August 26, 2010

Tom Dot Com

I while back I started a series profiling some of digital industry’s greats. My first profile was Lars Bastholm, Chief Creative Officer at Ogilvy New York. This time around I want to take a look at Tom Eslinger – Worldwide Interactive Creative Director at Saatchi and Saatchi.

What does a WW Interactive Creative Director do exactly? According to the Saatchi website “Tom spearheads Saatchi & Saatchi’s fast-growing worldwide interactive capability. He works from New Zealand and London with both a worldwide focus across network clients for interactive creative, strategy and operations, and a London focus with respect to UK and European clients to develop interactive and mobile initiatives and programs”.

Or in his own words: “I spend my day looking for opportunities to connect agency creation, media, planning and account management, with interactivity and keep it as close to the centre of the process as possible. I make way for great ideas to get made and I work on ideas for our clients around the world. I mentor and learn everyday. I celebrate our successes and make sure we learn from our defeats. I’m building teams around the world, so I keep track of talent and try to seduce the good ones to come over to our side. I think I’ve got the best job in the world and I remind myself everyday”.

Let’s take a look at how he got where he is today…

Originally from North Dakota, in May 1990 Tom graduated Minneapolis College of Art and Design with his thesis project: an interactive catalogue for clothing company The Gap. One of his professor’s there, Hazel Gamec, had set up a design school in Wanganui New Zealand and asked Tom to go there to teach. While there he co-developed the Wanganui Polytechnique design degree course, the Design Survival Camp student conference and worked on a CD-ROM (remember those?) project for Charles Spencer Anderson Design that won awards from Communication Arts magazine and Type Directors’ Club (USA). After moving from the academic world to the commercial one in 1995 it was not long until he found himself at Saatchi & Saatchi Interactive as an art director. A year later he was Creative Director and developed projects for Telecom New Zealand, New Zealand Rugby Union and Adidas. At the same time he was a contributing typeface designer to RayGun magazine (USA) 1994-96.

He also created the font BEAST, used for the Swatch International Halloween campaign (1999). It wouldn’t be long until he would be snatched from his beloved adopted home of New Zealand to move to London culminating in his current position as WW Interactive Creative Director.

He’s been a judge at Cannes 3 times and was the Cyber Lions jury president in 2007. Tom is a multiple Cannes Lion winner himself, most recently taking Gold in 2006 for online and mobile innovation with Rubbish Film Festival and receiving 4 Shortlists at Cannes in 2007 across Cyber and Titanium. In 2009 the standout win was for the T-Mobile Dance viral video/TV ad winning Gold in Direct, a Gold and Bronze in Film, Silver in Media, Silver in the Cyber and Bronze in the Titanium category. While Tom isn’t credited he no doubt played a role in making the project.

He remains quite an elusive guy and it’s hard to find out alot about him. We know that Tom lives in London (and as much time in New Zealand as possible), haunting local comic shops and snowfields, snowboard under arm. This interview with Tom for the 2010 Comic Con shows his passion for world of graphic art and scifi.

Some other interesting glimpses into the mind of Tom can be found in this interview on the MobiThinking website where he shares his views about mobile marketing. In AdAge, prior to the Cannes Lions, he gave his views about what he thought would do well in 2010.

But in the end it is the work he helps bring to the world that shows what kind of creative leader he is. This project for UK charity Childline was created to let young people know they can now express how they are feeling online as well as by phone. Their idea was to use music and words so they created a fully interactive campaign based around mash-ups. They got world famous musician Paul Hartnoll from Orbital to collaborate with hot digital film director Dennis Lui. Together they recorded real kids expressing themselves with just a single word or sound. From this Paul created a unique music track. Dennis then projected the track with accompanying images on an urban landscape. The footage was also turned into an ad. The ad drove kids to a website where they could create their very own mash-up and enter it into a competition where the winning entry would become a real TV ad. See the case below…

My next victim will be Michael Lebowitz of Big Spaceship. Unless I hear from his lawyer.