Marcel Sydney’s Gavin Chimes has had an epic month. He was named Creative of the Year at the AWARD Awards for being credited across the most winning campaigns, and was recently promoted to associate creative director. Perhaps his biggest learning though took place at AWARD School in 2009. Gavin shares his experiences in this Q&A.

TCC: What was your favourite campaign from the AWARD Awards that you didn’t work on? And the one that you did?

GC: Maybe I became desensitised to all the great work from Clems Melbourne, but JWT’s ‘The Lucky Ones’ made the biggest impression on me during the award ceremony. You could feel the ripples through the audience after it played on the big screen.

A favourite that I worked on was ‘Air-Ink’ for Tiger Beer. We teamed up with scientists to turn air pollution from delivery trucks into ink. We then gave that ink to street artists around the world. The project took a year to complete but we managed to prevent more than 20,000 hours of CO2 emissions entering the atmosphere.

TCC: You did AWARD School in 2009. What learnings from the program have stuck with you to this day?

GC: I’ll never forget how much I hated Award School graduation and how that turned out to be the best thing for my career. Allow me to explain…

I teamed up with my first art director in AWARD School. We both had high hopes for graduation. Tutors liked our work and so did the other students we showed. When we barely got anything on the wall, we were devastated. We got drunk. We complained. We went bowling for some reason. The next week, we redid our entire portfolio with our own briefs. Soon after, M&C Saatchi sent an email to all AWARD School graduates advertising a junior team position. Everyone else had the exact same ideas to show. We had something fresh. We got the job.

So, I guess the learning is to not let the knocks keep you down.

TCC: What do you wish you knew then that you know now?

GC: Many things. How to simplify ideas. How to be better at asking for help. How to scamp. Actually, I’m still useless at that. Most importantly, I wish I knew that placing well at AWARD School is not everything. It definitely helps with getting a first job but there’s so much more to being a good creative than coming up with ideas on a blank sheet of paper. In an agency, you have to be creative with budgets, know how to sell ideas, work with strategy and collaborate with production companies. If I knew all this when I finished AWARD School, I think I would have been less hard on myself.  

TCC: Has there been a key mentor or role model that you’ve continued to look to from then until now?

GC: There hasn’t been one mentor or role model that I’ve continued to seek guidance from. In the last few years, I have been fortunate enough to work under some brilliant creative directors who’ve helped me develop my skills.

TCC: What advice did you give AWARD School students when you were a tutor in 2014 – or what advice would you give graduating students now?

GC: As a tutor, I noticed that too often students tended to just illustrate the prop. I always tried to push my students to think of interesting insights and find more unexpected ways in to the brief.  

TCC: What have been your biggest challenges along the way and how have you dealt with them?

GC: I’m happiest when I’m making work. However, the reality of the job is that there’ll be times when you don’t make anything at all. Especially at the start of your career. It’s not about ability. It could be indecisive clients, the wrong timing or just bad luck. The most challenging part of my career was when I didn’t make anything substantial for a year and half. The way I got through it was to always over-deliver on every brief, no matter the size. Because I knew something would eventually stick. And when it did, I wanted to be sure it was good enough to go in my book.

TCC: What are your wider career goals?

GC: I’ve recently been made an associate creative director, so right now I’m just looking at doing that as best as I can. It’s exciting to learn a whole new set of skills, help other teams with their ideas and have more responsibility. Beyond that, I want to continue learning. Not get too comfortable. I definitely want to win some more awards too. Heading overseas is on the cards as well. I’ve always dreamt of working at a place like W+K in Portland.

TCC: What are your main sources of inspiration?

GC: I’ve always been most inspired by stories. I’m a huge reader of fiction. Anything from David Foster Wallace to Hemingway to Bukowski. I love the story-telling podcasts like This American Life and Radio Lab. I also watch about two films a week. Sci-fi, docos, world cinema, you name it. Plus TV shows. It’s a bit of a problem really.

TCC: What do you think the creative director of the future looks like?

GC: Kind of struggling to answer this one. What does the creative director of today look like? I’ve worked with CDs who are patient and nurturing. I’ve seen CDs make people cry. Some are brilliant salespeople, others say very little but are hyper intelligent. The only consistent thing is that they all seem to have pretty bad taste in music.

Everyone has different approaches, so I don’t know what the CD of the future looks like. What I do know is that the more I work in this industry, the more I learn what kind of CD I’d like to be. Hopefully, it’s someone with better taste in music.

TCC: What sort of creative do you think you’ve evolved into? What further evolution would you like to achieve?

GC: As a junior, all I wanted to do was print ads. Then it was all about TV. Then innovation. Now I don’t think there’s a specific type of work I strive for. I just want to create the best solution for clients’ problems and try do work that adds to popular culture and makes our world a little less shitty.

TCC: What do you think it takes to cultivate a truly creative culture?

GC: Kind and talented people.

TCC: What’s your passion outside of work?

GC: I have a broad range of interests that aren’t particularly interesting. I gain value from being outdoors, hiking, camping, surfing, playing, football, meditating and spending time with my family and friends.