Creativity 50 2015

Creativity 50 2015: Duncan Milner

Chief Creative Officer, TBWA/Media Arts Lab

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Duncan Milner
Duncan Milner Credit: Cal Aurand
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Duncan Milner has long been a fixture at TBWA/Media Arts Lab, the Omnicom network's dedicated Apple agency. Lee Clow for years had been the primary person to handle the Apple relationship, but as he stepped away from day-to-day duties years ago, Mr. Milner was among the people to help steer the Apple brand. "I have worked with Duncan for more than 15 years and it has been a blast," said Phil Schiller, senior VP of worldwide marketing. "We meet every week to work on Apple's advertising and you could not wish for a better partner and friend." Mr. Schiller called out recent work led by Mr. Milner, like the "World Gallery," which included billboards featuring photos shot with an iPhone, a campaign that won the Outdoor Grand Prix at Cannes. Mr. Schiller also applauded the work Mr. Milner led for the launch of the iPhone 6, Apple TV and the holiday ad featuring Stevie Wonder and Andra Day.

Ad Age: What's your definition of creativity?

Duncan Milner: Surprise. It's finding a way to take a fact or a truth and expressing it in a surprising and delightful way. In a way that's fresh and unexpected.

Ad Age: What was your biggest creative challenge of the past year, and how did you tackle it?

Mr. Milner: [It's] the same thing every day, week, month or year -- it's doing something great for Apple. Out of any brand out there, Apple deserves "great." It's our constant bar and I hate any time we feel like we might be falling short. My challenge is to inspire the people I work with to do their best work every day and to give them the time and space to do it.

I am also never tackling these challenges alone. I have partners at Media Arts Lab and at Apple who are just as committed as I am -- sharing the ambition and challenge of doing great work for the brand we all love.

Ad Age: What's your advice to anyone in a creative slump? How do you fight your creative demons?

Mr. Milner: My advice to anyone who's in a creative slump is to just keep working through it. Keep looking at the problem from every possible angle. Write and write and write. Keep designing. Some of our best work has been born from multiple failures. It's an iterative process where every idea builds on the idea before it.

Ad Age: How do you fight your creative demons?

Mr. Milner: I'm not sure that I have creative demons, but I think I'm driven by the same thing that drives a lot of creative people: insecurity. The belief that all your best work is behind you. That you're not as talented as the person next to you. I think that insecurity drives me as it drives a lot of creative people.

Ad Age: What's the best advice you got when it comes to nurturing your creativity?

Mr. Milner: The best advice I've gotten for nurturing creativity was at the end of Steve Jobs' Stanford commencement address: "Stay hungry. Stay foolish."