MikePreston-Picture Simone de Peak-9Feb2016-NewcastleHeraldNewcastle Herald    Feb 1, 2016, 6 pm
(go to Newcastle Herald story link)


It is still widely believed that a person with schizophrenia has a split personality. They don’t. It is also believed that they can be violent, but the truth is they are more likely to harm themselves than others. - Mike Preston

You have more than 30 years' experience in advertising. How did you get your start?

I got my break after spending three months going around London showing design groups and advertising agencies my art school portfolio.

Michael Wolff at Wolff Olins really liked my work and thought I would suit advertising rather than pure design. Michael recommended me to Tony Brignull, creative director of Vernons and one of the advertising industries greatest ever copywriters. I leant how to create effective and engaging advertising that doesn’t insult consumer intelligence.

You've directed the launch of major brands like Optus and Hahn in Australia. What is one project that stands out as far as market reach and memorability?

For me the ‘Tosser’ anti-littering campaign is a great example of how a memorable a campaign idea can be. Although it was created years ago it has recently been refreshed and re-run. It also demonstrates the value of having a campaign idea that works across all media.

Your daughter, Sarah, has schizophrenia, and a lot of your work has been pro-bono in the mental health field. What are the most common misconceptions of mental illness?

Mental health illnesses such as bipolar and anxiety are more widely understood today. Unfortunately there has been very little change in the understanding and misconceptions about severe mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. For example, it is still widely believed that a person with schizophrenia has a split personality. They don’t. It is also believed that they can be violent, but the truth is they are more likely to harm themselves than others.

How has your personal life affected your work?

My daughter had her first psychotic attack in 2000 and, like most people, we knew very little about schizophrenia; the early warning signs of the illness, what life will be like for a person with schizophrenia and the effect on their family.

In 2002, two colleagues and myself offered our services free of charge to the Schizophrenia Fellowship. This lead to us creating a campaign of TV commercials and print work highlighting the early warning signs of schizophrenia.

Since then I have continued creating campaigns for the Schizophrenia Fellowship and other mental health organisations.  I have also collaborated with people like film director Karl Brandstater, Luke Kellett and Sarah Cook at Headjam who have freely given their time to campaigns.

How far have Australians come in accepting  mental illnesses in our community?

I noticed that the ABC’s ‘Mental As’ week of programs on mental illness focused mainly on bipolar and anxiety with schizophrenia only being mentioned twice during the week. It gives a clue of the wider societies understanding and acceptance of mental illness.

If you could meet Malcolm Turnbull tomorrow on the matter, what would you press home?

There are many MPs who have a personal experience of mental illness, but are reluctant to tell their experiences and their journey to recovery. So I would encourage Malcolm Turnbull to create a stigma free environment so his fellow MPs feel safe to publicly tell their story.

You co-founded Creative’s Co-op agency then joined Newcastle creative agency Headjam, which works in community, health, arts and education. Why?

I first collaborated with Headjam on the production of the launch campaign for South Western Sydney’s Partners In Recovery (PIR SWS) an initiative of the Federal Government for people with a severe mental illness. The campaign’s success lead to the launch of others and by collaborating on these and other projects I developed a great working relationship with Luke, Sarah and their team.

You were Headjam’s creative director and now you are principal and executive creative director. What has changed?

Since I became creative director we have been working on improving our creative processes, the quality of work and the outcomes for our clients. My appointment is about stability and continuity, for the Headjam team and our clients.

What are your ambitions for this year at work?

To be agile and alive to the constant changing media and social landscape. And continue improving the quality of our creative and results for our clients.

Something few people know about you?

I have a deep fear of crocodiles. It started when I was eight years old at school in London.  A visiting missionary told my class in graphic detail how a fellow missionary was taken by crocodile, spun in a death roll and stored in the crocodile’s lair. The missionary may have escaped to tell his tale, but his story has stuck with me.