VERSUS: Todd Sampson versus Russel Howcroft

By AdNews | 16 January 2012

On-air Gruen Transfer rivals Todd Sampson and Russel Howcroft trade blows over fame, inspiration and dress sense.

How do you juggle your Gruen commitment with your agency role? Do the two ever clash?
Todd Sampson: The Gruen is minimal commitment. We film at around 7pm on Wednesdays so it’s no big deal.
Russel Howcroft: I don’t see this as a commitment at all. It’s a tremendous experience and a great privilege to be part of the team.

Do you get stopped and asked for autographs in the street? What’s the strangest request or comment you’ve ever had?
TS: Yes, that part does take getting used to. Someone once asked me to sign Wil’s name – I thought that was appropriate.
RH: Autographs are unusual, photo requests however, do happen often. It is particularly pleasing when people inform me that I am better looking than Todd. I have however learned this is nothing to do with the truth!

When AdNews ran a vote on who is more popular, Russel beat Todd by a nose. Thoughts please ...
TS: Russel is far more likeable than me – I voted for him. Good on him.
RH: Of course I much more handsome and better dressed than Todd!

What is the funniest adland joke you’ve heard recently?
TS: Anonymous.
RH: Todd’s salary.
Who has better dress sense, Todd or Russel?
TS: Who cares?
RH: I know which one my mother prefers.
Does your on-air rivalry with each other translate into off-air rivalry?
TS: Russel and I are genuine on-air and that certainly extends off-air. I didn’t know who he was until the show and our relationship has literally developed on national television. What you see is what it is.
RH: Of course it does. Leo Burnett has business we want. And vice versa.
What is your all time favourite mock ad from the show?
TS: So many brilliant ones. Still can’t get past the first series when we were selling whale meat – “The Beef of the Sea”.
RH: The Greens ad prior to the election. A rare ‘positioning’ ad for a political party that resonated with everyone.
Sydney or Melbourne?
TS: I never understood this rivalry – they’re cities.
RH: I spend 50% of my time in each city. My view is they are more fundamentally different than perhaps any of us admit. The differences are not marginal, they are, in many cases, vast. It’s wonderful to have a job which requires spending equal time in both.

Where will you spending Christmas?
TS: At home in Bondi with my girls.
RH: I plan to get really bored this Christmas. I can hardly wait.

Which panelist on the show has surprised you the most?
TS: John Hewson. He was feisty and honest with a quick wit. I didn’t know who he was - I googled him on set while he was sitting next to me. He certainly made Gruen Nation better.
RH: Jane Caro. She has a serious and committed following.

Has the show influenced your own personal view of the ad industry?
TS: It has reminded me how clever and imaginative we can be when focused on a goal. It has also reminded me how dangerous and Machiavellian we can be when focused on a goal.
RH: It has reaffirmed in my mind the vitality, creativity and ubiquity of our great industry.

Use three words to describe each other.
TS: Russel – a top bloke.
RH: Preparation. Preparation. Preparation (can’t you tell?).

Todd Sampson, chief executive, Leo Burnett Sydney
Russel Howcroft, chief executive, Y&R Brands

This article originally appeared in the AdNews Annual.

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