Creative Insights: Brian Merrifield at Common Ventures

By Ruby Derrick | 3 October 2023

Creative Insights is an AdNews series investigating and revealing the secrets of the creative side of advertising. 

Brian Merrifield: executive creative director at Common Ventures

How did you fall into the industry? Was it deliberate or a misstep?

It was a “right time, right place, right people” thing. I worked with my friend Steven Cicala at a design and pre-press company during the summer of 1997 on a kick-ass CD-ROM project – Saatchi & Saatchi was the client. The project was a Call for Entries for the Axis Advertising Awards themed around selling your soul to the devil to win an award – lol. Fast forward a year and I’m back talking to Steve about a job - I wanted to do more digital stuff but their main thing was print. Steve said Saatchi’s were setting up a digital team next door and that he’d give me a look in.

One interview later I was the first employee of the Saatchi & Saatchi digital team – interactive CD-ROM design was already dying but websites were taking over. My first job was designing Telecom NZ’s website - in a glorious 216 websafe colour palette.

Life lesson: Always hit up people you trust, they may give you the break of a lifetime.

What’s your secret sauce for commercial creativity?

Listening and empathy.

Listen deeply to what clients say. But more importantly, how they say it. They’ll give you everything you need to twist an idea into something more interesting and keep an idea sold.

Be empathic to everyone's hot-take, situation, life stage and daily stresses. Being empathic to those who think differently or experience life unlike yourself will reveal your own bias. You get to see problems through different eyes allowing you to solve them from a different point of view from your own.

Life lesson: Listen for and help raise those voices that need to be heard. 

What’s the biggest hurdle now for creatives?


Time to explore and pull the thread on the start of a thought. To leave a thought alone and let it develop while also having time to hang with friends and family.

Life lesson: Work for people who care about your time.

Do you wear the black t-shirt uniform or are you a nonconformist?

I’ve been wearing black for as long as I’ve been into heavy metal music. It just so happens to kinda be the industry uniform. I wish it wasn’t.

Life lesson: Like most things in life - you’re a non-conformist until it becomes a trend.

Can commercial creativity only take place in a room full of people in black T-shirts?

Nope. A room of ‘same’ produces only nuanced variations of ‘same’.

Life lesson: Diversity of thought wins forever.

What was the last campaign you worked on that you really enjoyed?

Spirit Super – loved working with comedian Alex Ward on ‘Don’t be Super Stupid’. A long project with many hurdles but a passionate client who believed in the idea.

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