Changing The rules…  with Joe Ruddock, Create Health


If Joe Ruddock, Art Director at Bristol-based agency Create Health, is anything to go by, creativity knows no bounds – not even during lockdown.

He’s next up in our Changing The Rules series on how creative sector professionals are adapting to the ‘new normal’.

He says the changes are bringing new levels of self-appraisal and harnessing all the power of the digital world…

Joe Ruddock
Creating change: Joe Ruddock Art Director at Create Health is finding new levels of creativity and stronger connections.

Joe Ruddock

Creativity itself will never be squashed. In fact, challenging climates have produced some of the world’s most revered work.

But the COVID-19 lockdown has certainly brought fresh challenges to creative thinkers and marketers the world over.

While our creative skills haven’t changed, the creative systems we work within have.

Going inside

Physically, our creative space has shifted massively. Overnight we’ve moved from bustling hubs of creative departments with inspiration all over the walls, to the solitude of make-shift home offices.

joe_ruddock_empty office
Out of office: We’re all getting used to homeworking says Joe Ruddock.

Accompanying this physical shift in our environment, we’re finding a mental shift inward too. Towards a more introverted way of creating which for creative pairs, especially, is pretty unusual.

We can’t bounce ideas off each other in quite the same sporadic way. Calls have to be arranged, screens have to be shared, and the organic evolving of scribbles and spit-balling isn’t as effortless through a web camera. This means less impulsive creative sprints, and more informed review-like discovery phases.

But what this distance and relative solitude allows is a development of our self-awareness.

I’m finding that I’m acting as my own sparring partner, if you like, and rejecting or evolving ideas into something more solid, pre-rationalising them as they form. So when they’re ready to share with Lucy, my copywriter, they’re more robust than they usually would be at that stage in the process.

As a result, I think we’re both becoming stronger and better at self-critique, which is great.

Fostering remote connections

Communicating remotely and under such unusual circumstances – from my perspective – has highlighted the different ways that people think and respond, whether similar or entirely opposite to one another.

Now that we’re couched in our home environments, and as a result more ‘our home selves’, it seems our differences – age, culture, backgrounds – are coming through more in the way we’re creating. Bringing social and cultural contrast to the forefront.

That gives us an opportunity for a more varied critical progression of creative concepts, and results in more a ‘tribal’ creative process, where we see who naturally allies with what kind of idea.

It’s been fascinating to see!

Ideas time: Lockdown is leading to more varied creative concepts!

New client relations

When remote working was put into place, my initial thought was that our relationships with clients would suffer – hence our ability to create on-the-money ideas would too.

No more face to face meetings, no more lunches together or trips down to the pub to chat and bond.

And while it’s safe to say we’re all missing our local pub, in other ways we are getting closer to our clients. Straight into their living rooms with cameos from their children’s toys and family portraits, in fact!

It’s helped both sides form more of an intimate relationship with one another, human just as much as professional. And this no doubt helps foster a more collaborative creative process.

A truly digital world

Agency land has been talking about the importance of being digital-first for years and years now.

But lockdown has forced the issue. Out-of-Home adverts are largely off the cards, events and experiential are cancelled, and even print is suffering due to hygiene factors.

So executionally, our thinking has had to be more digital. In some ways this is constraining, and our creative brains don’t like feeling limited.

But on the flipside, the focus gives us the opportunity to innovate within the digital space, create ideas that can bring the offline online, and evolve our digital storytelling. After all, we are competing more than ever to grab the attention of largely captive audiences – screen time averages are through the roof!

We’re doing a lot with our clients to try and bring conference season online, and it’s exciting to think what the standard of digital advertising might be by the end of social distancing.

Stepping up: Joe Ruddock sees a new kind of pitch theatre.

A different kind of pitch theatre

I’ve always loved pitching to clients. Rehearsing on the train, handing out thick, colourful leave-behinds, creating drama and theatre; using the room as my stage to communicate my passion to potential clients.

However, we can’t be together in a room for now. So the pitch process has dramatically changed for every agency.

I think I have a way to go transitioning to remote pitching. But working on facial expressions, gesture and tone of voice can help engage the client and encourage buy-in.

And dressing sharp helps get in the right frame of mind, too, even if you’re only at your kitchen table!

If you want to share the five new things/changes to your life since lockdown, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at

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Changing The rules… with Emily Safian-Demers, Wunderman Thompson