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An interview with Chyaz Buffett: Head Of Brand at GREAT Britain & Northern Ireland Campaign

Chyaz has been in the creative game since 1995 when he joined BBC News. He would go on to Red Bee Media in 2005 leading the ITV rebrand project and then becoming Design Director at Sky News leading the design team across broadcast and digital. After 12 years at Sky he is now the Head of Brand at GREAT Britain & Northern Ireland Campaign. The GREAT Campaign showcases the very best of the UK, inspiring the world to collaborate, visit, study and do business here.

What does a normal day at work involve for you?

I’m exceptionally lucky, in that the vast majority of my day is about creative conversations.

Every day opens with a Senior Leadership team priorities discussion followed by status conversations with my team across brand, design and digital. Having recently launched the new brand for The GREAT Campaign, much of my time is taken by discussions with global markets on how to get the best from the new brand. Today I’m hosting a brand review session with the Asia Hub, followed this afternoon by the Americas. I’ll spend the rest of the day briefing work into the studio and signing off work from creative partners across the UK

Of course, in the current circumstance of a predominantly remote working environment, the vast majority of these conversations are online meetings. I’ve always been a big fan of ‘meaningless conversations’ to help stimulate creative action, but this is a luxury currently with a full diary.

One of The GREAT Campaign’s purposes is to share positive, inspiring stories from across the UK. That feels like a much needed antidote to these COVID times. What was it like becoming Head of Brand during the pandemic?

The GREAT Campaign is a dream to work with at any time. To use the best of the UK to be the catalyst to new possibilities and encourage the world to see things from fresh perspectives is a truly inspiring goal. The most inspiring thing about any creative role supposedly restricted by the pandemic, is the shared responsibility of all not just to find a way to make it work, but to actively seek positive learnings from these new ways of working. Remote working in a global market has cut the carbon footprint of travel and has actually led to greater engagement with posts (the UK’s embassies around the world). Innovative creative solutions to online team inspiration, creative brainstorms using interactive whiteboards, surfacing the brand through greater social (and generally digital) engagement are just some of the benefits we’ve seen.

The flipside is that it can be challenging to generate an emotional response (key to good brand communication) when the end user cannot interact with your presence in a tactile way. Launches in particular will always struggle for impact as a result, but the benefit will be that once experiential work can begin in earnest, the network will have a far greater understanding of the capabilities of the new brand.

One of the best things about the UK is our diversity both in terms of culture and talent. Did your experience in broadcast news help you build a brand that could tell multiple stories across a variety of sectors whilst maintaining a strong “GREAT” brand identity? As the Head of Brand what are the creative choices you need to consider daily?

Building diverse teams is essential for a successful future, whatever the industry. Diversity broadens the pool of ideas and makes them more resonant for a diverse market. My ethos in communication design has always been “To Engage and Inform”. Without an inspiring method of engagement, we struggle for the audience on which to impart the story; without the substance behind the story, there’s little point engaging the audience. For me the disciplines of design, broadcast and news are the perfect formula to set a platform for storytelling. I would encourage anyone with the desire to impart knowledge in all it’s forms to spend time in a newsroom, bringing as it does the challenges of pace, clarity and brevity. Equally, every storyteller should learn how their data is best represented and this is best achieved from the creative conversations. Engage at a creative level and it builds bridges which transcend craft and experience. This means the greatest creative challenge I face each day is where to point the energy of myself and the team.

You’ve employed a lot of creatives. What changes have you seen in the creative workforce for better and for worse?

I’ve spent a career worrying about the dilution of craft skill and the lack of a creative thought process. It stems from a fear over the reliance on technology, automation and templated solutions. However, what I’m constantly impressed by is the open mindedness of all creatives to be inspired; to demonstrate an ability to just think and use that as a starting point to solving a problem. As long as we continue to inspire the next generation in ways of seeing, rather than ways of doing, the future will be glorious.

Sustaining the energy and enthusiasm for a creative career isn’t easy and doing so at a senior level can be even harder. What do you do to stay healthy and happy? What would you say to creatives just starting out with ambition to go into creative leadership roles?

The first is not to jump at promotion. Longevity comes from a strong foundation of experience. I’ve seen a good many people burn out by taking a step too soon; a more robust future comes from the courage in your ability, founded on experience. To lead, we must first learn from leaders – it takes a while to spot the good from the bad, but you learn equally from both.

The second might appear to contradict the first: never be afraid of making moves. This is not the same as progression or promotion, it’s about variety. Every step brings greater knowledge and variety is what for me breeds energy, enthusiasm and drive. Ultimately, if the move is wrong for you, there’s another ahead.

The last is the most important for me. There are two schools of creative leadership. The first says you must be better than those around you, so that you can demonstrate what they should aim to achieve. The second states that you should always inspire other to generate something greater than you are capable of yourself. Once you graduate from the first to the second you are ready to lead.

I stay happy, energised and enthused by seeing the spark ignited in others

For every new display format and platform there are more and more opportunities for agencies and creatives to design amazing work. During your years at broadcast you oversaw multiple technology and media consumer changes. What were the creative principles that remained the same during all those changes?

It’s never about the media. It’s never about the canvas. Ultimately creativity is about cause and effect. It’s problem and solution, idea and the eventual response. The best outcomes concentrate on these factors, then utilise the most relevant tool to help them execute. No pixel ever made anyone weep.

Learn more about the GREAT Britain & Northern Ireland Campaign here

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