The fast and the fearless - Nils Leonard, Uncommon

I caught up with the inspirational Nils Leonard from Uncommon Creative Studios and we covered all the topics you would expect from setting up a new agency to winning Campaigns ‘Agency of the Year’ Award. But that isn’t what makes this a must listen episode. It’s the fear. The fear that comes from the stories we tell ourselves that stop us from achieving our vision. The excuses not to back ourselves on a new business venture because we think we might be too late or someone else is better than us. Those fears are real and stop us achieveing our dreams.
Nils Leonard has spent over 20 years in the advertising and design industries working at a number of the most recognised agencies in London. In 2017, he founded the Uncommon Creative Studio alongside Lucy Jameson and Natalie Graeme, which aims to be “a creative studio building brands the real world is happy exists”.

This episode is split into 3 parts, including a bonus segment from my recording with Nils over a year ago. Here's what we covered:

Part 1 - Creating brands you wish existed 
  • How Nils turned art into a career
  • How he found the 1 ad land job at the Job centre
  • The importance of culture & trust in the turnaround of Grey
  • Why it’s always the people and not the name above the door you should care about
  • The importance of being so clear on your mission that people choose to be in the room
  • How Volvo Life Paint was the inspiration for Uncommon
  • Why you should invest in your own idea rather than begging others to do it
  • Mystery project names, secret hotels and being followed by private investigators
  • How Halo coffee came into the world
  • Why the stories we tell ourselves manifest who we are
  • How panic drove the early success for the agency
  • The power of a website with nothing on it
  • Walking away from a major new client because it didn’t lead to Uncommon work
  • Giving young men confidence via the one second suit
Part 2 - The Uncommon work
  • Why Uncommon’s B&Q campaign brought tears to my eyes
  • Uncovering a real truth that led to those funny bright orange posters for B&Q
  • Blowing things up with Reality TV stars for ITV
  • Why we need to make the Ad break as entertaining as the programme
  • Backing start ups with an Uncommon accelerator
  • Moving from advertising to design, experience and new product launches
  • Why the Olympics needs to hold up a mirror to the world right now
  • An Uncommon year to win Campaign Agency of the Year
  • How the Pandemic crisis put creativity into overdrive
  • The emotion of seeing people in the office again
  • Nils gives his best advice to CMO’s on how to get to the best work
  • Painting a picture of cultural success as much as commercial success
  • Don’t be ashamed of talking about your personal ambition to make an impact in the world
  • Jim Carey “if you can fail at what you don’t love why wouldn’t you risk trying at something you do”
  • How fear gives us loopholes to get out of what we should be doing
  • Why you can’t brief someone else on your dream. Only you can make it happen.
Part 3 - a pre-pandemic view on the world
  • An early mistake by Nils when he did ‘release copy’ too early how Jon shut down the underground
  • Why your personal purpose matters and how we are seeing a return to creativity
  • The Gigabyte landfill of social content that no-body is asking for
  • How people used to look forward to the Ads as much as the programs themselves
  • Is the fire in your belly stronger than the fear in your head?
  • Breaking the internet with BrewDog’s first ever TV Ad
  • How we entered the age of outrage and sharing what we are offended by
  • Why you should treat outdoor like Instagram
  • The woods are burning so make a choice because everything we do is something we don’t do
  • How making good work is actually a magnet for talent
  • What the Uncensored CMO’s mission should be to galvanise people to start their own venture
  • Make a difference in the world because our time is short
The fast and the fearless - Nils Leonard, Uncommon
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