This week, we caught up with Helen Rhodes, Executive Creative Director at BBH London, to talk about how the agency is using its power to drive new talent through its doors and how best to steer creative over turbulent times.
Helen is a fairly new face at BBH having joined the agency at the end of June 2021. She joins following two years with BBC Creative where she led the broadcaster through the pandemic, producing award-winning work at tempestuous times, including the moving Bringing Us Closer campaign, which went on to win gold at the 2020 British Arrows Awards in the ‘Made in Lockdown’ category.
Helen comments: “Helping to steer the BBC through the pandemic was one of the hardest and proudest moments of my career. The role of the nation’s biggest public broadcaster was more important than ever, so we needed to strike the right tone with everything we communicated. We had to have our finger on the pulse of the nation and know what they needed at any specific time. Sometimes that was humour with our Stay At Home trails and sometimes it was reassurance through our ‘Bringing us closer’ brand film."
In addition to this, Helen has taken the reins to launch the revamped creative placement programme Barn, alongside well-renowned industry face, Tony Cullingham (former lead at The Watford Advertising Course, of which Helen was a student herself). The programme aims to open socioeconomic and gender barriers to allow for a more diverse selection of young candidates to get involved whilst giving them the opportunity to build a portfolio and break into the industry. The paid programme will be full-time for 10 months and offer eight individuals an opportunity to learn the ropes and launch their careers.
Helen says: “Barn was created to expand the pool of diverse talent entering the advertising industry. BBH was founded on the power of difference, so we wanted to do something to back up our beliefs and fuel the agency and the wider industry with brilliant talent. I never thought 20 years after going to Watford I’d be seeing Tony at work every day, but he cares just as much as he did back then and the class of 21/22 are much more clued up than I was 2 months into the course, it’s really exciting and I can’t wait to see what they can do."
On top of supporting grassroot talent, BBH continues to showcase some of the most exciting and progressive photographers, filmmakers, and illustrators via its Unsigned Union platform. Originally set up as an exhibition in 2018 by a group of passionate “BBHers”, the company have teamed up with six London based creative agencies (Weiden +Kennedy London, Lucky Generals, Mother, New Commercial Arts and Leo Burnett) to form a collective that will work together to programme a series of panel discussions, exhibitions, events and mentorship to help raise the profiles of underrepresented creators across our industry. Since its initial launch, many of the artists discovered to date have gone on to find representation at leading companies and have worked on commercial commissions from brands including Nike, Chanel and L’Oreal.
Helen says: “Unsigned is something we’re really proud of at BBH. I wish I could say I was involved in its creation, but that’s wholly down to a passionate group of BBHers that started it way back in 2018, and also some more recent BBHers that are responsible for broadening its reach so it can evolve and grow and allow us to shine a spotlight on as much exciting emerging talent as possible."
And this is something that rings true in all that BBH does – their unwavering support of emerging artists is evident through all areas of their work, right through to their new sponsorship of the Emerging in Production category at the British Arrows 21|22 show.
“BBH has always been a strong supporter of the British Arrows and sponsoring this award means a lot. We’re always looking for ways to champion new talent that care deeply about craft and making amazing work.”
So what does 2022 look like for BBH?
“We want to continue to do work that people care about, that they talk about and share. Stuff that becomes part of the cultural conversation, that stirs some sort of emotion and connects with people. Advertising interrupts people’s lives and spaces, whether it’s the TV show they’re watching, the radio station they’re listening to or the social feed they’re scrolling down, the least we can do is be entertaining or additive to their lives in some way, raise a smile, shed a tear, even make them spit out their food in shock, better to have a strong reaction than none at all."