The Famous Q&A ~ with Nils Leonard

By on Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Nils has spent over 20 years in the advertising and design industry working across some of the most recognised agencies in London. Voted into Adweek’s coveted Creativity 100 he was named the No.1 creative person in advertising globally by Business insider.

Nils is also the founder of Uncommon Creative Studio alongside Lucy Jameson and Natalie Graeme. Labelled as ‘the creative company for leaders and founders in a moment of change’ as well as launching their own brands, Uncommon work with a variety of companies including British Airways, ITV, WWF, B&Q, Nike and Formula E. 

Nils is the D&AD awards Jury President for Writing for Advertising.

A brand that consistently taps the power of creativity is…

South Park

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Honestly, this.

When you’re in a creative rut what do you do?

Find a new hero from an old craft (art, poetry, design, architecture, magic).

Share something that people don’t know about you…

I once pretended to be the UK breakdance champion.

A favourite campaign, that you didn’t work on…

‘Vote the assholes out’ – Patagonia

A favourite campaign of yours…

We said when we started the studio that we built it for the most important and influential briefs of our time. The ‘Britain Get Talking’ work is now the UK’s most recognised mental health campaign and the EA Sports FC rebrand was cited ‘the biggest rebrand in entertainment history’ by the BBC. Your work is the evidence of your beliefs, this work reminds me we are heading in the right direction.

The best bit of advice you were ever given…

Be the person everyone wants in the room.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Nikka whisky.

One thing you’d change about this industry?

It’s dependency on clients to create.

What’s a new skill you’d like to learn?

Perfumery or Kendo.

Your biggest fuck up?

Not having worked with Jay Hunt yet.

Your last supper. What’s on the menu?

St. John Welsh Rarebit. One glass of Les Clos. Out.

You have a Time Machine. Where’s your first trip?

1958. The opening of The Void by Yves Klein, Paris.

Most challenging brief you ever worked on…

The most challenging briefs are always the bad ones. Great briefs are about radical moments of change and call the good stuff out of you. The most challenging briefs are any that take 2 sides of a4 to explain.

You get to choose a superpower what is it? 

Listening. What you want and what you need are rarely the same.

Share a horror story from a pitch.

In a previous life I was once in a room where slowly as we pitched, the lead client just went redder and redder then started uncontrollably weeping then slammed the table, got up and left. It was the strategy section to be fair.

What’s your secret talent?


Do you have a favourite mantra or saying?

Later means never.

Share an item that’s on your bucket list…

Kirk Hammett’s Voodoo ESP

All-time favourite movie, TV show, song and book?

Fantastic Mr Fox, The Young Pope, Cloudbusting (Kate Bush), Grief is a thing with feathers (Max Porter)

A person who inspires you is…

David Hieatt.

Do you have a go-to productivity hack?

Remembering that all of this might not have been my life.

A common misperception about your job…

You take your hands off the tools.

You get to have a dinner with a historical figure who is it?

Steve Jobs.

What’s a habit you’re trying to break?

Making my mind up.

Who do you consider to be you mentor and how did they influence you?

Simon Fairweather was a typographer who showed me a way of living as a creative. The value of craft. The reward of care. The benefits of rocket salad for lunch when trying to fit into suits you like.

How do you feel about the future of the industry in the world of A.I?

If you make money from creativity, you are fine, if you make money from content, speed, volume or low cost assets you are fucked.

A trend in the industry that excites you?

Brilliant people starting their own brands.

Where’s your next holiday?


The best or worst decision you ever made…

Charlotte Leonard.

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