POV: Interview with Bryan Rowles, Partner & Executive Creative Director of 72andSunny Amsterdam

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Jami Oetting
Jami Oetting



bryan-rowlesHow did you get started in design? What led you to advertising?

Midway through art school I took a typography class, loved it, and decided that design would be my focus. While finishing my major, I saw the work CORE was doing and decided I wanted to work there. When I started at 72andSunny, it was (and still is) the perfect mix of the fun of advertising and the craft of design. So I guess that’s how I got into advertising.

Tell us about the creative philosophy at 72andSunny. What differentiates your work from other agencies?

We’ve found that when we are open and collaborative with each other and our partners, the work gets better. Our collaboration with Fabrica on Benetton’s “Unhate” and “Unemployee of the Year” are recent examples of how things get better when you have an open mind and a strong partnership.

As for what differentiates our work, we try to create work that’s timely, relevant and (hopefully) sparks a conversation. We’re not the only place that strives for this, but I’d say we’re pretty good at it.

How has moving to Amsterdam changed your perspective on advertising? How has the culture influenced your work?

Being in a city that places a premium on design has definitely been a huge influence, but my perspective on what we are doing is the same — make smart, culturally relevant work with great clients.

You’ve worked on accounts such as Nike, Discovery Channel, Samsung and Xbox. In your opinion, what makes a successful brand? How can the creative work either enforce or destroy a brand?

The best work comes from a strong and optimistic partnership, clear understanding of what a win looks like and a desire from everyone involved to make great work that’s brave and stands out.


Do you think interactive or digital elements need to be a part of any campaign today? Why or why not?

Digital is at the heart of just about everything we do. Inevitably, our audiences spend a lot of time in the digital space, making it a great place to get a conversation going. One of our mantras at 72andSunny is “Born Modern,” which serves as a great reminder for us to think about where culture and media behaviors are moving.

What’s it like working with brands that are already lightning rods for media attention? Does that afford you more or less creative freedom? Are there added pressures that come with the territory?

Making work that’s brave and culturally relevant is a blast. The great amount of creative freedom is a gift, and the only pressure is to outdo what you did the last time.


How do you and everyone else at 72andSunny work to uphold your reputation as one of the most innovative agencies out there? How is the agency extending that innovation to the digital space?

By listening and being effective marketing partners, rather than just making ads. We aim to be open and collaborative in everything we do, and the same ethic applies to the digital space: work together, stay humble, and have a lot of fun.

What advice would you give to young professionals wanting to work in advertising?

Treat every project you work on like it’s the Nike TV spot for the World Cup. If you’re working on a banner campaign, try to make it the best banner campaign mankind has ever seen.

How will the role of creatives evolve or change in the next three to five years?

Everyone is creative, not just the “creatives.” Writers design, designers write, and brand managers and producers come up with great ideas. That’s something we’ve embraced since opening our doors, and we’re finding more and more people coming here who have lots of different interests and hybrid capabilities. It helps that schools like Hyper Island encourage their students to be multi-disciplined.

One reason you love what you do: The free mixed nuts. And watching people come to 72andSunny, embrace the culture and make work they’re proud of. Those are two solid reasons.

Mentor: I have two: 72andSunny co-founder/design director Robert Nakata, whom I first met in Amsterdam years ago. He’s the reason I joined 72andSunny in 2004, and it’s the coolest thing that I get to work with him every day in Amsterdam.

The second is Mark Arnold, a designer I worked with during my first job at CORE. He taught me the craft of design and type.

They are the two most talented and generous people I’ve ever worked with.

Must-read book: “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson — the edition with illustrations by N.C. Wyeth.

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