gate by steering, and overseeing impactful, media-neutral, problem-solving, responses to campaigns and branding challenges. He is frequently referenced in global publications and has won multiple awards for his work including; D&AD, Epica, The Drum, Campaign Magazine, Roses among others. Adam is also a trustee for a local children's mental health charity, and judges and mentors across Behance, Star Awards and IPA programmes whenever his schedule allows.  

Joining Adam and Julian at Inspiring Presentations will be; Guy and Co's, Jenny Terris and Clare Willis, National Trust for Scotland. 

You’ve worked with some brilliant brands. What has been your stand out favourite campaign to work on and why?

Rather than executional work we like to look at every opportunity for ideas to make a difference; from the final execution to campaigns, brands, strategies, and products.

Getting deeper and more involved with clients is rewarding so creating a new brand with the Scottish Government was an exciting time. In the biggest branding project in Scotland since the NHS, we were part of the process of transforming Social Security from a stigmatised, harassing experience, into a welcoming, respectful and positive one.

What's the next big thing for The Gate?

We want to help turn the tide of marketing – from the least respected professional in the world, to what it deserves to be. A Significant Other for every business. To do it we’re putting aside channels, and own ideas about how to reach and talk to people and instead of putting the audience first – and working with what’s significant for them. What’s going to genuinely affect their lives, culture, and hearts. And driving that beyond a 30-sec spot into a proper comms journey that’s relevant to their lives.

You have a very comprehensive in-house team. What the vibe like in the office?

We’ve built a new team of like-minded people who see the value in doing the right thing and looking deeper than a cheap giggle. We’re collaborative and are shaping our processes so they get us to effective creative and business outcomes by design – not luck.

Together, we’re hungry for clients who really want to make a difference in their careers and to society.

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

I’m a big fan of the problem-solving work of Droga 5, and the emotional work of A&E. But at the same time, I’m excited by the work of the branding agencies who start to really understand their client’s business problems and help them push and achieve ambitious goals through comms. Branding seems to be braver than advertising just now.

What do you think are going to be the main challenges for agencies in the next two years?

Trust is the biggest issue. Through short-termism provoked by digital measurements and over focusing on executions, we’ve lost the trust of businesses who want us to care for them, not just ourselves. We need to change the perception of marketing from expensive spending to value-adding growth tools. 

And it’s harder every day as we’ve also lost the trust of consumers.

Who are the people new to you (either within your business or externally) who have particularly impressed you in the last twelve months?

I see bits of fabulous and proper behaviour in a string of agencies across Scotland. But each is also too caught in doing their own thing. There’s a lot of ‘we do this’ type of mentality, rather than doing the client’s thing and working to genuinely do what’s needed for them. In Britain I admire the Grey’s Life paintwork but really, I feel, it’s better not to look around too much. It’s important to be yourself and be pushed by the truths that pull and push you- not what others do. Follow art, conversation, books, politics, business, sport – the stuff that real people care about.

Only follow marketing to see what can be done… or more often what not to do.

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