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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > creatives >  Andy Fackrell
Andy Fackrell

fackrell inside Andy FackrellExecutive Creative Director
180 Amsterdam

It would be a dream if you were a chocoholic and you somehow got to work on the Hershey’s account, or if you worshiped at the altar of Steve Jobs and were brought on board to do the next iPhone ad. But imagine being a major sports enthusiast and getting your hands on not one but two of the biggest athletic brands in the world. Now imagine not just getting your hands on them, but knocking out of the park, completing that Hail Mary pass, sinking a buzzer beater from half court on both of them.

Andy Fackrell has lived that dream.

From unassuming beginnings as an art director in Wellington, New Zealand (which he reminds me is the hometown of another, lesser known Bret(t) McKenzie) to the top of the creative ad heap, Andy has had the good fortune of creating Cannes Grand Prix winning work for sports apparel giant Nike. Today Andy, along with his partner Richard Bullock, has been the Co-ECD of 180 Amsterdam since 2004, steering the creative ship for such global brands as Sony, Amstel, and of course founding client (and Nike rival) Adidas. His portfolio reads like an awards annual, and while Andy’s impeccable track record include non-Nike/Adidas projects, it’s evident that he brings a keen interest in the psychology of the professional and amateur athlete to the table.

We caught up with Mr. Fackrell recently for a quick chat about his storied career. What were the valuable lessons he learned in Singapore? What was it like to work at Wieden + Kennedy Portland?  What does he consider his ad industry shining moment? (Spoiler Alert: It’s not winning that aforementioned Grand Prix.) Read on!

ihaveanidea: So here you are, a wide-eyed kid from Wainuiomata, New Zealand, a place a little bit off the beaten path as far as industry superstardom is concerned. What gave you the idea to get into the crazy business anyway?

Andy: It was sorta by default. I wasn’t much good at anything else! (laughs) Nah, it was more because it was a career with some degree of energy to it. I remember visiting an ad agency when I was in high school, and there were people running around doing lots of jobs really fast. And that’s a big deal in New Zealand. You never see people doing anything quickly there.

It also seemed like the people in advertising had their hands in a little bit of everything. I had once toyed with idea of becoming an illustrator, but couldn’t bear the thought of doing just one thing. So advertising seemed like the perfect jack-of-all-trades occupation.

But in all honesty I had no real love for the business for the first few years I was in it. Once I got in, I thought it was kind of a dorky thing to be in. Back then there really wasn’t much of an ad industry in New Zealand, and you had to look outside for inspiration. There’s only so many times you can do the sheep farmers gag. And it’s a lonnnng way to look to England or America.

It wasn’t until I arrived in Singapore that I really began to understand the art and craft of advertising.

ihaveanidea: Singapore must’ve been quite an eye opener…

Andy: It was, especially as an art director. I learned from very good designers and typographers in that country. TV isn’t a big medium in Singapore, so a lot of care is put into making print look fantastic. In New Zealand, my first ads were TV spots, so I sorta thought that TV was the norm. But Singapore really brought me back down to earth, to learn craft and detail and design, all of which were perfect lessons for making a great, attention and award getting portfolio, and helped me make better TV later on in my career.

ihaveanidea: Well not much later on, as you were soon off to Wieden + Kennedy in Portland. How was that experience, both the agency and the city?

Andy: Portland as a city was tough, but I’ve specialized in living in some pretty fucked-up places, you know? (laughs) I believe that quite often, good work comes out of bad places. When I worked in Sydney, well it’s not that Sydney does bad work, it’s just that it’s more difficult to stick around after 5 PM when you can go to the beach instead. Portland, there wasn’t much to do after 5 PM.

But Wieden + Kennedy wasn’t about the town, but rather the environment they had built aroound it, and the seer number of great people in that office. I remember when I first started there I was kinda new to the internet and the idea of computer servers. They had set up a folder on the server for me and showed me how to access it, and I’d look and I’d see other folders belonging to legends of the business who happened to work there, people I idolized. It was really intimidating to know that they were there, working in the same building as I was.

I remember very early on at Wieden + Kennedy I had printed something on the printer, and when I went to get it, there was this guy standing there printing off about 200 layouts. I caught a glimpse of the work and I thought to myself “my God, this guy is totally copying David Carson!” I went back to my work area and told someone “hey, there’s this guy out there ripping off David Carson!” He looked at me blankly and said “that is David Carson.”

The thing about Wieden that was great — and I try to use that as my philosophy here at 180 — is that they didn’t want you to copy anybody., they wanted you to come in and have your own point of view. When they interviewed people, they asked for things that at the time I never understood why. They’d ask you if you did anything else with your life. I was into sports, but they seemed to be interested in different things, so you’re hastily trying to think of something like “oh yeah, I’m a painter.”

I went back to my work area and told someone “hey, there’s this guy out there ripping off David Carson!” He looked at me blankly and said “that is David Carson.”

Wieden wanted to know what you brought to the place, in terms of personality. They could collect all these different sensibilities in this freak show atmosphere and make them work better than any agency in the world. They had the biggest impact on the way I work, and I see a lot of their way of doing things flourishing here at 180.

ihaveanidea:  You’ve been at 180 for six years now. You were at Weiden + Kennedy for five or six years. Batey in Singapore for five or six years, Connaghan & May in Australia for five years. Don’t you know that creatives are supposed to bounce around every eighteen months or so? What has kept you at agencies longer than most people?

Andy: I find that many creatives are looking to do a great campaign, get an award, then move on for more money. I’ve always felt that if you’re in a great creative environment, you make it work for as long as you can. For me, if I got a great campaign out of a place, it is probably the kind of place to get another good campaign, and I was always about getting “one more” great ad.

But it’s a different scene these days, a faster moving one. Advertising agencies aren’t the idealized places of creativity they used to be. There’s a lot more competition out there to do other bits of work. Creativity is being churned out faster and faster, and I think careers are moving just as fast. I remember when I was younger, people used to think that once you hit forty, that was the time to start contemplating about being a creative director. These days, a 26 year old with a couple of good campaigns under his belt is wondering why they aren’t CDs yet.

Still, when you work with great people and do great work with great brands, why would you be in a rush to leave?

“I remember when I was younger, people used to think that once you hit forty, that was the time to start contemplating about being a creative director. These days, a 26 year old with a couple of good campaigns under his belt is wondering why they aren’t CDs yet.”

ihaveanidea: The award shows have been very, very good to you. Lions, Pencils, Clios, you got ‘em, including a Cannes Grand Prix for Nike “Tag”. What’s been the sweetest moment of your career so far?

Andy: You wouldn’t expect the actual making of an ad to be someone’s career highlight, but for me it is. It was when we made the Adidas ad with David Beckham and Jonny Wilkinson kicking balls around.

The idea came about when Richard [Bullock, Andy's partner and Co-ECD at 180] and I were watching some sports on TV one weekend. There was a football game with Beckham, and a few hours after that there was a rugby game with Wilkinson. We already knew that they were both Adidas athletes,  and superstars in their respective sports, but we just noticed that they wore the exact same boots.

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Richard and I came back to work on Monday and we said fuck it, let’s get the two of them together to kick a ball around in a park somewhere and just be themselves. At the risk of not having an “idea”, we thought it would be interesting to bring together two huge celebrities at similar points in their careers, just to see what they’d talk about. Just two peers talking.

We fought everybody on this one, the client, the director, even our own agency. They were saying “where’s the music? Where’s the razzmatazz? Where’s the script?” But we said trust us, just mic them up for a few hours and see what they talk about. Half the stuff they talked about we couldn’t use because it was too outrageous, or more often than that too deep for words. But we edited it, brought it back to everyone, and what we had was almost a documentary, like When We Were Kings or something. It was a new territory, and one that seemed to fit Adidas as a brand. It was the honesty, the reality of these athletes, not scripted stuff. Today it’s a bit passé, as others have tried this, but at the time it was really different.

Making this spot was so special to me because of what I mentioned earlier about Wieden, about bringing your personality into your work and workplace. Richard and I are both lifelong sports enthusiasts, and both extremely interested in what motivates truly great athletes. We wanted to know what made the likes of Beckham and Wilkinson tick, and we felt that others would too.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.

ihaveanidea: Beckam and Wilkinson really made that spot shine, but can you name somebody who has made your career shine? Who in this business — or even outside of this business — is your biggest inspiration?

Andy: It sounds cheesy, but one person who has inspired me is Michael Jordan. I know I’m gonna name my first child Jordan! (laughs) Michael Jordan made me want to stay in advertising and do more work.

What I love about Jordan is not just that he was such a great player, but his psychology was unbelievable. He’d guard different types of players different ways. He’d let someone like Clyde Drexler control the first part of a game, let him shoot a crapload of points, and then give him nothing in the second half, Another player, he would shut down right from the get-go and take his confidence away. It’s the mental aspect of sports that interests me the most, and nobody perfected that the way Jordan did.

On a more artistic side, I’d have to go with Pablo Picasso. Any time I go into a Picasso museum, I feel completely inadequate as an artist, but yet inspired at the same time.

If I were to pick advertising people, I’d definitely have to say Dan Wieden. He didn’t want to make things look like advertising, and I didn’t get that at the time. He’d look at something and say “fuck it, it looks like advertising!” I know exactly what he means now.

If I could pick another, I’d have to say my current partner Richard Bullock. Not only have we pushed each other to make 180 even better, but we’ve been able to have a laugh while doing it. I don’t think I would’ve been able to go forward without having Richard here, someone like-minded who will tell me if he doesn’t like something.

ihaveanidea: Where would you be if you didn’t go into advertising? What if you were sick that day in high school when you went on that class trip to the agency?

Andy: Well I’ve always dreamed I’d be an NBA player, but I only grew to 5’7”, so I would’ve had to have been unbelievably fucking amazing or just lucky. I was always an art nerd, and I suppose I would’ve become an illustrator. I’m very blessed in that my advertising career has allowed me to get a taste of both art and sport, I’ve been fortunate enough to work on the two biggest sports brands on earth, and to have worked in agencies that didn’t look at advertising as pure commercialism. Singapore, Portland, here at 180, they’ve all seen the artistic side of advertising, and that’s been a dream to me.

Interview by:

brettcreditpic Andy Fackrell
Brett McKenzie
Chief Writer, SBN2

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