A University of Newcastle alumni, Brendan Swansborough joined Enigma – a creative experience agency – as Senior Account Director in 2016 to work on a selection of key accounts.
Before making the journey back to Newcastle, Brendan was involved in a slew of internationally recognised campaigns, including two consecutively number one ranked NFL Superbowl ads for Budweiser and three campaigns for Samsung that leveraged innovative technologies to become some of the most awarded campaigns in the country. Since his time with Enigma, Brendan has been central to the McDonald Jones Homes’ Find Yourself at Home and 360 Reasons to be in Newcastle campaigns.
Brendan’s passion for creativity and innovation is the driving force behind a career that is built on creating iconic campaigns that emotionally connect brands with people.
- What career path led you to where you are now?
I guess I’d always been interested in advertising when I started out. Even before that when I was in high school my English teacher got me a gig in a TV commercial; it was for a Ranbuild Sheds ad in Tamworth and they had seven display sheds. They made me dress up as a cowboy and we were like the magnificent seven in town. Ranbuild cowboys had come to check it out.
It was a terrible, terrible ad and I thought if these guys can get away with this, I’m sure I can make a living out of it. Four years later I finished my degree in Newcastle studying business economics and I was like, I have to get my first gig in Saatchi & Saatchi in Sydney and I’m working with a bunch of really interesting brands like Tooheys New, Cadbury and Proctor & Gamble. For a kid from the country, it was all really exciting. I guess I got a little bit whipped up in the industry and the people in it, and from there, I’ve been really forcing it for the past eight years. To be able to work across a whole different bunch of different and really interesting agencies, right from Sydney to New York, is great.
I think probably the best thing that has happened to me is to be able to find an agency that I think is still world class and as great as those agencies, but is based in Newcastle.
- What motivates and drives you?
I think on a fundamental level, it’s connection. I think advertising is all about connections and I’ve always been really fascinated with connections and even just meeting people; what forms those relationships when you meet someone, you have a meaningful conversation and ten years later you’re the groomsman at his wedding. I love dissecting how that happens, and I think advertising is all about creating those meaningful connections between people and with brands. I love working very closely with clients to get under the skin of their brand to understand their problems and opportunities and then work with them to discover how to make their brand work, speak to people in a meaningful way. I really get a lot of enjoyment out of that.
The other thing I really enjoy is the process from the initial strategy through the creative process and concept development, right through to delivery and working with a media team. Now I just really enjoy working with my team and teaching them the intricacies of the process and staying in the process myself – it is very fulfilling.
- What has been your biggest learning curve in your career?
It’s funny; I’ve had so many learnings. On a really broad level and something I kind of realised after working in the industry for a while is that we need to put the brand in the work first. I think that was something that once I kind of understood it, everything started to click because it allowed you to have those difficult conversations internally with your creative team when you needed to push a bit harder and make the work better. I think it also enables you to confidently have conversations with your client and it enables you to take that risk because ultimately, you’re always putting the brand first. If any legal situations come up, it allows you to navigate them because you have that north star, that core value. I think that was a big fundamental learning.
Probably more recently is that every agency has a different culture – it’s different people, different batch of clients and everything has its own feel. I think most recently, moving to Newcastle, it’s been a learning curve in itself because the agency functions differently, because of the basis of the size of the clients and the different size of budgets; it’s been a bit of a learning curve.
It’s less so about advertising and campaigns and moreso about trying to under understand their business more holistically and the commercial reasons they do things and campaigns. It is helping them come up with longer term and short-term solutions around that and understanding the business side of things as opposed to pure advertising.
- Where would you like to be in 10 years?
10 years is long, but I think at this point I love the industry, I love the job, and I’m just really loving Newcastle, so it’ll definitely be working in the advertising industry in Newcastle. In what capacity, I’m not entirely sure, it depends on a lot of things. At this stage I’m just really loving working at Enigma; I feel like the agency is in the best place it has ever been and that’s the consensus internally and that momentum, you can just feel it. When you’re in agencies that aren’t firing, compared to when you’re in an agency that is, you can feel it. And that kind of carries everyone. Coupled with the momentum you feel on the streets in Newcastle, that’s what brought me back here; you can feel the energy, development and the progress. It’s really evident and I think those two things combined are just making me really excited for the future.
I’m not sure where I’ll be in 10 years’ time, but hopefully I’ll be doing big things in Newcastle in the advertising landscape.
- Have you had any significant Hunter-based mentors during your career that inspire you?
I think I’m really fortunate that every day I get to show up and work with some crazy smart, passionate creative people. Lisa Sutton Gardner is just – I have admired her from the first time that I met her. I think the fact that she has built Enigma up on her own over these years and got it to the point that it is now and is still at the helm – it’s just such an inspiring effort and I have all the respect in the world for her.
And I think then Pete Chapman as well; I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. He found me on LinkedIn and took me for a beer in Sydney and gave me the opportunity to do what I like and to do it in Newcastle. I’m very grateful for that and I think we’ve got a very similar kind of approach to the way we do things.
I love coming to work every day to people who I get along with and am inspired by.
I think other than that, I worked on a project last year called 360 reasons to be in Newcastle, which was a really fun, innovative project and it was a real community effort. Through that project I got introduced to Steve Wait from The Business Centre and Nathaniel Bavinton from the NCC Smart Cities team. I just really admired those guys, the drive they’ve got and their love for innovation; they just want to, at a community level, drive collaboration from all the different sectors.
Enigma is a nationally recognised creative experience agency with headquarters in Newcastle. They deliver ideas with grit. They’re ideas that work hard for you, your brand, your business. Enigma focuses on the creative experience – the sweet spot where idea, creative expression and channel combine to capture the attention and fire imagination. They live by their values of heart, respect, honesty and transparency - they drive their culture. It inspires their team to be nimble, curious, smart, and above all, collaborative.