Leading Studio North’s creative output is a huge task, given the complexity of briefs and variety of communication challenges we regularly face. But standing 6’5” tall, Lee Ash has both the physical stature and big bold ideas to rise to the challenge every time.

Find out more about his appreciation of the Nike brand, taking time out on the beach and how his career smoothly progressed to become Salford’s answer to Don Draper.

Tell us a little bit more about your role at Studio North?

As Associate Creative Director, my role is ultimately to work with the team to make sure we get as much out of the brief as possible and create big and memorable ideas.

How did you end up being a creative director? What was your career path?

I started out as a Junior Art Director with a great advertising agency working on some interesting brands. These ranged from global sports brands to Savile Row tailors and everything that went out of the studio had to be a great idea, executed exceptionally. It was a great grounding and instilled principles and fundamentals which I hold dear today.

I then moved to a start-up agency which had a fantastic Creative Director at the helm – and a clear motto ’Think Harder’. I moved for the opportunity and not the money. It is a lesson I try to instil into all young creatives – seek out the opportunity and the money will follow. Here we won our first six pitches against some of the biggest agencies around with a load of award-winning work. And it was there that I progressed to Art Director and then Deputy Creative Director. From there I moved onto become a Creative Director at various agencies where my role is as much about helping the team develop as it is about producing the work.

What would you say are some of the main challenges a creative director faces in 2019?

The main challenge has always been the same and that’s to be the catalyst for great ideas. But, I’d say that in 2019 it’s trying to maintain the standards and attention to detail for these ideas – clients seem to want everything tomorrow and with the diversity of channels – agencies can fall into the trap of just ‘getting stuff out!’ There has also been a shift in budgets – we need to be much more savvy in the way we engage audiences on tighter budgets. We are also living in a world of information overload so getting the message out there and getting people to respond is more difficult now.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration from everywhere. I read or rather devour as many books from a diverse range of topics as I can. I walk a lot and try to ’take in’ as much as I can. You won’t see me walking along staring at a phone – a real bugbear of mine!

What do you like to do outside of work? How do you relax and switch off?

The only time I truly relax is on holiday – I learnt an important lesson a few years ago which is ‘when you’re in the office – be in the office and when you’re on the beach – be on the beach!’ It’s important to separate the two. I also use the gym three times a week to keep fit and get away from the desk.

Which brands just, you know, get it right and why?

Obvious maybe –  but for me it’s Nike. Nobody does branding like Nike – they transcend footwear and are unwavering in their brand message and tone of voice. They are constantly innovating and never rest on their laurels – as a large corporation now, you could see them pulling back on their campaigns and focussing on their rich heritage BUT NO they keep doing campaigns that are innovative and people talk about and more often than not create controversy. Just Do It they say, and they do!

Powerful idea or beautiful execution?

Both, I don’t think you can have one without the other. You can have the best idea in the world but with poor execution it dies.

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