An interview With Tim Driesen, creative director of Famous

Tim works as creative director of Famous, one of the most renowned advertising agencies in Europe. He won all kinds of prizes in his young career. We had a word with him.

Tell us something about your background?

I grew up in a great family. That’s where I learned to use my brain differently. My mother quit working as a biology and physics professor to take care of the kids. She’s the most humble intellectual I know. My father used to be a psychologist and a professor in communications. As long as I can remember we had long discussions about almost everything. I loved it. In high school, I studied maths and science.

My teachers saw an engineer in me, but I didn’t. And my parents encouraged me to follow my heart.
So I did. I wanted to do something completely different. Most of all I liked the art of freethinking within strict borders but I had no background in creativity. So I went to art school. At Sint Lukas Brussels I studied graphic design and advertising. During my first traineeship, I lost interest in school. So I skipped a year and kept working and only went back to deliver a thesis, a masterpiece and to do my final exams. At Lowe, I met Joeri Van Den Broeck. It was creative love at first sight.

We started at LG&F and moved after 5 years to Mortierbrigade. We worked hard and were able to produce a lot of creative work. Sometimes we were even lucky to make it outstanding. During these 7 years, we’ve won every possible award we could win. With a titanium lion at the international Cannes Lions festival as the cherry on the cake.

Now I’ve been working for 4 years as a creative director at Famous (the new LG&F).

What do you think of the quality of the creative work in Belgium?

We’re lucky to live in Belgium. The complex structure of our country has learned us to find creative solutions for complex problems. And that’s what advertising is all about these days. Together with Sweden, we are showing the world that you can have an impact on global creativity, even if you’re just a small country. When I’m abroad and talk to people in advertising, I feel a lot of respect for Belgium. Although they don’t know the difference between Belgium and Brussels they can quote some remarkable creative work we did in the last years. That’s heartwarming.

But it’s not Belgian-like to be happy with our achievements. I think we still have a long way to go. Especially in educating our clients, in convincing them of the strength of creativity and building relationships to get the confidence we need to be creative on a bigger scale.

Do you believe there is a Belgian style in design & advertising?

Not really actually. I tend to think Belgian advertising and design have a certain cleverness that other countries of origin lack. But I don’t believe my own theory. So you shouldn’t either.

Most good ideas are universal. And so is good design.

Do you often work with freelancers?

I prefer to work with freelancers because of their specific style. Or because they can handle a project better than we can internally. But I must admit that working with freelancers is initiated more by an overload of work than by choice. It’s something I’m planning to do better in the future. The world of freelancers is still quite fuzzy. Initiatives to bring structure and make it more easy to judge quality and talent are more than welcome.

What is the biggest asset of being a creative director?

The role of a creative director has changed a lot. Less guru, more decision maker. A good creative director is the one who knows his opinion isn’t the right one. But -on the other hand- he chooses his moment right to hold his leg stiff. Every day tons of choices have to be made. Some of them are black or white. But most of them are grey. So you need someone with a strong opinion that listens to all opinions and has no problem to take responsibility in taking a fast decision. Even if it’s a wrong one.

Where do you want to go with your agency? What are your future plans?

Literally, we’re planning to move to Groot-Bijgaarden this summer. We are renovating an old monastery as we speak. It’s a magical place in the middle of a park. And we will have lots of physical space for new ideas and initiatives. Where do I want to go with Famous? We need to define our role as an ‘advertising agency’ better. Our job has changed massively over the last 5 years. We have been busy adapting to the new reality. It has been an interesting period. And in fact, this process of change is one that will never stop. So let’s try not to focus on what exactly we are doing, or what we want to be doing.

Our business is the business of creative selling. Using our creativity within strict commercial borders is what we do best, whatever form the output will have. Call it the exact opposite of l’art pour l’art.
We are working on concrete plans to support young creative people of all kinds at our new location. But… more information about that soon.

What is the most rewarding part of being a creative director?

There are two parts of the job I like most. One is to see an idea grow. The moment ideas get better when a group of talented people with different backgrounds are working on it, I feel intense relief that compensates for a lot of pain. The other part is the moment a creation proves to be successful. Successful in any way: because the product sells, because the campaign is all over the news because you win an award, because people hang it on the walls of their rooms because your creation is talked about at the bar by people you don’t know, … Then you know you have been making at least a few good choices along the way.

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Published by

Timothy Helmer

Designer, curator of Let's Talk Design and founder of Creative Network.