Concept to Reality | Breaks Agency

During these times of lockdown, over at Footpatrol we’ve been looking back at past projects and the people that sat behind the scenes throughout these projects. Kicking off this new series, we wanted to look back at those agencies that we’ve had the pleasure of sharing these projects with and see what goes on behind the scene’s to bring these visions to reality.

First up in this series are our good friends over at Breaks Agency. Having worked with Footpatrol from the beginning, Breaks have been on hand to oversee a wide range of our projects here at Footpatrol, from our adidas EQT video, to the Nike Air Max 95 ‘110’.

To learn more about this process, we caught up with Tom, founder of Breaks Agency who sat down with us to run us through the process that comes with bringing these concepts, to reality.

Keep a look out for more of these interviews coming soon and make sure to check out more of Breaks work here!

Footpatrol: Hey Tom how are you? Thank you for taking the time to talk to us today! We have worked together in the past and know all about you but for our audience can you give them a little insight into yourself and what it is you do?

Tom: Of course! I founded Breaks, an independent creative agency based in London that I run with my brother. What started as me on my own working from a friends office has evolved into a trusted studio in the centre of Shoreditch that creates and delivers large-scale campaigns for the likes of Nike, Dr. Martens, Barbour, Champion, New Balance and ClassPass. 

A lot of our early work was with Footpatrol and we used to get to work on a lot of the collaborations you guys did. An early favourite of mine was the Karhu collaboration where we did a stop motion that involved slowly felling a tree in our mates studio. Took all day and made the place stink with petrol fumes. It never clicked with us that using a petrol chainsaw in a non-ventilated studio might be an issue. 

Basically, if you’re launching a new trainer or collection, we’re often the guys who are creating the launch campaign. 

FP: How did you go about starting the agency? And what difficulties did you have at the beginning?

Tom: The agency started just under 5 years ago officially, but it had been bubbling away in tandem a year or two prior alongside ‘Breaks Magazine’, an endeavour I ran at the time with the help of some friends. The magazine’s goal was to create wholly original content – mainly lengthy interviews – around music, street culture and skateboarding. It functioned in a magazine format – in issues – but released online without losing any of the user-friendly aesthetic of a blog. We featured a plethora of streetwear brand owners and were running parties with Red Bull to launch each issue, which is how our first ‘big’ project came about – working on the Converse x Footpatrol ‘Breakpoint’ release. 

Five years ago in February, someone from Converse who came to our launch parties approached us to work on the Breakpoint project and produce the launch event for the shoe with Footpatrol. This is where I met you guys properly. From there, John [Brotherhood, head of Footpatrol] asked me to help you guys launch the Footpatrol ‘Hotstepper’ collaboration with Reebok, shooting the campaign and producing the launch party. 

I still had a full time job at this point and was doing both at once, but once the Reebok project came through in May 2015 I handed in my notice and started Breaks full time. I haven’t looked back since. I have to give John credit for this as he was an early supporter of ours and he was always on hand for advice and wisdom. I owe him a lot. 

The main difficulty in those days was money, we didn’t have any investment (and still don’t) so it got quite hand to mouth at points. Invoice to invoice. But you learn to weather it and you learn to make it work. Those were brilliant days, complete blind ignorance to the challenges that lay ahead, almost carefree. I loved it. 

FP: What were you doing prior? Was it a creative job? Freelance? Or something completely different? 

Tom: My CV is all sort of in the same vein; I worked for Red Bull in events during university and when I graduated I moved to London to work for a digital agency that had Red Bull as a client. I spent over four years there and in that time the agency got bought by a much larger global advertising agency called Leo Burnett and I got to see what working on huge campaigns was like and navigating large corporate worlds with loads of stakeholders and opinions on creativity. 

I hated the big agency part of it and my experience of that definitely motivated me to start Breaks in my own image; an independent creative agency that would be the ideal place of work for myself and my brother, for us to work on projects we were passionate about, rather than sat in all agency meetings discussing how a protein yoghurt would talk on social media (true story; that’s a real meeting I was in). 

FP: What we would like to know is how you get from concept to reality. Would you be able to choose ONE project that you have worked on and summarise into 5 steps the process from the client’s initial email to what the consumer sees?

Tom: Most projects are similar in how they play out so I can break it down into some steps here. These are mainly true for most with very little deviation, but it’s astonishing how some can play out wildly different to others. 

1. Receive the brief from the client. From here we’re pulling it apart in our team, batting ideas around and having fantastical ideas about what we could produce. My job is usually to rein people in, but often we’ve been allowed to run wild which is incredible to have that trust from clients. The aim here is to meet the brief (sell the product), but also try to do something you’ve never done before that stretches the limit of what we’d be allowed to do. Somewhere in the middle of that is the sweet spot. 

2. These ideas get written up and streamlined into a deck. Anyone not familiar with a deck it’s basically a PDF that lays out everything you plan to do. In advertising, everything ever is communicated in a deck. We create decks about decks. Decks haunt me in my sleep. 

3. They get presented to the client – always in person, never over the phone if you can help it. The client feeds back. We’ve either hit the brief or not, they have thoughts, we need to change bits. We repeat points 2 and 3 over and over again until both parties are happy or both of us go mad. Whichever comes first. 

4. Once we’re all in agreement, we go off and make it. Whether it’s a shoot, an animation, some design work, whatever it is, we go and bring it to life. We’re really lucky to work with some amazing creators who help us with this and we’ve built some really strong relationships over the years and travelled to some amazing places. 

5. We deliver the content, in whatever form that is. Depending on the project, this can be lengthy. We do a lot of our post-production in house and we’re often delivering our ‘hero’ image to the client in 45 different crops for email banners, digital retail screens, social media etc. It’s a big job! 

FP: Would you have any advice that you could share with our readers? 

Tom: Listen to as much advice as you can – you can never learn too much. You don’t have to act on any of it, but it will help shape your opinion on the problem at hand. Always do what’s right for you and always trust your gut. 

Also, don’t be a dick. It’s a really easy business mantra but you’d be surprised at the amount of people I’ve met along the way that can’t follow this simple rule. Keep your ego in check. 

FP: How you are coping with the current lockdown. Is there anything particular that’s keeping you going?

Tom: I’m relishing the time to either run or cycle every day, the serotonin from that is keeping me going. 

FP: And finally as it was trainers that brought all us together originally – what would you say is your staple go to for the following:

Tom: Working out – Usually an old pair of Nike Lunar Epic Flyknit 2’s but I’ve got some New balance 880s on the way to switch it up 

Casual every day – New Balance 860v2’s or Nike Vomero 5’s 

Impressing someone – Nike AM95 110’s, or Nike SB Infrared Dunk Low’s – both were impossible to get hold of this year. 

Staying at home – Now we’re on lockdown its Suicoke Moto-CAB’s or Birkenstock Bostons all day every day 

Thank you, stay safe!

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