Warren Brown warns adland: stop making ads for yourselves

BMF co-founder Warren Brown, who announced on Monday he was stepping down from the agency he helped found 20 years ago, is unsure if he will find his way back to an agency, but has warned creatives to stop making ads to impress each other.warren-brown-468x310-468x310

And he has fired a shot across the bows of creative directors trying to chase glory through scam ads, saying simple ideas and an honest approach was the key to success.

Brown steps away from the industry for a break with a body of work that has helped define categories from beer to sport, food and public health in both Australia and in his earlier years in the UK.

Along the way he has flogged Fosters with Paul Hogan, Levis Jeans, the benefits of meat and the curious Scottish carbonated drink, Irn Bru.

One of Brown's very first ads was for Irn Bru.

One of Brown’s very first ads was for Irn Bru.

Brown told Mumbrella that he believes creatives should stop trying to please their colleagues and start working to please consumers.

“I was convinced early on that the only creativity I was interested in was the work that people who didn’t like advertising would actually like,” Brown said.

“I didn’t do work for the industry to like, I thought the public were much tougher to crack”.

Brown also said that younger people entering the industry needed to be given the room to make mistakes.

“It’s healthy for the business to have new people trying to make same mistakes I was making 30 years ago. People need to be encouraged to make their own mistakes.”

Brown helped make Paul Hogan famous in the UK.

Brown helped make Paul Hogan famous in the UK.

Brown said his own plans are fluid, although he sees more change coming and cannot rule out jumping back in the business at some stage.

“The business has changed several times in my career and it might changes again. The real question is, what is an agency?”

He also said it was important to “make a difference” for brands that entrusted their business to agencies.

“We tried to do that with the AFL (I’d Like to See That) and Lean Beef.”

Toohey’s Extra Dry was another brand that helped change the face of the market and heralded more than a decade of some of the best beer ads seen in Australia as the breweries tried to outdo each other.

He also warned of the dangers of “overburdening work and destroying the simplicity of ideas”.

“There is nothing worse than having something you sweated over and overburdening the advertising to get all the messages in. The more you pack into an idea the more it gets lost.”

And Brown, who has won 19 Cannes Lions throughout his career, reserved a particular message for the scam merchants who create ads purely for the purpose of winning awards.

“I have worked with some brilliant brands and people and have never done a scam,” he said.

Brown helped create one of Levis more iconic ads:

Women’s low iron levels was the subject of a major beef camapign:

Celebrities were lured to promote the AFL:

Big food was at the centre of another beef campaign:

Anti-smoking message revolted many but saved lives:


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.