'Meet Graham' masterminds Tom and George McQueen - now a senior team at Droga5 New York

mcQueens-1443.jpgTwin brothers George and Tom McQueen are on a bit of a high. Having scored their dream jobs in the Big Apple - hired as a senior creative team by Droga5 in July, over the past few years the creative duo has cultivated an impressive body of work under the roof of Clemenger BBDO, Melbourne, most notably TAC's 'Meet Graham', Airbnb's marriage inequality 'Until We All Belong' campaign and Myer 'Santa's Star'. The boys talk candidly to CB about igniting real conversations and how good ideas are more important now than ever before.

How did you go about conceiving the idea for TAC Meet Graham?
T+G The thought was seeded in the strategy. For years the TAC has successfully pioneered shock advertising campaigns that have helped drive the road toll down. But the reality is people have become desensitised to these tactics of cars and bodies colliding. We needed to find a new way for people to prioritise safe road behaviour and their own vulnerability again.
So, along with Evan Roberts and Stephen de Wolf, we tackled the problem the other way - reimagining the human body to explore the preventative measures that would need to be in place to survive a car crash. Graham's still shocking, but in an entirely different way. The campaign grew from there with many talented people from Clemenger, the TAC and beyond rallying around the idea to make it what it was. I'm certain they're all as proud of it as we are.
MeetGraham.jpgDid you have any idea how successful the TAC campaign would be?
Tom No, not at all. We knew we needed to ignite real conversation, but that's hard when you don't have a media spend. Ultimately, it forced us to be innovative in how we launched him - inviting influencers, the press and the general public to all 'Meet Graham' in the flesh.
George We then put together this tight press kit with all the films, images and content and handed it over to the Internet. It's a powerful example of what can happen when you give people everything they need to tell their own story. His unconventional appearance triggered the kind of worldwide discussion we could have only hoped for.
Thumbnail image for Screen Shot 2017-04-03 at 2.13.45 pm.jpgYour marriage inequality campaign for Airbnb was brave and unique. Were you surprised that Airbnb (plus a number of other big brands) were so quick to get behind it?
Tom Airbnb came to us actively wanting to support the campaign for marriage equality. They're a brave client who wholeheartedly believed in the idea from day one. We feel there's a role for companies to speak up on important social issues - it's good corporate responsibility. But to have a large chunk of corporate Australia unreservedly throw their support behind the campaign was a humbling experience. The Airbnb team worked wonders to pull it off. This isn't just a political issue, it's a human rights issue and it was amazing to see a brand like Airbnb not just talk about purpose but also actually live by it.

As a creative team (and twins) would you say you each have a strength and weakness?
George Not really, to be honest we both have a pretty similar skill set. We both have a background in design so we're very visual and like to think with our hands. On paper Tom's the writer and I'm the art director, but when it comes down to it we both just dig in to get what needs to be done, done.
Is there any reason why you both were drawn to advertising?
Tom I think from a very early age we both gravitated towards drawing and making things and I guess we just never grew out of that. Advertising is an outlet that lets us keep making things together. Was it a twin thing to both work in advertising? Maybe, subconsciously. But I'd like to think George copied me.

How's living in New York compared to Melbourne? Too soon to miss Aussie coffee?
George So far so good, it's a great city. They're very different lifestyles and there is a unique charm to both of them. We tend to drink tea more than coffee, so if we start missing Bushells I'll let you know.

Who at Droga5 are you most excited to work with?
Tom It's impossible to single out individuals. It goes without saying that Droga5 has an incredible pool of talent and honestly we're looking forward to working with anyone and everyone. We're just excited to get started and see what opportunities await.

newyorktimestruthlist.jpgHow is the current political climate in the US affecting adland in New York? Any powerful, politically charged campaigns that have caught your attention so far?
George It can feel like you're stuck in a strange reality TV show that you can't turn off sometimes. I think adland is very aware of the current political climate. With that has come a heightened sense of responsibility, to speak out against issues of injustice where possible. The election result was a wake-up call to understand audiences better. The fact that there was this gap in the collective awareness has forced advertisers in the US to look at what's really happening in America, to listen, even if it's not what they want to hear sometimes. The New York Times 'The Truth Is Hard' campaign, via Droga5, was a powerful example of a brand defining a direction and knowing the role they needed to play.

Any other standout projects you've completed together this year that you're both really proud of?
Airbnb's 'Until We All Belong' campaign was the last project we completed together before taking a break. On that break we completed building a small cabin back in the country out of recycled timber and materials. It was a different kind of challenge and we're stoked with how it turned out.

What excites you most about the future of advertising?
Change. It's the only constant in the industry and it pushes you to learn more and be different. The landscape is always changing and digital spend is rapidly rising. We've always intuitively lent towards digital solutions, as it just feels natural for us. But now we're making more for online audiences, more regularly, which means good ideas are as important as ever. Quality storytelling, humour and great utilities are in demand and the ways in which we can now execute these are both exciting and incredibly broad.


Jarryd Rebecchi said:

Total maddogs.

Heavy D said:

Ridiculously talented, ridiculously good looking.

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