Our Q&A with Telly Jury Council Member, David Lennon

Executive Creative Director, Fortune

David Lennon is an Executive Creative Director with a proven track record in building out successful creative teams at global media companies. Lennon joined the newly-independent Fortune Media (New York) in 2019 to launch FORTUNE Brand Studio. Lennon previously ran branded content teams at Vice Media (Brooklyn), WSJ (New York) and Bloomberg (New York & London). Lennon started his career in advertising at McCann-Erickson (Manchester). Lennon has created branded content and commercial campaigns for the world’s leading brands and organizations, helping to generate more than $550m in ad sales revenue and winning 250+ international creative awards, including D&AD Pencils, Webby and Cannes Lion awards.

How has your work structure changed with all of the fluctuations of the 2020 landscape?

It’s made commuting every single day to work seem like a strange thing for everyone to do, all of the time. I’ve had some really good ideas for projects at 7:30am, whilst I’m watching my son play with his toys. I don’t remember being as creative sat on a packed NJ Transit train. Working from home has forced me to think more about what I want us to produce as a team and how I can communicate that to the people I’m working with. It’s made me want to fix all the things that we didn’t fix before the lockdown and ensure we set aside more time to experiment and support each other when we have really good ideas. We definitely look out for each other more, now that we’re working remotely. And we talk about the global pandemic and the much-needed reckoning on racial injustice and what we can do individually and as a team to make a difference.

What new and exciting trends do you expect to see in your industry in the next 1-2 years?

I think with any kind of recession in the past, there has always been a real need from industry people for things to get back to normal as quickly as possible. But this time around, the talk is about how much is going to fundamentally change across companies and entire industries, forever. A lot of the clients we are working with are excited about the opportunities we have to rethink how we tell their stories. That’s a big positive that we take from all of this – everyone seems ready to experiment and take more educated risks than before.

What are the elements that make a successful creative team, in your opinion?

None of it is worth anything if you haven’t got a real respect for each other and a love for the work that you do… and that takes a lot of time and effort on all sides. Demonstrating that you’re dedicated to your work and your clients is always going to give you an edge over the competition as well. While you can’t win every pitch, or make every new campaign your best, you have to keep focused on doing all the right things, all of the time, and hold that line. It sounds almost flippant when you say it, but it is hard to do in real life with multiple pitches, productions and surprise projects coming out of nowhere. I also think you should always discuss your team’s mistakes out in the open, find ways to solve them together, then everyone can gain first-hand experience of dealing with that issue at the same time.

What do you think makes an award winning piece of work? What type of work stands out to you?

The moment that I see something and say “(bad word) …I wish I did that”. Stunning work that stops you in your tracks and makes you think about it days/months/years later. Other times, I just think “that’s boss” and want to show it to my team or my mates. It’s an immediate feeling that you get when you see great work.

What do your Telly wins mean to you and the team?

I’ve been lucky enough to work with talented teams and together we’ve won lots of Telly Awards. It’s made us happy and it’s made our clients happy and they give you a push to do something even better next time. We just won our first five Telly Awards at FORTUNE Brand Studio for a campaign with Zurich Insurance. We all loved working on that campaign from start to finish, with boss clients, boss crew, and boss shoots with world-class golfers. We shot Collin Morikawa in February before the lockdown in his first ever branded content interview, on the morning of his 23rd birthday in Las Vegas. Our Zurich campaign won Telly Awards in May. And then last Sunday, Collin went out and won the 2020 PGA Championship in his first appearance. We’ve been basking in reflected glory ever since.