Grey’s Noel Cottrell is Huge, in Every Way

By Matt Van Hoven 

I first met Noel Cottrell, Grey’s newest hire (and Executive creative Director on ETrade, mind you) about 6 months ago and I was immediately astonished &#151 and not just because he’s an award winning creative (eh hem, around the world).

The guy is huge &#151 literally. He towers over the rest of us (well, me anyway) at 6’8″ &#151 adding to his presence is a bellowing South African accent, and did I mention he’s really tall? More about him after the jump.

I called him up and asked for 5 minutes, which is a rare commodity at Grey &#151 because their ETrade work has a reputation to live up to.

Cottrell said he’s got a piece in the works, and hopes it lives up to the previous Baby spots (which won a Bronze pencil at the One Show). All he would share about the continuing baby saga…

“The next ad, it’s fucking funny,” said Cottrell.

Set to run during the NBA finals later this year, he had the following to say.

“All I can say is the baby is going to be playing with his blackberry,” said the giant. “What’s interesting, one of the things we’re trying to do is bring the two worlds (online and TV) together.”

He likes what Burger King did, when they took the whopper off the menu for a day and people FREAKED OUT.

“We want to do that kind of thing &#151 where we al embrace all media through one big idea,” he said.

If you recall, they pulled the Whopper off the menu for a day and showed that on TV. Then they showed people’s full reactions online.

“To me thats the holy grail &#151 something I’d like to do for ETrade.”

There’s an aesthetic where the idea is more important than the media. We want to get the big idea and get it out there.”

Good things, we say, since both ETrade and BK’s spots caught our attention.

Cottrell got his start way back when in London. He was, fittingly, a bouncer when he met a girl who watched the kids of a CD at Saatchi & Saatchi London. Long story short, he met the guy, got an internship (although he says he never knew what copy writing was until then) at Saatchi and the rest is history.

He started doing controversial work &#151 most notably a full page fold-out of a naked dude, which was meant to sell womens’ jeans in SA.

“It was printed in magazines you’d see in grocery stores,” he said. “The entire thing was pulled after about a week.”

Way to stir it up, Noel. But the controversy didn’t end there. He and a few others started Joe Public back in South Africa, which offered a menu for clients to buy work off of.

“Other agencies got pissed at us, because we didn’t charge any commissions, just a day rate,” he said. He was about to fill me in on the rest of his bad-assness when a lackey came into our meeting for the third time to tell him ETrade was still waiting for him on the phone.

They were waiting for him because he was talking to AgencySpy (me). Which means that for at least a few minutes, AS was responsible for slowing commerce &#151 and so you are by reading this instead of working. Now get back to it.

Just kidding, keep reading. Before he slipped away, I asked him which shop is his fav.

“CP&B Miami does good work,” he said. “It feels a bit last year to say they’re my favorite agency, but I like what they’ve done.

“Agency to watch,” he offered. “Ogilvy Paris. See you Matt &#151 good luck with the blogging thing.”

Fun facts: “Went to the University of Cape Town. Was the last round of conscripts to be conscripted into the SADF (South African Defence Force) &#151 it was the year Nelson Mandela was released, so I didn’t do any fighting, but ‘dust was the new enemy’. Before Grey I ran my own shop FoxP2 back in Cape Town, South Africa.”