Creative malleability: why Cleve Cameron left his role as an ECD to focus on music

I’m sure we’ve all had those day dreams, when we’re sitting in traffic on the way to our jobs (even when we like our jobs) of simply turning around, giving it all up and pursuing something else we love, our passion. Whether it be sailing, cooking, art, music, whatever. And in what is a bit of a rare story these days, that’s exactly what J. Walter Thompson’s former executive creative director Cleve Cameron has done. He left his cushy executive role to focus on releasing an album. We caught up with Cameron to find out where he’s at now with the release, what he plans to do for work and why  sometimes you’ve just got to ‘Do’ it. 

Cameron officially launched his album Welcome to the Primal Digital on 19 May on iTunes with the genre of songs ranging from electro-punk to a new pacific-ska.

Before this, and as was covered by Stuff, Vice and TV3, you could only listen to the album in contributor Mandeep Singh’s (who plays the tabla) taxi.

Mandeep Sing, sourced from the album’s website.

“It’s been really busy, Mandeep has even had calls from Christchurch,” says Cameron. “Mandeep’s taxi was a natural thing to do as he played on the album and it’s important for people to be able to experience it in unique ways and even though you can get the album on iTunes, you can [still]call Mandeep and he’ll give you a guided tour. He has a number of good spots of where to listen to it.”

Cleve Cameron. Credit: Stephen Langdon

As is clear from the way the album has been launched, Cameron is still wearing his advertising cap and thinking of creative ways to push out work, this time it just happens to be his own brand.

To top off the launch, Cameron says a big party was held last week. “It completely rocked and 250 people came along and danced to the primal digital sound and Mandeep played at the launch as well …”

So, why did he decide to do it? To leave his role at JWT where the agency had “doubled in size, flew up Campaign Brief ‘Who’s hot’ charts, had an award created for them at the Effies, and lead the way creatively for Ford globally …”, according to his LinkedIn

“You do things you love to do,” he says. “JWT was super supportive while I was there … it’s become an exciting agency and it was time to take on new challenges.”

The day after finishing with the agency he says he was up at the crack of dawn dancing away on Mt Victoria for a video shoot for his new single Do.

However, he made very clear that this isn’t the end of his time in advertising, in fact, he’s looking for work.

“I’m still contracting in advertising. I’ve basically just taken a month off. So now that the album has launched I’m ready for hire,” he says. “I’m really interested in a 150 day arrangement, if it’s the right full-time thing, that would be great. Basically I’ve just taken a month off to launch this but advertising is an exciting world to be in and they link together.”

Cameron says advertising and popular culture have a symbiotic relationship.

“I’ve always done art projects, even when I started as a junior at Saatchi in Wellington. I had a project called Spungo, (an art project-cum-ad agency) and we ended up working for Telecom,” he says.

“I think a pop song is very similar to an ad in a sense that it’s an idea and there is something catchy in it. It’s got to tap into something in the zeitgeist of popular culture as well, and it’s for now, hence the title Welcome to the Primal Digital.”

He also had a project called The Beop (he’s just launched a white-walled Beop Studios), which he describes as a band from another dimension. He launched a Kickstarter in 2014 to raise funds for the band’s first-ever live show. It was also named as a finalist in the electronic category of the John Lennon Songwriting Contest in New York for its song ‘We Are OK’.

When Cameron was asked who will be replacing him at JWT, he joked that he wouldn’t be able to be replaced.

“Impossible. I don’t think they’ll be able to replace me. Just kidding.”

But so far this remains true, StopPress understands JWT is currently on the hunt for a replacement for Cameron.

In the meantime Cameron awaits the release of a music video next week for the first single on the album Do and he says the band has already been asked to do a couple of shows in Wellington. “And we’d like to do a public show in Auckland.”

He also mentions the music is available for licence. “I think some of [the songs] would make fantastic ads. There’s a freshness to the sound and the feel of them, you know. I think if it was the right brand it would work really well.”

We look forward to seeing what Cameron gets up to next.   

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