5 Questions with @stevemilbourne…Ramble

Big Deals Tip Their Hat For A Lady

The first conversation I had with @stevemilbourne in person, I knew he was a Big Deal. He jumped right into my teasing him about having a sex dungeon. (Yeah…there were things going on in the news that related the topic.)

Over time, I found Steve’s sense of humor only be matched by his amazing ideas with his creative partner, Phil. Phil is, in Steve’s favorite word “AWESOME” as well.

Recently Steve made his first trip to The Isle of Manhattan for The Clio Awards. We got to play tourist and walked over the Brooklyn Bridge to South Street Seaport while Steve explained how to become a Big Deal. Being an avid student of such important information, I couldn’t keep it to myself in the same way Gwyneth Paltrow’s site GOOP doesn’t hold back when she gets cooking tips from Mario Batali (say that sentence out loud in one breath) here you go:

Location: London
Vocation: Creative Director at Sony Music UK
Sign: You mean star sign? (grrlgenius note: YES! This way I can do a capability quiz in Cosmo i.e. Do your signs match up?) Sagittarius

1) What is the difference between being a “really big deal” and a “big deal?

Being a ‘big deal’ obviously means having many, many leather-bound books. It means possessing fine mahogany furniture and having a crystal decanter of scotch. In certain situations it requires keeping an office drawer full of brand new white shirts.


Being a ‘really big deal’ means that you don’t have to make well used reference to things like Anchorman or Mad Men when describing yourself… you probably don’t even know or care what these things are. Instead, other lesser people (probably nervously) make these references about you in jest, never to your face. I’m not quite there yet.

Grrlgenius note: Seriously? Mad Men is the elixir of Big Deals in New York who all like to think Don Draper is based on them.

2) How can you spot a real “big deal” vs. a poser?

Volkswagen said something about the ‘power of understatement’.. I’m a firm believer… though being northern, maybe I’m just inherently tight with money.. Ferrari?? Give me a nice um.. Volkswagen..?

3) As a self-described Geek what is your favorite video game and how many hours a day do you play it?
Asking a favourite video game question is a bit like asking someone what their favourite song is. It’s all about what mood you’re in and who you’re with!
However, I must admit to having a love of World Of Warcraft… Yes its possibly the geekiest of games but it’s just so immense and engaging! You could play it for years and never experience it all.

Also, I see young teenagers playing it and I think man, these guys could and probably should be leaders of the future, in business or politics etc. I think the whole structure of it teaches certain social and leadership skills that kids don’t often get elsewhere… I mean, when you see a 16-year-old that can successfully lead, organise and manage groups of 25 people to solve what are essentially giant complex puzzles, in real-time, with each person contributing a different ‘need’ to the group (i.e. if one or two fail, they all fail), that’s really something.

Just last week I’ve been sucked into Red Dead Redemption on the PS3… Grand Theft Auto in the wild west… I’m hooked! (or maybe that should be ‘lassoed’?)

4) As more companies adapt to open floor plan situations, what would you advise they take into account for inspiring maximum creativity?

I think they need to find a balance. Sometimes companies can suffer when the environment is ‘too’ open as it can promote a culture of people keeping their head down at their computer screens so as to appear busy.
It can also be frustrating if you’re in an overly noisy environment… there’s a big difference between atmosphere and distractmosphere (yes… I just made that up).
I like it when there are places to escape to, I was recently in M&C Saatchi in London and they have all these little garden sheds dotted through the office that people can hide in and work through their thoughts and ideas.

There's too much stress, think kittens...ahhh

Really I think all that companies need to take into account is that the creative process isn’t a 9 to 5 machine. If you’re tasked with being creative often the best place to be isn’t at your desk or even in the office at all, Phil and I often take a bus ride to somewhere pointless just to fire ideas at each other. At Sony we’re judged on results, not by a time-sheet and that’s great.

5) The last couple of years you and your creative partner, Phil have executed and won awards for your visions. What was your favorite creation and how did you come up with it?

That’s a tough one as I’ve loved working on them all, I love it when you have the ‘ahh’ moment of a great idea, but I love more seeing them come to life… If I had to choose though, I’d say my personal favourite from the last year is probably the online campaign we did for Editors in the run up to their album release (In This Light And On This Evening).

It was by no means the most wide-reaching or expensive campaign we’ve done but it was definitely one of the more technically challenging so that made it really good fun to work out.

The album is all about London at night so we wanted to do something special to put the record into the context it was written in. We decided to hack our own 360 degree panoramic photos, shot in London, at night, into the Google Street View platform. Each location previewed a track from the album and we art directed the shots with hidden meaning from the lyrics. The photos (taken by James Royall) were really beautiful and striking too.

Editors really liked the idea and we spent two days shooting these panoramas around London featuring the band and a bunch of their hardcore fans that we invited along too, it was really good fun.

It was such a technical challenge on the budget we had, we nearly gave one developer a nervous breakdown! But we got it done in the end and it’s a really engaging album listening experience. We recently got ‘Best In Book’ in the Creative Review Annual 2010 for it too so we were over the moon.

(Grrlgenius note: See? Steve REALLY is a Big Deal.)

How we came up with it? Well, we knew from the brief and insight work that we needed to do something to re-engage the bands hardcore fans and the music press just prior to album release with a creative that was interesting and engaging. The London theme being evident, we ventured out to an old pub we found next to Big Ben… after several hours of taking absolute crap to each other, and several dozen pints of real London ale.. we came onto this crazy line of thought about whether we could hack our own images into Google Street View… the rest came from there!


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