2 Minutes With ... Jonny Parker & Chris Birch, ECDs at VCCP London
Since joining forces at VCCP in 2013, the duo have created famous and award-winning work for some of the agency’s biggest clients. Leading the Cadbury Global, UK accounts since 2018; including with its much lauded "There’s a glass
and a half in everyone" campaign. Causing mayhem with numerous Amnesty International Humanity wins campaigns and more recently overseeing the whole of VCCP’s creative output including the rebirth of Virgin Media O2.
Prior to VCCP, Chris and Jonny lived separate lives at a number of agencies across London. Making stand out work for McDonald’s, Sky and The Department for Transport to name a few. Prior to that, the only thing that connected them was being born in the same hospital – the wonderful Doncaster Royal Infirmary.
We spent two minutes with Jonny and Chris to learn more about their background, creative inspirations and some recent work they've admired.
Jonny and Chris, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
Jonny: I was born in Doncaster, up North, in the same hospital as Chris strangely enough. Although we didn't meet until 30 years later. These days I've returned to Sussex in the south, near where I went to university. It was as far away from Doncaster as I could get all those years ago.
Chris: Born in Doncaster, grew up in LeedsLeedsLeeds, now I live in London.
How you first realized you were creative.
Jonny: This may sound like BS but I think as far back as I can remember. From the age of four I thought I was going to be an artist. Loved it. Probably because I was rubbish at everything else.
Chris: Sitting on Paul Salt's living room floor trying to draw Dennis the Menace so it looked a bit like Dennis the Menace.
A person you idolized creatively early on.
Jonny: Damien Hirst. Bloody idolized him. When he arrived he made everyone talk about fine art. Everyone. Everywhere. From every walk of life. Even my Granny. He put it into the public domain. That was a massive achievement. What's the point of being creative if nobody sees it? He got that.
Chris: Quentin Blake.
A moment from high school or college that changed your life.
Jonny: I'd just finished uni. Then there was this lightning-bolt moment. I was watching TV and an ad came on. It was a VW Polo ad, part of the surprisingly ordinary prices campaign. The one with the lamppost. I can honestly say this was the first time I can remember sitting up and actually watching an ad. It was like, "Oh my god, advertising can have an idea, a strategy, it isn't just shouty jingles and catchy catchphrases." It was so clever. The very next day I went from wannabe Hirst to wanna be Hegarty.
Chris: Being told my paintings had to have an idea in them. A philosophy. A higher level. I just wanted to paint a bowl of cherries so jacked it in for visual communications. It's probable my paintings were just very bad.
A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.
Jonny: My wife works in fashion PR. She's got me watching Kingdom of Dreams. It's about the two men that control luxury. LVMH vs Kering. A bit tragic, but very entertaining. What can I say. I rarely get to chose what's on the TV.
Chris: Currently reading Wild Swans. Gives you a whole different way of looking at the world we think we know.
Your favorite fictional character.
Jonny: Liz Truss?
Chris: General Kurtz from Apocalypse Now.
Someone or something worth following in social media.
Jonny: One of the juniors just was talking about welcome.jpeg on Instagram. Lost hours of my life down the rabbit hole.
Chris: Not sure anyone is worth the staring into the black mirrored abyss are they? Maybe Kalvin Phillips.
How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.
Jonny: Covid was awful. It was terrifying, like, the end of the world. But as time went on I found so many positives. We witnessed the best of humanity. Communities helping each other. Magical really. And working from home became so liberating. Spending valuable time with my wife and our little boys, I loved it. And as for work, it worked, pretty well. I think we made some pretty outstanding stuff regardless of the challenges and we've proven beyond a doubt that we no longer need to spend 100 percent of life in an office.
Chris: I met my wonderful partner Clare, turning the worst situation on its head.
One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on, and why.
Jonny: It was a long, long time ago. I managed to get a speculative brief for Sky One from a little promo agency called Devilfish. At the time Channel 4 were heavily advertising the Simpsons. Sky wanted to remind everyone that they were the home of the Simpsons. Super simple brief. We came up with this idea of recreating the most famous animated opening scene of all time but in live action. We worked for nearly two years with legendary director Chris Palmer to get it made. We had bugger all money and a mountain of stakeholders to get through including Matt Groening himself. It was a pure labor of love from everyone involved. We forgot to geofence it on YouTube and within 24 hours it had been seen over a million times in the U.S. We got a right bollocking. Worth it though.
Chris: When I was younger probably "It's All Lies, They're Not Even Square," which was just wonderful to write. As one of the typographers, Andy Dimmock put it, "You're just getting paid to write bol***ks. It's wonderful."