My Media Week: Paul Harper

This week, Paul Harper, director of Turner Commercial Productions, CNN International, reacts to new briefs from across the globe and reveals why, despite living in Essex, he'll always be a Soho boy at heart

Paul Harper: director of Turner Commercial Productions, CNN International
Paul Harper: director of Turner Commercial Productions, CNN International


My day begins at 6.15am with ablutions and then the commute from darkest Essex. I've already received mail from Japan before I’ve even stepped out of the house. I’ve got options on my trains in and I generally pick one where I'm assured a seat for the one-hour commute into London.

I manage to get a lot done for the guys in Tokyo on the train, before Paris and Munich wake up for start of business, CET (Central European Time). I spend a good part of the journey watching the latest Moto GP race on catch-up. Then I face more options into Soho – will it be the Central, District and Circle or Metropolitan Line?

Now I'm on GMT.

In my global role, it helps to think of my day in terms of time zones on an atlas. It starts with Asia in the morning and winds out so that in the evening, I'm likely to be speaking to clients on the west coast of the US, South America and every place in between.

Having an agenda for Monday is pretty pointless, really, as I often find myself discussing initiatives with sales directors or taking briefs with exec level. I'm on everybody else's agenda it would appear, so I leave my diary to start on a Tuesday. I do have one rule, though, never arrange a shoot for a Monday and aim to get to bed by 10.30pm – oh, that’s two rules.


TCP is CNN Commercial's in-house creative agency – a team made up of 13 across London, Singapore and Abu Dhabi, each from a commercial creative background and featuring a gamut of skills across design, writing, production and web development.

Today is a full-on day of meetings. First as chair on our weekly meeting with the Turner Commercial Productions (TCP) London team to discuss the workload and priorities and so on. Then to thrash out some ideas for new briefs that have come in. Let's have three ideas and storyboards to go, by Friday.

Later on it's a numbers con-call with global ad sales heads. With everybody on the line, the agenda is revenue tracking and AOB today.


This morning the topic of conversation between myself and my creative director, John Malone, not surprisingly is TV – on another channel. It's a conversation about the ads and their scheduling, rather than the programmes themselves!

As an agency that services international advertisers, with teams around the world, briefs can hit us from any angle and at any time of the day, so we have to be adaptable.

On any particular day we could be communicating with clients in Japan about a production coordinated in Singapore and executed in Abu Dhabi, all creatively led and signed off from London.

Today I'm making sure that the Singapore team have everything they need. We try and give our international teams as much autonomy as possible, but we’re always here to support – whether that's with guidance or resources.

At lunchtime, I stretch my legs and walk down to the same café in London I've been visiting for years – I won’t say how many – the famous Bar Italia, on Frith Street. It's where television was switched on for the first time in 1926, so even there I still can't completely get away from it, but I have a proper coffee and meet all sorts of people. We’ll just talk about sport, life – everything and nothing. I ran into Ewan McGregor there a while back and we had a chat about bikes and travel. I really am a Soho boy.

I don't tend to read any particular publication regularly – trade or otherwise. And I'm honestly not specifically following what other advertisers are really doing – largely because I don't measure our success against anyone else's work. If I notice something, then it's doing its job. But obviously I'm absorbed with advertising, both as a consumer and professionally.

For personal research, if you want to call it that, I have been working my way through Richard Yates’
short stories – the author of 'Revolutionary Road'. They're a quick burst; a punch in the gut. There's something similar about the way you tell a brand story. It has to have a certain tone and approach and draw out an emotion and response from the audience. I take mental notes.


TCP works on advertising projects for a breadth of brands across diverse sectors. Today I have a catch-up with one of our clients who wants to feature the advertising content we've created for them not only on their own platform and beyond – so we’re looking at how we can make this happen from a rights standpoint.’

In the afternoon, I check in on the progress of one of our new digital and TV projects – it's one of our developing suites of white-label products. The storyboards are coming along nicely and on time for tomorrow, too. My role is to discover opportunities with our sales team and develop new commercial products that we can take to market that are relevant and desirable to our clients – it’s ticking over but day-to-day takes precedence for now.


Every day is a deadline day really, but Fridays are special – drop deadline day. It can get pretty hectic as ads need to be trafficked for the weekend, digital content needs to go live and we can't leave until the inventory is in the system. We're focused on this and handling any final changes that may come in as a priority. Well done, those storyboards are good to go. Next!

Once we're done I can get back home and am able to resume my weekend job as taxi driver, dog-walker and spider-catcher. I have two daughters, so the weekend doesn't really involve much "winding down". But I’m not complaining.

The Harper household goes very much like this at weekends: drop the youngest at street dance classes for Saturday, with the rest of our time divided between cooking and helping our eldest pick her university options. Our lives are a series of deadlines it seems, so we're trying to offer some guidance, but it’s not proving easy as there’s too much choice – like everything these days. I take the dog for a walk across the fields and hit the sack about 11pm. Well, it is Friday.

Age: Ask me
Favourite Media: Decoupage – wiki it.
My biggest inspiration: My wife and children
Dream job: This one is pretty great, but I'm just scratching the surface<
Not a lot of people know..: I like scented candles

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