By Adam Wakefield
A native of Cape Town, Pullen’s advertising career began at Ogilvy & Mather in the Mother City. After landing an internship at the agency in December 2008, he was hired fulltime as a junior through-the-line art director in February 2009.
Over the next six years, Pullen worked on a wide range of brands at Ogilvy including Audi, Coca-Cola, GoPro, Sun International, SA Breweries, Castrol, WWF and News24. This was while moonlighting as a designer, art director, bassist and manager of a band called Red Huxley.
Everything changed in March 2015.
“I wasn’t actively looking for anything and was quite comfortable at Ogilvy Cape Town working on a wide range of business with my partner Dean Paradise. The only thing in the ether was my Behance
portfolio and work that was featured on Bestadsontv.com
and other advertising websites like adsoftheworld.com
and the award show websites,” Pullen says. “Out of the blue, I was contacted on LinkedIn
by Rubin Postaer & Associations, an independent agency based in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California.”
A recruiter had seen Pullen’s work and liked what she saw. Pullen and the recruiter began chatting to one another, which led to an interview being organised with the executive creative director of the agency, Jason Sperling.
Following his positive interview with Sperling, Pullen was offered the job of senior art director and would work with award-winning writer Audrey Attal, primarily on the national Honda account.
It was an offer Pullen could not refuse.
“As a young South African creative, to be offered something like this, you simply have to take it with both hands. Just the idea of working on a world renowned brand whose advertising has stood out for great work and has won countless international advertising awards, it was a no brainer,” he says. “A small plus is that it happened to be in Santa Monica with near perfect weather and well, a place that is the living form of the American Dream. With all that aside and at its simplest form, I also saw it as an opportunity to grow.”
The first major difference Pullen noticed between the creative industry he was used to in Cape Town compared to that of California was its sheer size, with the markets bigger, budgets bigger, and media spend and reach bigger. The food portions were also something to be reckoned with.
Apart from differing from South Africa, Pullen also contends with differences within America itself.
“It’s very diverse, from geography to mindset. The West Coast, although sharing a lot of similarities to the East Coast, is very different from the East Coast,” Pullen says.
Unexpectedly for Pullen, for a country that practises competitive advertising, another “big” part of the Land of the Free’s advertising market was dealing with its regulatory complexities.
Everything is scrutinised by legal “before it is even breathed on by a client” to avoid legal problems. While an obstacle in one way, Pullen believes keeping the regulatory environment in mind heightens his creative problem solving, especially when bold work emerges as the finished product.
One such example of bold work took flight ahead of the Super Bowl, which took place on Sunday, February 7, with all the advertising fanfare (and halftime show) once again taking centre stage.
The commercial, where singing sheep espouse the qualities of Honda’s new Ridgeline vehicle, was watched by an audience numbering around 111 million people on the day, beyond the millions of views and over billion impressions it garnered on social media in the week leading up to Superbowl Sunday.
“I am still wrapping my head around the event and its numbers, but we did well, we made multiple top 10 lists across the world,” Pullen says. “To land my first SuperBowl commercial within months of working in the United States, I am incredibly lucky and I look forward to trying to do my best in the months to come.”
For more information, connect with Pullen on Twitter.