Point of View: Creative, Dan Rutherford

Interview with Dan Rutherford, Executive Creative Director at Karmarma

Dan Rutherford
Executive Creative Director Karmarama


Point of View: Creatives

In a few words, can you tell us who you are what your job title is?
I’m Dan Rutherford and I’m a digital ECD here at Karmarama – I’ll be the guy responsible for overseeing what we’re currently calling data-driven creativity. But there’s a lot more to it than that...
Did you have a mentor at one point in your life and how did that person help guide you?
I’ve had a few. When I was at Outside Line, the two founders Ant Cauchi and Lloyd Salmons had a big impact on me and my career. I was originally brought in to head up the social media team but they quickly realised I was OK in front of clients and that I could sit between both left and right brain thinking. Back then it was necessary for me to wear all kinds of hats, as we were a young, growing agency with limited, but talented internal resource. They really shaped me into who I am today, so I have lot to thank them for. We had a great understanding too – #family. That’s for you Ant x
If you were going to choose one project to post on AdForum to represent your creative vision, what would it be?
That’s tricky.

I suppose one of my proudest achievements has been working on Rekorderlig Cider. It’s been my baby really. It spans many phases of my career, over a number of years, at two very different agencies – beginning with the conceptualisation and creation of the brand’s ‘Beautifully Swedish’ essence at Outside Line. This eventually culminated in the creation of the award-winning and very punchy, ballsy, brave TV spot called ‘Silver Skaters’ – produced at Saatchi & Saatchi London. The brand was at a bit of crossroads in its growth and we needed to create something for people to remember us for, thus driving awareness and consideration. Once people bought Rekorderlig they loved it, but the problem we had was awareness (despite punching four times above our share of voice versus share of market)– which is testament to the power of the brand, I suppose. The ad certainly did that. For me, it demonstrated a pure (slightly nuts) interpretation of the brand essence in a new, fresh way for the cider category.
Is there a band or an artist that you listen to most during the work week to help you relax and spark creativity and if so, who is it?
I like background music with a decent tempo. For the last year or so one of my go-to choices has been Moderat (there’s a really good live performance on YouTube). It really helps me concentrate when writing new creative. I tend to use it as the default playlist for when I’m up against it – you know, one of those ‘I’ve got to write this deck or idea in an hour before the client arrives’ type scenarios. We’ve all been there. Nothing like a time pressure to focus the mind.
What would be the one word you would use to describe your office’s culture?
Well, having been here for no more than a few weeks, I’d say the overriding feeling is friendly. There doesn’t seem to be any airs and graces about Karmarama – which is massively refreshing. There’s nothing worse than creating a seniority divide between the bulk of the agency (talent) and the C-level execs. That’s nice.
What can you do creatively when working on branded content that you might not be able to do in the “traditional” ad process?
Think more about the individual, rather than the ‘segment’.

I’ve been trained to think from below-the-line up, rather than the traditional above-the-line down approach, so my thinking comes from a very different place, spanning the entire comms journey. I tend to stress test the idea to ensure it works in more than a script format.

Data is both a gift and a curse in many respects. Treat it with care and empathy. Understand that there’s a very clear value exchange that needs to take place between brands and the consumer. This is crucial. Make it relevant and contextual, yes – but be more than mindful of the fine line that’s playing out too. Be useful. Not creepy.
If you had a chance to be President and/ or King for a day and can enact any rule into law, what would it be?
I’ve always wanted to change the way we (not me, broadcasters) report the news. It’s so hinged on fear that it’s no longer informative – in my opinion anyway. So, in my new role as ‘master of everything’ I would make the news entirely positive without being over the top. There’s more good in the world than evil – so let’s show it. Positivity breeds positivity. Fear breeds fear.
What do you think will be the big change in either technology or culture that will most affect advertising in the next 5 years?
GDPR is going to impact the answer to this question in a big, big way, so maybe ask me again in six months’ (or maybe even six years’) time. Who knows how consumers are going to react? I think it will create a more data-aware culture. The relationship between brands and their audiences and the information we have on them will come under the spotlight. You’ve seen it in recent events even before the introduction of GDPR – so I can only imagine the spotlight will grow brighter. Brands will take time to adapt and then we will start to see how it may affect technology-led creative and advertising.

Time will tell…


Dan Rutherford
Executive Creative Director Karmarama