2 Minutes With … Gavin Lester, CCO at Zambezi

On Beats by Dre, the L.A. Rams, sculptor Robert Gober, and the power of independent thinking

Gavin Lester is a seasoned creative with over 20 years of advertising experience that spanned two continents before landing at Zambezi as partner and chief creative officer in 2017. While there he has overseen work on brands like Beats by Dre, UKG, Traeger, TaylorMade, and just recently Under Armour.

Lester previously worked at agencies including 180, BBH London, Goodby Silverstein & Partners and Deutsch L.A. Throughout his career he's led attention-grabbing campaigns such as Google's "Year in Search" 2016, Levi Odyssey, and Beats by Dre Powerbeats Pro. His work spans an array of categories for clients like KFC, Audi, Google TV, Sony, Netflix, Nintendo, Sprint and Comcast.

In addition to his career in advertising, Lester is a fine artist. His art intends to celebrate and explain individuality in a trending world, and encourages others to find creativity in unexpected places.

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

Gavin, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in North London, which is pronounced Norf London. Two great drummers grew up a mile from where I lived, Keith Moon from the Who, and the Rolling Stones' Charlie Watts, which inspired me to learn the French horn. I now live in Los Angeles via New York and San Francisco. I thought L.A. was always exotic. Turns out it's Croydon with palm trees. (Croydon is a town in South London.)

How you first realized you were creative.

It was less something I discovered and more something that my parents discovered for me. I guess they were in fear of me wanting to become an accountant or lawyer, and thought a respectful creative career would uphold the family name and tradition. My mother is a painter, my late father was an actor, and my brother Elliott Lester is a feature director.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

Matt Johnson from the band The The. As a rebellious teenager I was hungry to find a voice to put all of these strong feelings that were surrounding me related to life, society, government and love. Lyrics like "I'm just a symptom of the moral decay that's gnawing at the heart of the country" and "This is the 51st state of the USA" organized and amplified my state of mind and became a lighthouse for me even to this day.

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

Sitting in the ceramic studio at my high school and pushing my hands into a large freshly pugged pile of clay. Being able to augment something that was three dimensional and turn it into something physical sealed my love for sculpture.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

I love the work of Robert Gober. His work is often related to domestic and familiar objects such as sinks, doors and legs, and has themes of nature, sexuality, religion and politics. The sculptures are meticulously handcrafted, even when they appear to just be a recreation of a common sink. While he is best known for his sculptures, he has also made photographs, prints, drawings and has curated exhibitions.

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

The Radiolabs episode on quicksand. Anyone who grew up in the '80s knows it was something to be wary of. 

Your favorite fictional character.

Voltaire's Candide. "All is for the best, in the best of all possible words."

Someone or something worth following on social media.

@chefreactions. His sarcastic, salty reviews of dishes being prepared are a must.

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

My dog Agnes and I sat alone in a 22,000-square-foot office every day for the entire two-plus years of Covid-19. It felt like I was on board a spaceship with a mission to the far side of our universe. Unfortunately, we were pulled out of our suspended animation due to a master computer malfunction that led us to walk the halls and eat nothing but Chex Mix. I have never had this much time to reflect and be productive since my art school days. 

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

Beats Powerbeats Pro. This is nothing more than a product demonstration, but the technique we used was so simple and fresh. Locking on the earphone and keeping it centered was complex, but the results seemed effortless. Thanks, Hiro Murai.

A recent project you're proud of.

Making work that doesn't feel like advertising for your home football team (L.A. Rams) that went on to win the Super Bowl, doesn’t suck.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

The work of creative team Walter Campbell and Tom Carty. Creatives from Abbott Mead Vickers. They created Guinness' "Surfer" and "Swimblack" and Volvo's "Tornado." They're big, epic, visual storytellers with a huge love of the craft. 

Someone else's work you admired lately.

Intermarché, a French supermarket, had a genius concept to name their freshly squeezed orange.

Your main strength as a creative person.

My strength is the ability to have empathy. Not just with people, but with subject matter, time and place and even materials when making art.

Your biggest weakness.

Making expensive art works. Render for my next project below.

One thing that always makes you happy.

Independent thinking. May it be from my children, members of staff, or a stranger.

One thing that always makes you sad.

Watching Pixar movies on flights.

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

A full-time artist.

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.

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