The Work That Made Ben & Si

The Work That Made Ben & Si

7 February 2024

Originally published by Little Black Book

Ben Stump and Simon Findlater are the executive creative directors of independent creative agency, isobel. Working together for over 19 years, the pair have spent their careers producing work for a wide range of household brands, at several top creative agencies.

Ben and Simon> In the ‘80s advertisers could deliberately target kids, so it’s probably no wonder that ads like Kia-Ora, Mr Soft and Milky Way’s ‘Red car and the Blue car’ are all still stuck in our heads.

The ad/music video/game/web platform that made us want to get into the industry…

Ben and Simon> We both loved the Tango ads of the ‘90s. The orange man. The Geordie commentator. The SLAP. Everyone was copying them in the playground. Just brilliantly bonkers. We’re both big poster geeks too – we used to spend hours trawling through D&AD annuals looking at work for the likes of VW, Harvey Nichols, Land Rover and Silk Cut marvelling at how they made the complicated so brutally simple (Still a process worth doing today too, BTW). 

The creative work (film/album/game/ad/album/book/poem etc) that we keep revisiting…

Ben and Simon> We like work with a real dollop of humanity in it. Work that tickles your funny bones. So some of the classic sketch shows – Smack the Pony, Fast Show, Harry Enfield are great to re-watch. Their gags were so exceptionally well written that they could work in much less time than a 30 second TV ad. And they were always based on a true human insight, which is why they resonate so well.

Our first professional project…

Ben and Simon> Our first big shoot was for Habitat. We were shooting an outdoor campaign to promote their new store in Manchester. We turned up totally under-prepared and froze for three days. We learned the importance of getting good shoot jackets after that.

The piece of work (ad/music video/ platform…) that made us so angry that I vowed to never make anything like *that*…

Ben and Simon> We have a responsibility to our clients to make their money work hard. So for us, any work that doesn’t even try to make itself standout or separate itself from the crowd is a personal pet peeve. Car advertising for example, used to be incredible – The Audi work at BBH and the Skoda work at Fallon were fantastic, but now it all seems to be generic lifestyle running footage, where the logos on each ad could be interchangeable. Just wallpaper.

The piece of work (ad/music video/ platform…) that still makes us jealous…

Ben and Simon> Nothing Beats A Londoner. The Specsavers campaign. The Sony work from Fallon. Honda Cogs. Lots, basically. But that’s healthy; Get jealous. Get mad. Make better work.

The creative project that changed our career…

Ben and Simon> There’s been a few. But one that sticks was a campaign we made for Visit Wales. The brief was to promote Wales to the masses. But we presented an idea that targeted just one man and asked the internet to sell Wales to him for us. They went for it and the campaign was phenomenally successful for them. It taught us that sometimes doing the wrong thing is very much the right thing to do.

The work that we're proudest of…

Ben and Simon> We’ve always said that you’re only as good as your last piece of work, which keeps us pushing ourselves for more. And we genuinely feel huge pride for some of our latest work for Travelodge and Jet . But we also love the campaign we made for Kelly’s Cornish ice cream a few years back, where we ran an advert to 60 million people, in a language that only 500 people can speak. It generated massive standout and PR for the brand.

We were involved in this and it makes us cringe…

Ben and Simon> Haha – No one sets out to make bad work. But we once made an advert for Vertu phones that featured a man with a badger’s head and a woman on a bright orange chaise longue – it was as horrendously gaudy as it sounds…

The recent project we were involved in that excited us the most…

Ben and Simon> isobel had a hugely exciting 2023 and produced some incredible work for lots of great clients. But launching our new ‘Better Get A Travelodge ’ campaign and reframing the iconic British brand has been very exciting, and made through great collaboration with our clients. And hot off the press is our new work for Clipper Tea - it’s hard not to get excited when you’re making a bird dance to bit of Drum & Bass.

But if we’re honest, we think excitement is something we strive to put into every single piece of work we work on. Without it, what’s the point? If you put excitement into the work, chances are the viewer will feel it too.