How to become as humble, patient, empathetic, curious and nice as Elliot Harris, Creative Director of Havas

Sometimes, by the time we reach 5pm at the SCA, I am staring at the wall, contemplating putting my head through it. It’s not necessarily the fault of the SCA that I feel this way. There’s just so much to do and only so many hours a day that my mind sometimes tries to check out before my body. But then, sometimes, someone as open, engaging and understanding as Elliot picks up that little PowerPoint slide clicker at the front of the classroom and makes it much easier to peel my eyes away from that green flamingo wallpaper and open my notebook.

Elliot Harris is one of the Creative Directors of Havas. He is also the father of five girls, which is the greenest flag a man can have. He is as undoubtedly passionate about helping people break into AD land as he is about the SCA. Which is why he runs the Platform initiative at Havas, an in-house open University program. Elliot, from my understanding, is also probably one of the most honest people I’ve come across. A thought established from his slight butchering of the class title he’d been assigned (How to Hack the Industry) to make it a little bit more him. So, welcome to my SCAB on Elliot’s class, How to have humility, patience, empathy, curiosity and be nice, collect ideas along the way and try and have a rewarding life inside and outside of Advertising. 

Reflecting on Elliot’s class, I feel like it was all about balance at its core. Balance in life and balance in advertising. Fostering longevity seemed like a critical element in all of the wisdom he dispersed. There was just too much good stuff squeezed into this PowerPoint, so here are all the best bits in bullet points:

  • Be patient, be resilient. Plant ideas today and allow them to come to fruition a year down the line. 
  • Be a big believer in being ‘the idiot’ by just trying things. Be the man who got in his little digger and dug the Evergreen out of the Suez Canal. 
  • Be around interesting people, and interesting things will happen to you. 
  • Don’t over-polish. The most solid ideas fit in four post-it notes.
  • Do little things, little and often.
  • Do your best work on your biggest clients. 
  • Falling in love with your client’s problem is much more rewarding than falling in love with your hypothetical solution to the problem. Because that solution may suck. But if you become obsessed with it, it becomes harder to see its faults. Dedicating yourself to finding a project the clients as invested in as yourself is the sweet spot we all need to learn to seek out.
  • Play with people who care about the game. Caring is the biggest part of anything we can do. This stands for outside of advertising, too. People who are interested in what you’re interested in are much more fun to be around. So don’t be afraid to mingle. Even single creatives rarely work alone. You could briefly create a creative throuple of singles for one project and then work with a couple of pairs the next. As long as you’re all invested, bouncing around ideas should be much more productive when done in multiples.
  • The craft you will learn, the graft, is self-instilled. 
  • Discomfort breeds great conceptual ideas.
  • Is a project funny, or is it serious? Work that one out early. 
  • Who we are is an integral part of our work. A portfolio with no personality is useless. Focus on your own version of the story.
  • Be a magpie. Collect everything and sit on it until it’s time to utilise what you’ve acquired.
  • Even nuns have fun. Enjoy your work!

The final thing I learnt about Elliot is that he is a speedy PowerPoint fiend. I could barely whip my phone out quick enough to take a picture of these sites before he clicked onward. So, my apologies if I’ve left any off; here are Elliot’s favourite sites for all the AD help and inspiration you could possibly need.

Helpful Websites:


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