2 Minutes With ... Brandon Hampton, Creative Director at Dagger

On celebrating HBCU spirit with Aflac

Brandon's creative journey began in 11th grade when a teacher suggested he make advertising his college major. Ultimately, Brandon earned a degree, created his book and landed a job at one of the top agencies in Dallas. He later moved to New York and then L.A., working at Digitas and DDB, before heading to Atlanta, where he was a creative director at Moxie. 

In the 15 years since, he's led campaigns for Subaru, Toyota, American Airlines, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Delta Air Lines, among others. Brandon landed at Dagger in 2020, and as creative director he's helped guide the agency's work for Aflac.

We spent two minutes with Brandon to learn more about his background, creative inspirations and some recent work he's admired.

Brandon, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.    

I grew up in Little Rock, Ark. Now, I live in Atlanta. I had stops in Dallas, Los Angeles and New York along the way.         

How you first realized you were creative.    

Every kid is creative, but it was probably in high school when I realized my right brain started to overtake my left brain. I got a D in calculus, but in the same semester I painted a mural in my Spanish teacher's classroom. It was becoming obvious.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

I always worried that loving someone else's work would cause them to influence mine too much, and I wouldn't be original. I did grow to love rapper Ludacris. His lyrics were so witty and he turned words and phrases in creative ways. And the writer of The Golden Girls. Another source of quick wit. I idolized witty people and work. 

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

In high school, I had a teacher named Mrs. Smith who taught different business classes. One time she looked at my work and said "Braaandin … I thank ewe should goh intuh advertysin." And the rest is history. Yes, that's how she said it. I said I'm from Arkansas. 

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

I listen to Whitney Houston and '90s R&B. I'm a real layman when it comes to instrumentation and bands, so for me it's about the vocals. And I grew up in church, so …        

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

Every show Issa Rae does. Her work is always, if nothing else, relatable. I try to bring that to advertising. If you HAVE the exact same experience that you see on screen, it's so powerful and you become open to every other message or moment someone is trying to convey from that instance on. And she gets it. She gets me. We live very similar lives and the fact that the experiences span the many, many, many tax brackets apart we are? It's excellent. 

Your favorite fictional character.

Dorothy Zbornak. A tough person who tells you what she thinks, has amazing friends, loves her family and makes you laugh. I stan. Ha. Someone saw what I did there. 

Someone or something worth following in social media.

I love 4barfriday. It's a concept started by NBA player Damian Lillard. It's UGC from rappers across the country (and the world) just rapping a few lines. It's just such a glimpse into the world of hip-hop and lyricists. It's fun to see the talent on display and knowing that it started with an NBA player who likes to rap and now there’s basically a community.

How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.

Covid revealed to me how much I draw energy from being around others. Socializing is important to me. It makes sense when I think about how much importance I assign relatability to art and content, but it wasn't obvious to me before. I enjoy my quiet time. My alone time. My Me time. But I also need to be around people sometimes.

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on. 

Nothing embodies scrappy quite like this piece we did for Delta Air Lines. And the theme of relatability comes back. When people watch this they always say "I do that!" Well yeah, I know. That's what makes it work.

A recent project you're proud of.

I'm proud of this Aflac spot. There are two others like it, but I was so happy to cast real HBCU band members and dancers. It was one of the funnest days I've had at work. Seeing the talent. The desire. The humility. The hunger. I'm still in touch with some of the young people who were in that spot and I want them to know that they made it better. We had so much fun together.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

I honestly don’t remember who did it, but I think everyone was inspired by The Economist ads in the early 2000s. I remember trying to choose between art and copy and that work made me confident I wanted to write. To this day, I still get excited about headline-driven campaigns. That doesn’t make me special—I'm probably one of a lot of middle-aged creatives who was influenced by that work. 

Someone else's work you admired lately.

I really liked the "More -ings Than You Realize" campaign for UPS Store. I don't want to get into execution and what could've been different. It's just so smart and active.

Your main strength as a creative person.

I listen. Creative is subjective and I'll never think I have a monopoly on great work. Yeah, I trust my gut. But everyone has a gut and if we all trust ours individually, who wins? So it's definitely listening. 

Your biggest weakness.

I don't know enough about our current industry titans. When someone says what big creative leader went where, I usually say "who?" And it’s certainly not about respect, I just can't keep up with all the names. I did bad on history tests because I learned concepts but forgot the names. So many talented people and not enough great clients. 

One thing that always makes you happy.

My family makes me happy. My friends make me happy. Being around them, traveling with them, letting them be my escape from advertising but influence my work—that's what really brings me joy. I also like the person I am. I'm cozy. If I get exposed as a hack tomorrow (doesn't every creative feel like that?), I'll still be happy. 

One thing that always makes you sad.    

People who don't feel like they can be their full self at work. I used to hide my sexuality at work and it was such a drag on my relationship-building and openness. So whether you're a member of the LGBTQ+ community or you're culturally very Black, Latino, Asian or anything—being able to NOT code-switch sometimes or show up authentically is so important to mental health. And it makes me sad to see people suppress or hide part of who they are because they don't think it's welcome. Look, you knew I was Black when you hired me, so if I show up to pitch rehearsal in a wave cap, that's part of being Black. It'll be off for the presentation and the world will go on.      

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.    

I'd want to be in pro sports somehow. Maybe I would've gone to law school and become an agent. Today, who knows who I would represent!  It could be someone huge. It could be no one and I'd be struggling or have changed directions. Truthfully, where I come from, if I wasn't in advertising, data says I'd be selling drugs. That's why I refuse to do pharma.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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