Monty Verdi, an Integrated Creative Director, shares his remarkable career story in an exclusive interview with Genie’s co-founder Bonnie Harold.
From a young age, Monty’s interest in creativity was ignited when he won a poster design competition as a cub scout. Despite facing a few obstacles along the way, Monty’s journey is a testament to the power of perseverance, finding champions along the way, and embracing adaptability in an ever-changing creative landscape.
Here’s the full interview and insight into Monty’s experiences below.
Where did your interest in creativity begin?
My dad used to teach what they called craft, design & technology. I was a cub scout aged 9 and there was a competition to design a poster for the local fete. I remember really clearly designing the poster using my Dad’s Rotring pens and then winning the competition and seeing my poster up all round that part of Essex. I suppose that was the first time I actually did a bit of advertising.
At School I was into art and graphics as well as computer science. But when it came to picking your subjects for exams you couldn’t pick them all.
Luckily I had a teacher, Mrs. Jackson, who said to me “you need to take both because you’re really good at both”, so she taught me in her own time after school. If it wasn’t for that I wouldn’t have got into college.
What obstacles got in the way of what you wanted? How did you overcome these?
At the time it wasn’t as common being from the Asian community to go into the Arts or Design, it wasn’t valued in the same way as being a doctor or a dentist or something. My brother would be earning a good salary from his job as an Estate agent and I would have to come home from book crits with mum asking me “Did you get the job?” And I’d have to tell her it wasn’t an interview! I was showing my work. As you know this can go on for years. Basically they wanted me to settle down and get married and get a ‘proper job’ and I had to make the hard decision about what I wanted to do and stick with it. So luckily I stuck with it and it was only when my ads turned up on telly that my family suddenly got it.
Who was your champion, what twists and turns did you take?
I think the person who was most influential to me was Graham Fink. He was great at spotting people that didn’t fit into the conventional advertising mould. He was starting the Fink Tank at the time so I went to see him. He was looking at my stuff and he said “I’ve got this logo competition, you should enter it”. So I did, there were thousands of people entering and a 10,000 dollar prize – but then I won it.
Graham had an amazing black book and sent me to meet some brilliant people. One of those people was Jim Thornton, he was ECD at Leos and pretty much offered me the job on the spot. And that was that, you dream of that happening.
Where have you been at your happiest? What was it about that place that made you feel fulfilled?
I think it was CHI from a productivity point of view – I made so much stuff and ran so many accounts, won most of my awards there but I’d have to say Leo Burnett was where I was happiest. The people who worked there are still some of my oldest friends. It was that winning mix of great people and great work, and having a lot of fun whilst doing it.
Tell us about a piece of work you most enjoyed making?
I was walking past Piccadilly Circus digital screen one day and thought what a waste of brilliant media – millions of people passing by everyday. I thought wouldn’t it be great if when people are taking photos the screen behind suddenly turns into something else. It was one of those ideas that comes to you really quickly, gets presented and just flies. It was a proactive idea, everyone wanted it to work and got behind it. It was doing something innovative but populist and entertaining. We would walk through Piccadilly Circus and actually see people doing it and having fun with it. That was a massive buzz.
What do you think will be the most valued superpower for creativity in the next decade?
I think adaptability. You know, when I left CHI to go to Drum, and after that to run Content and Social at VCCP…. I did that because you could see the C word ‘Content’ coming and I was making loads of brilliant TV ads at CHI and I thought I can’t just keep on a linear career. And now it’s happening again – you need to be able to adapt. Everything changes so quickly, often agencies are playing catch up. I don’t think Chat GPT or Mid Journey is going to disappear – I’m already obsessed with it, it’s totally addictive. It’s about always learning, adapting and being open to try new things and be flexible.