My Media Week: Justin Gibbons

This week Justin Gibbons, creative director at Arena Media, tells Media Week how cycling to work is the best cure for his grumpiness, confesses a love of The Stone Roses and reveals how a full English breakfast at Charlotte Street Hotel is a great stimulant for any early morning meeting.

Justin Gibbons: creative director for Arena Media
Justin Gibbons: creative director for Arena Media


It's school holidays and everybody is asleep as I leave. I cycle in at very high speed. If I don't cycle in to work, I am grumpy all day. I normally feel the endorphins kick in as I pass Pentonville Prison.

I have set the whole day aside to pull together Arena's latest thought leadership booklet. It's about mobile, and ideas have come from all over the agency. Some really good stuff and yet again I am forced to come to terms with the fact that most people in the agency are smarter than me. 


The day begins with a trip to Bauer to talk to Nick Jenkins and his sales team about creativity and what makes agencies tick. Facebook offers me a check-in at either Heat or Zoo magazines. I opt for Zoo and immediately feel younger.

Q Academy is an initiative to make sure all of the specialist knowledge gets shared. Today I learn about "interpreting impression share".  The search guys remind me of the TV departments of old – funny and good with numbers, and definitely the best people to go to the pub with. I married a TV buyer. After this I meet a friend for a drink after work. Strangely, he wants to meet at the Sanderson. It is its usual mix of old men with suspiciously young-looking women who seem to laugh at every joke.


A small senior team at the agency are working with a company called K2 who use the training principles of elite athletics to develop business teams. Fascinating stuff, especially in the afterglow of the Olympics. Henry Daglish the deputy MD has become obsessed with a book they have recommended called, 'Does it make the boat go faster?'. He is clearly a frustrated rower.

Lunch at l’Etoile with Ged Weston from Clear Channel. A little corner of France is invaded by Yorkshire for a very pleasant two hours. Topics range from NFC to The Stone Roses (though mainly The Stone Roses).

Pedro Avery, our ebullient MD, has a habit of grabbing you just as you are about to leave. Each conversation lasts exactly 30 minutes and is the cause of many domestic disputes. Today I am ensnared at 6.30pm and I leave at 7pm with a big idea for Betfair to think about and a breakfast appointment with Pedro in the morning. I cycle home at supersonic speed and make my apologies for missing bath time. I fall asleep thinking of Pedro and poached eggs.


8am at Charlotte Street Hotel. Headhunter hour. I can't think of anything worse than a nervous chat with a new employer over a full English breakfast. The best jobs always come at the oddest times and usually over a beer. Pedro and I don't exactly put the world to rights, but a few corners of the globe are definitely improved.

Part of my job as creative director is to work on lots and lots of things. I have developed an approach called 'Fast Strategy', which gets good thinking going quickly.  We cover a lot of ground in each session, from behavioural economics to the client's favourite campaigns. The whole thing takes an hour and each time a good idea bubbles up. I love running things like this.

I am speaking at the Advertising Week Conference in NYC in October and I have an end-of-day meeting with Kathleen Saxton with whom I will be sharing the floor. We used to drink in The Hope when we were at PHD together and it was an acknowledged "hole" back then. When the loo flooded one summer, I remember the staff putting upside down buckets on the floor to be used as stepping stones to get to the urinals. Now it has been given the modern pub Farrow and Ball makeover. We discuss our talk on 'Risky Business', the psychology of risk in business.


Work Research is flourishing since the move to Arena. Stuart and Rhi seem to think this is something to do with them running things properly without me. I, however, know better. Research is such an interesting business. Your life lurches from segmentations, to City Boys, to sausages.  Today, we're talking about ITV’s amazing new commercial study and some EEG neuroscience we've been doing with JCDecaux.

A week in Cornwall beckons with Jen and our three kids. I have visions of surfing beaches, yummy breakfasts and the odd moment of relaxation. Cycle home.

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