Benjamin Leempoels, Creative Chief Officer – beyond studio, provides some insight into the importance of creative leadership, and providing the right environment to keep beyond sparking at all times.
Publicis Brussels in 1999 was where it started for Benjamin – Another fresh-faced Junior, chest pumped in his vintage Tshirt, dreaming of setting the Advertising world alight. “I was 25, I fancied myself as a creative superpower, but I was surrounded by proven creatives, who quickly taught me a very simple lesson – the importance of staying humble. I put my dreams of awards at Cannes aside and quickly worked out, I could benefit from learning more. The teams at Publicis loved sharing what they knew, they gave me time and space, and ultimately liked what I did. It was all about experience, learning from others, and living something new, everyday” Today Ben leads beyond studio in a similar style to those who gave him time at Publicis.
No time for time wasted.
“Creative is at the core of beyond – if our creative is stifled by ‘process’ and systems, then our DNA dissolves. I spend 70% of my day filtering out the stuff that’s irrelevant for those who report to me, so they don’t have to deal with it. There is a lot that gets in the way of creativity – meetings, time sheets, expenses, calls, mails – if they appear at the wrong time, thought process and even the ‘big idea’ can be lost, or at the minimum, be delayed. I strip things down, sort things out alone where I can, and try my best to keep our creative team free from clouding. I am still hands-on, and when I am, I don’t want interruptions either”.
The steaming turd emoji.
“I discourage, where I can, email conversation between our creative team. If someone from our creative team needs something right away, they can get me on WhatsApp or Messenger – it’s instant. And I love a good emoji – why waste half an hour constructing a mail, when I’ll understand what’s needed straight-away with one word and a small steaming turd ?”
Pink kittens, Parton and Punk.
“At beyond, we talk a lot about emotion. I remind our team about its value everyday. It often comes in the form of putting faces to precise creative needs or it can come from whatever is playing on Spotify at the time. We like to invent, it helps us understand the trickier needs of a brief – we’ve seen brown monsters and pink kittens to help us find the right tone or colour palette, and we’ve had some amazing names on our wipe-board that help us pinpoint brand personalities. It always stretches things, but it helps us to evaluate the finer points of creative traits and accelerate our response. Going back to the right tune at the right time, the right ambiance is so important. We’ve got many Spotify playlists – there is everything from Parton to Punk. They are the beyond soundtracks that develop daily, and bring regular surprise depending on mood. Music is a invaluable creative resource, it can encourage conversation or shut us up into thought – it’s positive energy, and wins every time over mouse clicks and keyboard clatter that bring nothing. And when people leave beyond (it happens), certain songs become a musical legacy – it reminds us of good times and bad – emotions again”.
“Our lives today are filled, led and almost defined by exciting new potentials and possibilities, all there because of a new attitude, and absolute need for creativity. Being involved in a creative business today is a commitment to elevate the human experience on all levels, whether with colleagues, clients, and their Companies or Brands. This means making it interesting and fulfilling, wherever we can”.
— BENJAMIN LEEMPOELS, CREATIVE CHIEF OFFICER / BEYOND STUDIO
Try something new.
“Most of the creative at beyond is geared on brands and digital. We therefore put time aside for discovery and new experiences – new games, new apps, new digital tools – on all platforms. Breakfast or lunch is sometimes together, often animated while relieving some pressure with bloody shoot-outs, or exploring experiential stuff. beyond feed off such times – it all filters in – it’s about sideways thinking, and taking inspiration from one place and applying it, in some form or shape, to an area where it doesn’t always immediately fit. It’s where we can experiment, where we start to bend and warp things to bring something new”.
Know when to stop.
“I know when it becomes too much – I recognise the signs of struggle. Searching for ideas on a new blank page will bring only blanks. When someone in my team ‘whites out’, I show them the door. It’s a time to drop all tools, disconnect and stare at life outside – it’s the best way to wake-up the senses. I am a great believer in travel broadening the mind, even if it’s only a few steps outside – the shock of the cold, the bark of a dog, or a plane overhead, will often see a freshly debugged designer soon running back to their desk”.
Soak up the success.
“The creative role in a creative Agency hasn’t really changed – It’s still about solving different types of problems and finding original answers within tight confines, but the way we arrive at answers has certainly accelerated – we are all exposed to more than we were 20 years ago. I am still convinced by passion, which breeds integrity, and genuine enjoyment of a job well done – a dedicated and open-minded creative, will always take real pride seeing his or her work come to fruition, and deserve completely the satisfaction felt in bringing positive change to Clients and their needs. Basking for a while in a bit of glory, is positive emotion again. To get there, we do need to make sure things get through, and there is always a need to keep creative minds on track. In my mind, this should never be done by the book, and ‘creative leadership’ I think, should forever stay exactly as it is written”.