2 Minutes With ... Tom Murphy, Chief Creative Officer of Wunderman Thompson

On his work for Sony, a Super Bowl ad for Hellman's and being a Wes-ophile

Tom Murphy is chief creative officer of Wunderman Thompson North America. Prior to that, he served at McCann for 16 years, finishing as North American CCO. Tom was a major driver of McCann's most celebrated work of the past decade, including "Fearless Girl" for State Street Global Advisors, "True Name" for Mastercard, "Generation Lockdown" for March for Our Lives and "Universal Love" for MGM Resorts.

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

Tom, tell us …

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up primarily in Pittsburgh, with a stint in the U.K. during elementary school. Wildly different places, but both have thick local accents you can't truly understand unless you live there. Currently based in Connecticut—sadly, not much of an accent here.

How you first realized you were creative.

Splayed out on my parents' living room floor, drawing for hours on end.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

My introduction to the creative world was through music and skateboarding magazines. I idolized the bands and skaters, but also the writers, designers and photographers. Spike Jonze was actually one of them. Well before he became a director, he shot photos for a BMX magazine I devoured every month. 

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

I had a high school English teacher who encouraged me to be the art editor of our literary magazine. She also provided me with a saying I use to this day: "specific is terrific." When telling any kind of story—avoid generality. This goes for advertising, too.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

My teenage self would've said The Smiths or The Cure. My trying-to-be-cool, middle-aged self would cite artists my kids turned me onto—Alex G, Jockstrap, Tyler the Creator, The Beths. But if I'm thinking about what truly stands the test of time—Miles Davis. Literal genius.

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

I loved the movie After Sun. Also Marcel the Shell. Both from A24. Both exploring new ways to tell stories. Both have so much heart.

Your favorite fictional character.

Ferris Bueller

Someone or something worth following in social media.

I'm an Instagram addict. @anonymousphotoproject for amazing old snapshots @citibikeboyz for people doing crazy things on CitiBikes. @oldjewishmen for a laugh. @davidshrigley, @hiroki_painter and @juliebowersmurphyartist for visual inspiration. Yes, I'm related to the last one.

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

I did a project for Sony smartphones with Wes Anderson. The process involved a pre-pro at a bistro in Paris and watching him obsess over every frame. For a Wes-ophile, this was a dream come true.

A recent project you're proud of.

We created the "Blue Square" campaign for the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism. It was an innovative way to visualize a really troubling statistic—and open peoples’ eyes to a deeply urgent issue.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

Wieden's original Miller High Life campaign, shot by Errol Morris. Many creative people of my vintage would probably say the same, but it truly did blow my mind. Everything about it. The writing, the way the shots were framed, the way the logo was handled. It transcended advertising. 

Someone else's work you admired lately.

So often the things I'm most jealous of are the simplest. Using a food delivery app to track the delivery of the World Cup—brilliant...

And Apple's "Mother Nature." Perfectly written and executed. Transcends advertising.

Your main strength as a creative person.

Seeing the big picture. I think I'm able to see how everything fits together, which is not always the case with creative people. 

Your biggest weakness.

I can obsess a bit. My former partner would see my eyes start to glaze over as I toggled back and forth between two minor logo variations, slowly losing my mind. He'd have to forcibly snap me out of it. 

One thing that always makes you happy.

Art museums with my family on a Saturday afternoon.

One thing that always makes you sad.

Leaving those museums. 

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

A photographer, or a record store clerk.

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