Draw inspiration from the world around you: Gemma Dowler & Phil Dudman on starting out in creativity and bringing fresh perspectives.

We sat down with creative duo Phil & Gemma to discuss Moonpig, Snoop Dogg and garlic bread.

 Can you share the story behind the formation of your partnership?


Phil: We first met about 7 years ago while freelancing at Moonpig, the online card and gift company. We were both hired by the same creative director there, James Turner, who had the foresight to pair us up as a team. At the time, we were working as independent freelancers - I was primarily a copywriter and Gemma was an art director.


Getting to collaborate together on bigger branding and campaign projects was really invaluable. Most in-house creative teams don't operate like an external agency, with creative pairs focused on concepting and executing ideas together. But Moonpig gave us the opportunity to do more than just write copy or create visuals in isolation.


We both found that we produced our best work when we could riff off each other creatively. And we just hit it off right away personally too, bonding over our love of pasta and garlic bread during our first lunch break together! Here we are 7 years later, still creating magic together.


Gemma: Yes, it was wonderful being put together as a proper team. Before that, my background was in advertising agencies where I was used to working in creative teams. I always found it to be such a brilliant and enjoyable way to work. When you have a partner to bounce ideas off of and support each other through the ups and downs, it makes the process so much more rewarding.


And especially at an internal agency like Moonpig, it was rare that they structured roles to encourage that type of collaboration. Oftentimes in-house teams operate in more siloed roles where you just get assigned a specific task like designing a layout or writing product copy. You don't always get the opportunity to team up on bigger, meatier projects that require an integrated concept with visuals and copy working together.


But Moonpig recognised the benefits of pairing us as a team versus having us operate independently. I think that's a testament to the company's innovative and creative spirit at the time. They were really ahead of the curve in allowing their internal creative group to function more like an external agency. And James, our creative director, deserves a lot of credit for structuring roles in that way and combining our strengths.


Phil: Yeah, I think it was clear from the energy in the room when we first started collaborating that we brought out the best in each other creatively. And we just got along right away on a personal level too - clearly some shared interests and wavelengths. So here we are, nearly 7 years later, still dominating the freelance world together!

One of the big projects you worked on together at Moonpig was a rebrand. How did you get internal stakeholders and long-time employees, some who had emotional attachments to the original branding, on board with the changes?


Phil: It was definitely a journey! As you can imagine, some people had been there a very long time and were very wedded to Moonpig's original pig mascot and other branding elements that had been part of the company's identity since the beginning.


Our goal was to mature the brand and contemporise it a bit, while still retaining the inherent joy and wit people expected. We had to get stakeholders and employees to buy into us as a team and recognise that we weren't there to take anything away from the brand's legacy - we wanted to shine a light on what was already working and accentuate that.


Gemma: Yes, it was clear that while some people had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the cheeky, gimmicky Moonpig branding, there were also many within the company who had strong emotional attachments and warm nostalgia for those original elements. We had to tread carefully in terms of what equities we wanted to evolve while still retaining enough of the nostalgia factor.


At the same time, we saw a major opportunity to take what had become a rather skin-deep brand and inject a lot more heart and soul. We wanted to show employees that underneath the somewhat shallow exterior of the fun pig mascot, there was an incredibly meaningful brand with so much warmth and humanity. Our goal was to add emotional depth and elevate the branding so Moonpig could become more of a cherished gift and card brand rather than just being known for its silly, quirky personality.


Phil: Exactly, the pig was very one-dimensional. As a brand, Moonpig had so much untapped potential in how it could celebrate diverse relationships and occasions in customers' lives. So it was about retaining that sense of fun and humour but expressing it in a more artful, meaningful way that would appeal to a broader audience.

Moving on to more recent work, you helped create the "Did Somebody Say Just Eat" campaign featuring Snoop Dogg. Can you tell us about how that collaboration came to be and what it was like working with such an iconic artist?


Phil: Sure, I was working as a copywriter at Just Eat when the opportunity came up to do a big integrated campaign. At that time, I had helped lead a rewrite of Just Eat's global tone of voice to give the brand more personality.


When it came time to cast the celebrity partner for this campaign, I suggested Snoop Dogg because he felt like such a great fit - he's fun, doesn't take himself too seriously, loves food, and has cross-generational appeal. Everyone from your grandmother to your little cousin knows Snoop. He's globally recognised but can also be very niche and ironic. Plus he had shown his talent for comedy and music parody through things like his cookbook, Martha Stewart collaborations, and even appearing at the BAFTAs.


So when the idea was Snoop doing comedic musical numbers incorporating Just Eat, I knew he would nail it with the perfect balance of humour, swagger, and self-awareness. And it was a risk worth taking because at that point in the pandemic, we had all been living through months of overly earnest, gloomy pseudo-inspirational brand campaigns set to whispery acoustics. People desperately needed a dose of levity.

After years working together in creative partnership, what would you say is the most rewarding part?


Phil: For me, absolutely the most rewarding part of our work together is that I have a creative partner I trust 110%. We know each other so well at this point that if I'm having an off day, Gemma can pick up the reins, and vice versa. There's no ego when one of us needs support. Plus we just have such a laugh together, which makes the stresses of the job so much easier to deal with.


Working in freelance and remote settings can be lonely at times. So having a real teammate in my corner that I admire both creatively and personally is invaluable. I definitely wouldn't have the same passion for the work without Gemma as my other half.


Gemma: I completely agree. Having a partner I can rely on through thick and thin is the best part of our collaboration. We can always be honest with each other when something isn't working or if we're feeling frustrated. And because we know each other so well and have been through so much together, there's this unspoken trust and comfort level that enables us to take creative risks together.


Plus, our different backgrounds and perspectives make us so much stronger together. Where Phil might be struggling to land on an idea, I can look at it with fresh eyes. And vice versa. As emotional creative people, it helps tremendously when your partner "gets" you and can be a steady sounding board. We definitely feed off each other's energy.

What changes have you noticed in the advertising industry since you started your career? Do you feel further progress still needs to be made?


Gemma: When I first began working in advertising, I was the only female copywriter on my team, along with one other woman. We were often assigned to work on briefs related to female-oriented products and services, rather than broader campaigns.


Today, I'm pleased to see more women in leadership roles and flexible work arrangements becoming more commonplace. This is helpful for parents and improves diversity.


However, there is still a long way to go. The industry remains heavily male-dominated and lacking in racial diversity. Advertising should reflect society as a whole, not just one segment of it.

What’s your process when starting a new creative project? How do you stay focused?


Phil: When we first get a brief, we'll rewrite it into just three very concise sentences that capture the key objectives and human insight - not just what product we need to sell. This helps keep us focused, rather than getting overwhelmed by a long, detailed brief.


It's all about finding that nugget of understanding about the target audience and what motivates them. Ultimately, we want to solve real human problems, not just push products. The rewritten brief becomes our guiding light as we ideate and explore concepts. It keeps us anchored on the most important elements needed to create work that truly resonates.

What advice would you impart to a young creative just starting out and trying to make their mark in this industry?


Phil: I would say don't start from a mindset of asking others to give you a slice of their pie. Go out and bake your own pie! Our industry desperately needs fresh blood and new perspectives from outside the comfortable creative bubble.


Don't wait for someone to discover you - make work that you love and put it out into the world. Let the work speak for itself. The next generation of creatives have so much to offer those of us who have been in the industry for a while. We need people to come in and shake things up, show us a new way of thinking.


Gemma: Yes, I think being willing to reinvent the rulebook is so important these days. While experience is valuable, what the industry truly needs now are new voices and ideas that maybe challenge the "way it's always been done." Young creatives should feel empowered to push boundaries.


And also don't forget that branding and advertising are about understanding and connecting with human beings at the end of the day. Lead first and foremost with empathy - understand the people you're trying to reach. Solve real problems rather than just selling products. If you can master emotional storytelling, the rest falls into place.


Phil: Absolutely. Maintain that human-first mindset. Immerse yourself in culture and creativity outside office walls. Draw inspiration from the world around you. Understand that the future belongs to young visionaries like yourself who see possibilities the old guard may have stopped imagining. Be bold. Surprise us.




Gemma Dowler & Phil Dudman

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