2 Minutes With ... Levi Slavin, Chief Creative Officer at Colenso BBDO

Including his favorite projects, from GE to DB Export

Photo illustration by Ashley Epping

One of the most celebrated writers in advertising, Levi Slavin has worked in his native Australia, as well New Zealand, the U.K. and the U.S. 

He started out at ClemengerBBDO in both the Melbourne and Perth offices before heading to London to work at Saatchi & Saatchi. He then did stints at Colenso BBDO, Anomaly New York and BBDO New York. When Trump was elected, Slavin moved back to New Zealand to run Colenso BBDO. 

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

Levi, tell us ... 

The town where you were born. 

I was born in Perth, Western Australia. It's one of the most beautiful but isolated cities on earth. It was a great place to learn to use your imagination.

What you wanted to be when you grew up. 

Kung-fu fighter pilot.

How you discovered you were creative.

I wasn't a great student, but I found I had endless time for any of the arts subjects. 

A person you idolized creatively growing up. 

Bob Dylan. I must have been 5 or 6 when my mum asked me what one of his lyrics meant. I think that was the first time I understood the potential depth of language and the power of great creative choices. 

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

I had a wonderful lecturer at college, Blair McLeish. When we first met, he seemed to have this bizarre passion for advertising—an industry that I had never really considered creative. It was pretty contagious. 

The first concert you saw, and your favorite band or musician today. 

As I said, I grew up in Perth. So my first concert was Cold Chisel. At the moment, I'm listening to a lot of Father John Misty and Charles Bradley for some reason.

Your favorite artist. 

Jenny Holzer. 

Your favorite hero or heroine in fiction. 

Bo Peep in Toy Story 4. 

The best book you've read lately. 

On Writing, by Stephen King. 

Your favorite movie. 

I've not seen it yet, but I think it's going to be The Irishman. I can feel it.

Your favorite Instagram follow. 

My wife. 

Your favorite creative project you've ever worked on, and why. 

"The Message" for GE. It was incredibly liberating to be able to write a story for long form. In an era driven by efficiency, we forget that people engage with stories that have been loved and passionately crafted by their creators. We can feel when an idea has been delivered efficiently rather than lovingly. Given the engagement time with listeners, a podcast was the perfect channel to see how much love an idea could take.

GE Podcast Theatre Presents: The Message
Your favorite creative project from the past year, and why. 

DB Export "I'm Drinking It For You." It's a love song where a couple dedicate their low-carbohydrate beer to each other. It's one of the few ballads with a product ingredient verse. The idea was so simple, I feel like everyone did their best not to drop the ball. The writing is great. The music is great. The performances are great. And Damien Shatford lovingly pulled all of that together into a music video that topped the charts. 

I'm Drinking It For You
Someone else's creative project that inspired you years ago. 

Fox Sports. "Live the Game." Many years ago, I remember receiving an industry VHS with this campaign on it. It blew my mind at the time. I didn't know that level of love could go into character development. The writing is superb. I immediately wrote to Cliff Freeman and Partners and offered to work there for free. I never heard back.

Someone else's creative project that you've been envious of lately. 

I love the rom-com to horror film for AT&T. It's beautiful—it feels bigger than the industry. Proper film. 

AT&T | Surprise
Your main strength as a creative person. 

Empathy. 

Your weakness or blind spot. 

I'm disorganized. 

One thing that always makes you happy. 

Laughing. 

One thing that always makes you sad.

Crying. 

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

Kung-fu fighter pilot.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards and the founding editor of Muse by Clio.

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