An Interview with Thomas Kolster

Judges Interviews

Thomas Kolster

Author, Speaker and Founder of The Goodvertising Agency and WhereGoodGrows

With our inaugural year under our belt, we are now planning the Creative Conscience Awards 2014 which will be officially launched in a couple of weeks with a sparkling new website and a roadshow that’s designed to take in some of the country’s leading art schools giving us the opportunity to meet creative students and to talk to them about the ideas they will be developing in collaboration with the awards and their tutors.

It’s exciting stuff and we’re hugely encouraged by the support we’re receiving from all over the world. So much so, that we decided that next year’s awards should be a global initiative and, with that in mind, we would like to introduce you to one of next year’s judges, Thomas Kolster, author, speaker and founder of the Goodvertising Agency and WhereGoodGrows. That’s an awesome set of achievements for the Danish advertising copywriter who left mainstream advertising to create a force for good.

This afternoon, I caught up with Thomas to talk about what inspires him and why he’s chosen to become part of this ambitious initiative. Here’s what he had to say…

What is the single most interesting brief you’ve worked on during your career?

The simplest briefs are always the most interesting. I am passionate about making a difference so the briefs that enable me to create a campaign that I can see making a difference to the people on the street has a strong resonance with me. Several years ago, when I was working at an ad agency, I was part of a team that was invited to create a campaign on behalf of the Danish Refugee Council which was to be focused upon the integration of teenage immigrants into the Danish culture. Our idea – which turned out to be the winning one – was based on the universal acceptance that kids have when they play together and the idea that people from all races should come together over a common interest – such as playing in a band or playing sport. Our headline was ‘We have a lot more in common than we think’ – it was fun to be part of that.

Who has been your biggest influence?

Amongst them would be the former Mayor of Bogotá, Antanas Mockus Šivickas who used a disruptive way of thinking to address the challenges that his city faced. In so doing he challenged conventional thinking and brought about great social and environmental change. There is a particular initiative of his that stands out in my mind and that was when he hired 420 mimes to make fun of traffic violators, because he believed Colombians were more afraid of being ridiculed than fined. The result? He significantly reduced the number of casualties on Bogotá’s roads (you can read more about that initiative here).

What is the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

A big personal battle for me is my propensity to take on too many projects. I have to constantly advise myself to stay focused!

What advice would you give a creative student today?

Do what you can to change the world. Think big and be bold in your ambitions; reach for the most exciting career you can get and look at all possibilities.

In this culture of fear and cautiousness, what is the future of design?

It’s so important to think in a disruptive way, especially in the way that we design stuff. So much of what we do is based on old thinking – for example, only about 3% of the energy put into creating a car is used to move people forward. In the manufacture of electric cars, just 8% of the energy put into creating a vehicle is used to move people forward; that’s a mere 5% improvement. All structures and designs are wasteful and wrong so we need to be more revolutionary in our approach. We need to break convention and reinvent. That’s the future of design – innovation and disruptive thinking.

What is it about this initiative that has inspired you to get involved?

It’s definitely because of the chance to inspire young people to think differently. We all need to help people to think differently and inspire them to create a world – a better world – which we have failed to give them. I love the way that people like us are so positive about collaborating and helping each another achieve our goals.

How does your creative conscience express itself in your work?

I really like to challenge myself and the ideas I put forward. Over the last year, I’ve developed a bigger belief in the power of thinking in a more radical way in order to make things happen and I’m trying to pursue that.

Interview by Kate Burton