An interview with Paul Mellor Interviews

What are you passionate about? What motivates and inspires you?
Unfortunately and shamefully, passion is now such an overused word. Its true meaning has become devalued because people say things like “I’m passionate about brand” or “I’m passionate about Microsoft Excel”. What the fuck?! Anyone who says that needs to get laid.

However, what motivates me are ideas. Ideas are the centre of my life. There are plenty of ideas out there in the world, the vast majority of which are shit. But good ones, I mean really fucking good ones are rarer than hens teeth, they’re almost ethereal. And in their infancy they’re incredibly fragile. Last year I wrote a blog about the fragility of ideas, and how you should protect them until they’re fully formed, otherwise knucklehead beancounters will kill them. Fuck beancounters.

For me, inspiration can come from anywhere. But there’s one hard and fast rule: it certainly won’t come from sitting in front of your computer. I like to get outside, I’ve had moments of inspiration walking on a beach in the freezing rain on New Years Day, having a cuppa with grandparents in old peoples homes, I even had a blinding idea while sat in my dentists chair.

Get outside, talk to interesting people, go to the pub at midday, travel the world, thumb a lift. Essentially get out of your bubble, because that’s where the really good thinking happens.

What is your greatest professional (and/or personal) accomplishment?
Oh that’s a tough one. I’ve been in the industry for 16 years now and for the last 10 years I’ve run Mellor&Smith. In the middle of the credit crunch, on the 22nd January 2009 I woke up with a solid hangover because the day before I told my boss he was a cock and he could stick his job up his arse. That morning I opened a bank account, put £400 in to cover the internet and phone for a few months, I got on the phone and Mellor&Smith was born. We had no clients, no track record, nothing except bravado and ideas. Everyone told us to piss off.

Along the way, competitors have come and gone, some have sold to Martin Sorrell, others have struggled to make it work. We’ve grown steadily through some incredibly turbulent times – Credit Crunch, Trump, Brexit – because we’ve consistently put ideas at the heart of what we do.

I think growing a decent business is my greatest professional accomplishment so far. However in 2017 I started the event series, Take Fucking Risks. It’s already grown to one of (if not the biggest) creative event series in London. It’s liberating, it’s fearless and I can’t wait to see what we do with it. So maybe ask me again in three years time!

Who has been your biggest influence?
From a personal point of view, three people have been a huge influence on me – my Dad, my brother Stevie and the better half of Mellor&Smith, James Smith. They’re all wonderfully kind, patient, talented and grounded. Exactly the kind of person I’d like to be if I could.

From a creative point of view, there are a few actually – Cindy Gallop, Dave Trott, Zaha Hadid, Bob Hoffman, Vivienne Westwood, Oliviero Toscani, Jimi Hendrix and Charles & Ray Eames. There’s a common theme to those guys, they’re all outsiders, they have loved sticking two fingers up at the establishment. I’m lucky to have met a few of them through Take Fucking Risks and I’m fortunate to count some as friends… but now I sound like a name dropping dickhead!

I’ve always loved outsiders, people who are a pain in the arse, incredible creatives who see things completely differently to everyone else.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given and who gave it?
I was having a coffee with Dave Trott a couple of years ago. I was telling him about a great idea I had for an upcoming pitch, I was 2 mins into explaining the idea, he cut me off and  said “If you can’t explain it in 30 seconds then it’s a bad idea”. I tried to counter by explaining it differently but the game was up, he’d sniffed out my bullshit and I just wanted the ground to swallow me up. It was a terrible feeling, I was humiliated and humbled, but that lesson has stayed with me. 

My other favourite piece of advice I’ve been given: always sit on the front row. It doesn’t matter if you’re at a conference, at the football or a comedy show. Sit on the god-damn front row, you never know what might happen.

What moved you to get involved with Creative Conscience?
Because you’re getting people (especially young people) to think differently. To think about their skills, how they can apply them differently, use them for something other than just the next client brief. It’s that word ‘conscience’, so many people are un-conscience in their behaviours they need a good slap round the face and a slice of real talk to get them to really think about what they’re doing.