Grey chief creative John Patroulis on hypnosis, odd jobs and the value of niche subcultures
John Patroulis is worldwide chief creative officer at Grey. The 102-year-old agency has worked with many of the biggest brands in the world, most recently Walgreens, using a UV camera to show hidden skin damage, and ads for Gillette reframe masculinity for the grooming brand.
In this episode of the “Ad Block” podcast, Patroulis talks about a host of niche and counterculture topics that have captured his attention over the years. “I can dive pretty quickly into things that feel like interesting subcultures, or people who are literally living and expressing themselves free of any kind of cultural pressure or interest in fitting in,” he says.
While living on a friend’s couch after college, he picked up hypnosis as a party trick. And his time as a DJ at his college radio station led him to discover music outside the mainstream, like the atonal creations of Jandek.
“I become more interested sometimes in the process and the person than I am in the output,” which is why he can admit maybe Jandek’s music isn’t very good, he adds. “It’s the purity of creative purpose that’s interesting to me. He was just going to make it, and he wasn’t following anybody else’s rules.”
That willingness to venture off traditional paths (Patroulis never studied advertising in school) also landed him in many different jobs over the years. He worked as a night watchman, as a bartender and at a factory making concrete pipes. For a few weeks he was paid to break windows in a building that was being renovated. But there’s always something to be learned from odd experiences, he says.
“Even breaking windows, you’ve got to have a plan. I show up and just start breaking windows, and there’s shards of glass everywhere.” He and his coworkers realized they could tape up the windows first. The shards held together for easier cleanup, and the destruction was just as satisfying.
Patroulis also names shades of gray in a word game and weighs in on movies he rewatches and those he knows he never needs to see.