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Starting out, Starting up

Creative Director at TBWA and founder of BleepBleeps, Tom Evans discusses ditching the day job and getting his hands dirty in the name of designing connected products.

Transforming himself from fat-cat agency guy to a bootstrapping startup CEO in just a few years, take a look at Tom Evans’ range of cool connected devices for parents in the video below, to see what he gave it all up for. 

I walked away from the comfy club of communications and jumped into the unknown world of tech start-ups, VC’s and hardware manufacturing. So why on earth would I want to do that? The answer: I couldn’t really help it. I’d always been fascinated with that fuzzy area where creativity, business and technology blend together. And for me, it’s where the fun stuff is, it’s where the creative energy is, it’s where the new hangs out. 

​It all began when I found some advice for startups from Paul Graham (founder of Y Combinator; 'Live in the future, then build what’s missing'. This approach perfectly sums up a philosophy that has always helped creative minds produce great work. Creativity is about pioneering, the invention of something new, or a new combination or context to create something that’s never been done before. Us creative types are striving for the freshness and excitement that the genuinely new gives us when we experience it or, better still, when we create it ourselves.

D&AD Digital Design Connected Products

Now, as ever, the savvy youngsters of today are magnetised by the alluring glow of creativity. But unlike previous generations, these guys aren’t knocking on creative agencies’ doors. The gravitational pull is now towards tech-superstardom and bedroom geekery. These guys and gals are inventing new platforms, products and services – this is where the new creative energy is, this is the new centre of gravity for the pioneers.

The bright young things of today are either lining up to join Google with the rest of ‘em, or hacking their way through bedroom start-ups. I doubt they’re doing grad schemes through the holding companies or internships at advertising agencies.

But it’s not all doom and gloom for the comms industry- if anything; the emphasis on tech, NPD and service design creates a great opportunity for adland. Ad agencies get brand. And if it’s one thing the world needs more than ever, it’s big emotional brand ideas. Ideas that can inform an entire business' behaviour.

The most powerful brands in the world have a high order belief and behaviour that galvanises their people and products to create growth. Helping brands and businesses get to this kind of top-tier strategic thinking, and then telling those stories through content, products and services is a genuinely valuable skill. A skill that brand and communications agencies have been honing for decades.

D&AD Digital Design Connected Products

Legendary long-term relationships like Nike and W+K, or Apple and TBWA, go way beyond communications, and reach more into creative business consultancy, effecting and creating the very DNA of the brand and its output. The ad industry needs more relationships like this.

In today’s landscape, it will be the agencies that can reach out and add value to the inventors and start-ups that will create growth for themselves, and industry, over the next few decades. So, agencies need to connect, support and understand the entrepreneurs and start-ups in their cities too.

Those guys and gals are creating the big brands of tomorrow and they need help. Better still, why don’t all those great creative minds in the agencies get together and start creating products and services themselves? After all, it is the agency people themselves that truly understand brands and consumers. If you ask me, they are perfectly placed to “Live in the future, then build what’s missing”. I did.

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