Creative Profile: The inimitable Sue Higgs shares her story and how a Ford Capri drove her towards a different career

Creative Profile: The inimitable Sue Higgs shares her story and how a Ford Capri drove her towards a different career

In this new feature, Creative Moment showcases creative talent from across the industry.

We talk to new, young, up-and-coming talent, as well as established creatives who have a great story to tell, how they got to where they are today, and advice they might like to offer those starting out in the industry.

It's a chance to show off some of the outstanding thinkers, creators and makers who are shaping the creative industry of the future.

Dentsu mcgarrybowen's joint executive creative director Sue Higgs is a well-known name and character within the creative industry who speaks her mind, advocates against bullying in the industry and has created some of the best work on the advertising scene.

My Story

My Story

Sue Higgs, joint executive creative director, dentsu mcgarrybowen

So, I did quite well in my A levels and was on course to do a degree in sociology.

I’d just bought my first car, a Mark 1 Ford Capri (best car ever, google it) and thought, I’ll defer a year whilst I pay my dad back for it. I tried to get a job, only to find I wasn’t qualified to do much despite my academic achievements. I ended up being a Reprographic Assistant—a fancy name for someone who does photocopying, and the wage was £75 a month.

This got me thinking.

Why do I want to learn to write essays for another three years and end up where I am now? So I called up a career advisor, and wanged on about how good I was at thinking up stuff but properly shit at art and drawing. I thought to pursue a creative career you had to be good at art. The advisor mentioned advertising and copywriting, and an HND course at Hounslow Borough College. I talked my way onto that and I was off the blocks.

I got my first job from college at Lowe Howard-Spink. Joining the industry as a junior then was a lot different to now.

For a start, I was the first woman hired in four years, and the secretaries at the time all hated me.

It was the pre-computer era and they had to type our stuff up, which they hugely resented. They’d snatch it off me furious and throw it back at me typed. God forbid I asked for amends. Weirdly, I thought it was funny. Didn’t stop me anyway.

33 years later, I'm still here.

What is the the best advice you have ever been given?

There's two, first of all: "Kill them with kindness."

Even if you want to be grumpy and shouty, don’t. You don’t know what anyone else is going through. No one can get you if you’re kind.

And second: "No one knows what they’re doing, so just do it your way."

What advice would you give to others, knowing what you know now?

My advice? Move at your own pace, you don’t have to sprint all the time.

And if you’re not sure, don’t solve on the spot, buy time with ‘leave it with me'.

And the concept of 'having it all' is bullshit.

What even is it 'all'? 

No one asks men if they can have it all. 

Have what you want and need to have your life. Try not to take it all too seriously, it’s only advertising. 

Know when to walk away and make sure you have boundaries, if something doesn’t feel right, it’s probably not.

What words do you live by?

“Do as you would be done by”, “ This too shall pass”, “The truth will out” and from my amazing dad, “Always look for the adventure”.

Out of all the campaigns you have worked on, which one stands out as the most memorable and why?

I’ll be honest, I’ve been lucky to work with some great people and brands over the years. One of the most memorable was the first big TV shoot we did for Vauxhall.

We were fairly junior and somehow managed to crack a big brief, next thing we know we're in the Four Seasons Beverley Hills shooting an ad with Ruby Wax. 

The night before the shoot, Ruby, who’d been making documentaries, had met up with Zsa Zsa Gabor and asked if we could get her in the ad. The client said yes and we wrote her in. Zsa Zsa appeared in the ad that went out on TV.

The Fosters campaign also stands out as hugely memorable, but that’s a sit down with a glass of wine story. But it involves Danny Kleinman and Liam Gallagher...

What piece of creative work, that you didn't create yourself, do you respect and admire?

Too many to mention! 

There are some that make me wish I’d done them.

I really enjoy the funny ones, like the legend Paul Silburn’s John West salmon ad.

I like ads that change categories like the Sony Bravia ad, Bouncy Balls.

And the Puma, After Hours Athlete, directed by the late great Ringan Ledwidge.

Right now, what do you think is the best/most exciting thing about the creative industry?

The gloves are off, there’s a brave new world going on. 

We can choose to have a life and do our work, and tech is getting exciting. 

We have a long way to go but at least there’s language around some of the systemic problems the industry has which I hope will go to help.

Best strapline of all time?

There are so many. One that stands out, is Combos Pizza – What your mom would feed you, if your mom were a man.

Then there’s, Stella Artois, Reassuringly expensive. Heineken refreshes the parts other beers cannot reach. VW drivers wanted… just so many.

If you weren't in the creative industry, what would you be doing and why?

I’d like to think I’d be a traveling the world writing a book, or an architect designing fabulous buildings.

I’d quite like to have been an aristocratic Victorian lady who languished in her bed all day mostly doing nothing. Time travel is OK, right?

What advice would you give others wanting to make the move towards a career in the creative industry?

Bring yourself, your whole self, be you, don’t be apologetic, don’t change for anyone.

And ask all the questions,. There is no such thing as a stupid question.

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