Six Things You Didn't Know About Ogilvy China's Graham Fink

He Got His First Job in Advertising by Wearing a Clever Disguise

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Graham Fink
Graham Fink

Graham Fink, one of the U.K.'s most-respected creative directors, decided two and a half years ago to do something completely unexpected: He moved to China.

As Ogilvy & Mather's chief creative officer for greater China, Mr. Fink oversees 20 offices in the region.

His career has taken U-turns before. After launching Saatchi & Saatchi's classic "Face" campaign for British Airways in 1989 (a commercial filmed from overhead, with hundreds of people on the ground forming the shape of a human face), he had a stint as a director of commercials and music videos, including two for Enya.

In China, he led the "Coke Hands" campaign showing outstretched hands sharing a soda, which Ogilvy says is the most awarded campaign in Coca-Cola's history.

In this week's edition of "Six Things," Mr. Fink talks about tubas, his former high-jumping excellence and the prank that helped him break into the business.

1. He dressed up as an old man to get his first job in advertising. When a creative director for Collett Dickenson Pearce told him the agency wasn't interested in hiring students and wanted senior staff instead, Mr. Fink wasn't discouraged. "I returned the next day with my hair dyed gray, wrinkles on my face, wearing an old mac, and completed the look with a walking stick," he said. "They hired me."

2. He played tuba in the school brass band. "I really wanted to play the trombone, but there were only two available, and a few other schoolmates beat me to it," said Mr. Fink, who grew up moving around the U.K. as his father, a butler, followed job opportunities.

3. He wasn't sporty as a kid, though he was "pretty damn good" at the high jump. "My personal best was 1.61 meters, which was almost my height at the time."

4. At one point he wanted to join the Navy -- going to art school was a last-minute decision.

5. He made a song that was a '90s club hit in London. When British hostage John McCarthy was freed from five years' captivity in Lebanon in 1991, Mr. Fink made a track celebrating his release – "my only music venture," he said. "It was all about peace." He sampled bits of a TV interview with Mr. McCarthy and hired an engineer, a rapper and musicians. He performs on the record too, cooing like a dove.

6. He's having his first solo art exhibition in January 2014. Over the years, he's taken thousands of photos of objects -- like clouds, fires, chipping paint -- whose abstract shapes remind him of faces, an obsession of his. The show, at London's Riflemaker gallery, is a selection of his best photos printed on marble. "I have never shown my work to anyone before, so I'm very excited and a little nervous," he said.

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