Originally from the UK, Grubb continues to be based in Bangkok, where he has lived for the past 11 years. He takes over from Micah Jayne, who served as ECD for nearly three years and left in March. Grubb will work closely with managing director Andrew Robinson and with the Blue Hive Asia-Pacific hub in Shanghai. Prior to joining, Grubb co-founded and ran a consultancy, Red Pill.
He has extensive experience in the automotive sector, having worked with Daewoo and subsequently Chevrolet, when GM acquired the Korean brand. He also spent a significant part of his career in Asia working on Unilever while at Lowe.
Grubb told Campaign that joining Blue Hive was “like going home”, due to his strong interest in cars. Aside from an affinity for the Ford brand, which he descirbed as “an incredibly good, grown-up client”, he added that he was attracted to the integrated nature of the agency. Blue Hive’s activities span everything from in-store activation to TV, out-of-home and digital, he said.
Grubb began working at Blue Hive on a trial basis three months ago but said it became clear within the first two weeks that he wanted to stay. The change of creative leadership saw a number of junior-level staff decide to depart, and Grubb has since set about hiring a new team. He noted that the team included three female creatives, and said he believed the accusations of gender inequality often leveled at the advertising industry to be unfounded.
After running an independent consultancy, he wanted to rejoin the more social environment offered by agencies and continue to learn, particularly in the field of digital, he said. In Bangkok, Blue Hive consists of around 40 staff.
“Creatives in traditional agencies come up with digital ideas but they rarely get made because the client says, ‘we have a digital agency for that’,” Grubb said. “This is a new kind of experience, which reinvigorates me.”
He cited the personality of Robinson, who has a planning background, as another draw. “Andrew has a down-to-earth attitude to advertising,” said Grubb. “There’s so much bullshit and pretentious talk out there, but [at Blue Hive] we just talk about the realities of what can and can’t be done.”
Grubb said he would aim to teach his team the ability to put themselves “in someone else’s shoes”.
“You can come up with elaborate PowerPoint decks, but in the end you have to ask ‘would my mum understand it?’. You have to think at an everyday level and forget you’re in advertising. Most people outside advertising don’t give a damn about advertising … They think, ‘I’m not interested in advertising. You have to make me interested’. That basic standpoint hasn’t changed.”
He added that the industry had become too focused on interactivity. “I don’t think I’ve ever clicked a ‘like’ button. That doesn’t mean [the work] hasn’t logged in my brain. You don’t have to interact for something to be successful.”
A recent piece of work to launch the new Ford Everest in the Philippines involved various interactive elements such as competitions, he said, but noted that the campaign was also “valid advertising” for people who didn’t click through.
Grubb was not able to provide specific details on the projects he is currently involved in but said Blue Hive was “about to do a big shoot for Ford Thailand”. He said his style would remain straightforward.
“I’m not a creative artiste who does one or two ads a year that no one ever sees,” he said. “I’ll always be into big brands and doing work for them in a professional manner. We’re in the business of selling cars and what we need to do is to use creative techniques to sell cars—not go and pat ourselves on the back on the [Cannes] Croisette. That's not me; it's not what I'm here for.”
Ford is WPP's largest client. Blue Hive is a joint venture between Ogilvy, Wunderman and Mindshare, and also has offices in the US, Canada, Brazil, the UK, Germany, Italy, Spain and South Africa.