Get To Know: Chief Creative Officer Jay Pond-Jones
The industry stalwart charts his 40-year career trajectory from runner to the advertising world’s first content director – and why he’ll never give up the side hustle
Tuesday 31 May 2022 By Soho House
Tell us how your career has evolved over the past 40 years?
‘My first ever paid job was as a 14-year-old session singer. I think I maybe earnt £2 for a day’s recording at Abbey Road Studios. Unfortunately, my singing career ended a few months later when my voice broke. My career actually started at the age of 16, when I was hired as a runner for a commercial art studio in Goodge Street, London. Within a few months I was offered the position of trainee graphic designer in a packaging design studio, which I’d been running artwork to.
‘I was then given some great career advice: to go freelance and start doing the type of design work I really wanted to do. So that’s exactly what I did. That work started to get me noticed. Very soon, I was hired as a junior art director, working on a fashion account in an ad agency at the age of 21.
‘I started writing at the agency too, thanks to the opportunity presented by radio advertising – mainly because everyone wanted to work in TV. The commercials I wrote for the comedian and broadcaster Kenny Everett won me my first advertising awards. I was then headhunted to join another agency, where I started to be really committed to doing the best work I could. Winning my first awards for television advertising, I soon became a creative director. I moved agencies a couple more times and was promoted to executive creative director, joining the board of D&AD. I became known in the ad industry for creating impactful and often funny advertising.
‘As my advertising career continued, I figured that in the future, brands and entertainment would become more closely aligned, and consequently I became the advertising industry’s first ever content director. From that position in 2003, I was one of the creators of the Gogglebox forerunner, Flipside TV, which ran on Channel 4. Suddenly I was in television.
‘Since then, my portfolio has been an enjoyable creative mix of entertainment, advertising, and content creation. This includes writing, producing, directing, and creative direction, through all the output channels available.’
You are a linchpin of the White City House and Soho Works community and, given that you’ve had a multi-faceted career for decades, how has Soho House and Soho Works aided your ability to work creatively?
‘Being part of such a diverse creative community is continuously stimulating, and there’s certainly been a spirit of supporting each other through these recent times. The ongoing financial impact of the pandemic for many people in the creative businesses has been devastating. What used to simply be nods between people around the Houses are now turning into real conversations and projects.
‘Encouragingly, people are coming together to help common causes. A recent example has been the support for Grenfell Athletic Football Club through House Foundations. Seeing members join in and contribute in their own ways has been wonderful to see. Hopefully the fruits of this will have a lasting impact on the local community forever.’
How has the TV industry changed and what would be the one learning you could pass on to the next generation of producers?
‘With production costs coming down and ever-expanding opportunities to connect with audiences, creating ideas that cut through has never been more important. I always take time in development very seriously. Making the shows is the fun part; coming up with original ideas is where the effort is needed. My advice: get up and go to work, whether you’re making stuff or not.’
You help to curate events series and ideas with Soho House and Soho Works. How do you find inspiration and what’s been your favourite idea so far?
‘I try to maintain my side of the deal of being a Soho House member – as a creative place for creatives. I conceive event ideas in areas that cross over into my day-to-day work in entertainment, music and comedy that will hopefully both inspire and entertain. But there’s one that really stands out for me. Soho Works asked me to come up with some event ideas that were uniquely Soho Works. The result was an ongoing monthly series called Delicious that’s run out of the Loft Kitchen at 180 House.
‘It’s an opportunity for emerging food businesses to cook their food for a mix of investors and Soho Works members. I love it. It feels so good to help people turn their ideas into something real. It supports the entrepreneurial spirit of Soho Works, but also taps right into Soho House and its passion for great food.
‘One of the earliest in the series was Glorious Gloria – a range of African sauces, created by Gloria Pobee. Gloria is very ambitious. She wants to make African food as big as Indian or Chinese, and told me that in Africa, people eat whatever they want, whenever they want. So, my Monday breakfast is now chicken that’s left over from the Sunday roast. I’m with Gloria on this – it’s the future.’
Can you tell us about your side hustle and why it’s important to you?
‘The handy thing about side hustles is that they often turn into the main hustle. That has certainly been the case with ColourBolt bikes. It started just after I’d finished making two seasons back to back of a comedy series for America. Because I had the time, I created a collection of bikes, built around a mix of new and vintage parts. Tom Dixon saw them, liked them, and put them on sale in his store. Pretty soon, ColourBolt became a fully bespoke bike business.
‘I’ve found the whole thing very liberating; bikes that are built exactly as I want them. As a creative person, working on something that’s completely in your control and having it come out exactly as you want is pretty unusual. It’s only happened in my ad career a couple of times. FCUK was one of them. For me, pure creativity is what’s important in a side hustle.
‘Other side hustles include the 1991 single, ‘She Got Soul’ by Jamestown (Official Music Chart entry at number 57), which I co-wrote and whistled on. The PRS continues to trickle in.’