Basic Info

Graham McDonnell
Contributor Status:
Initial Contribution Date:
Primary Location:
Brooklyn, NY, USA

Career Info

Primary Industry:
Media / Journalism
Personal Career Headline:
International Creative Director, New York Times

My AdVert

Career Snapshot:

After over a decade of leading creative teams agency-side, I joined The New York Times in London to help build and expand their branded content studio to an international audience. After only three short years, the international arm now boasts 25+ staff across studios in London, Paris and Hong Kong. I moved to headquarters in New York around a year ago, where I enjoy a similar role but on a much bigger scale.

AdMission Statement (AKA Personal Brand Pitch):

An award-winning creative, speaker and lecturer with over fifteen years in the industry, specialising in creating immersive visual stories for a wide variety of brands.

My AdVice

How did you get into the industry?:

I think my career path has been anything but normal. I started out writing music for film without any formal training, so it was difficult to say the least! From there I transitioned into video/motion, then design and UX, before finally settling in Creative Direction. I find that the experience I gained in all of these different fields is a huge benefit to my current role.

Emerging industry trends?:

I think the industry is finally starting to listen to consumers craving for something simple and for it to be done well. Consumers are seeing through the flashy executions and are much better at seeing through the distraction to seek actual value in the content they consume.

Ideal experience for a customer/client?:

I’d say there are three parties involved. The customer, the client and ourselves as the intermediate. If any experience is going to be perfect, we need to deliver the customer something they came for and for it to show the client in the light they desire. Everyone wins.

How do you motivate others?:

It’s cliché to say lead by example, but people forget how contagious genuine optimism and enthusiasm can be. You can’t expect someone to be excited by something if it doesn’t excite you first. This goes for clients too!

Career advice to those in your industry?:

The best advice to me was ‘If you’re not happy, change something’. When I was younger I landed a dream job at a company with a great reputation and thought I would end my career there. After three months I’d had enough, booked a flight for South East Asia and didn’t come back for five months! I’d also say you can’t expect to progress if you’re not in the picture, so go to all the events, meet all the people, say yes to all the opportunities. You’d be surprised how quickly doors start to open.

My AdVantage

What do you do best?:

Again, this kind of relates to my weird career path, but because of my experience in multiple different areas I’d say I rarely have a “go-to solution” and I make sure I put the time in to finding the best solution for the challenge. I love getting into the weeds too, so I’m a stickler for the fine details that give something polish (though this is probably becomes a bad thing at some point!)

What are your aspirations? (Personal and Business):

I have a long list of side-projects are perpetually in development, but as long as the process is making me happy then I don’t really mind when/if they are completed.

Most Challenging Moment?:

The earlier parts of my career were definitely the most challenging. I grew up in a working class town without much opportunity and at one point found myself walking four hours a day to work a three-hour shift in a bar. Putting the effort in at that time of my life definitely gives perspective on where to focus my energy now.


There was an old commercial in England a few years ago that featured a cat that decided to ‘Be More Dog’. Instead of lounging around all day looking depressed like most cats, it would play fetch in the park, splash in the river and generally be more positive about every scenario. Quite a good way to live your life and definitely gives you some of the best stories to tell 🙂

Favorite Places/Destinations?:

I spent a few weeks in Vietnam and loved it, the south island of New Zealand is also incredible, but it was only after I moved to New York that I realized how lucky I was living in England with the rest of Europe on the doorstep. Literally dozens of places with some many cultures, climates, people, foods, etc. to explore. Still working on seeing them all

Favorite Products/Objects?:

I’ve never really had a lot of stuff and I hate clutter, so when I moved to New York I pretty much started from scratch. But I bought a new piano recently and it looks and sounds amazing 🙂

What Else To Know

Tell Us More:

A Day in My Life:

What do you love most about Your City?

As I am writing this I’m approaching my one-year anniversary of living in New York. The people aren’t anywhere near as rude as the stereotype would have you believe and there is so much to do, it’s impossible to get bored.

Favorite breakfast meal & restaurant?

I’d have to go with a traditional Full English Breakfast obviously, although don’t expect to do anything productive for a few hours afterwards…

What drink do you need to get through the day and at the end (and how many)?

I’m not a huge coffee drinker but a good Old Fashioned at the end of the day is always welcome.

What should everyone try at least once?

Another cliché, but try doing something that terrifies you at least once a month. I don’t mean skydiving or bungee (unless they really do) but doing something that completely takes you out of your comfort zone, either physically or socially. It’s liberating.

What Else to Know

I recently updated my website so feel free to check out my latest case showreel and case studies if you’re interested.

Primary Location

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