Critical Mass CCO Conor Brady Is Leaving the Agency

Departure marks the end of his 20-year run in the industry

Headshot of Conor Brady
The 30-year veteran of the design world is looking for new experiences that better align with his passions. Critical Mass
Headshot of Minda Smiley

After more than five years as the chief creative officer at digital experience design agency Critical Mass, Conor Brady is stepping away from the industry

An avid cyclist, Brady plans to embark on a biking trip; past that, his next career move remains up in the air but will focus on his passions for design, cycling and technology.

Throughout his career, Brady has held creative roles at digital shops including Razorfish and Organic. Prior to Critical Mass, he served as chief creative officer at Huge.

Brady got his start designing book covers at Vintage Paperbacks in London. He then moved on to Universal Music, where he designed album covers as a creative director before joining Razorfish. At Omnicom’s Critical Mass, he’s worked with clients including the United Nations, Citi and Bayer.

We spoke with Brady ahead of his departure to find out more about his future plans, discuss his favorite work and get his thoughts on the state of advertising today.

How long have you been in the industry?
As a designer close to 30 years. In the agency world, around 20 years.

Before joining the agency world, you created book and album covers. Why did you make the switch to advertising?
I am not sure I actually switched to advertising. I went from designing for print to designing for digital experiences. I feel like that is what I have been doing all along. In the meantime, digital experiences became a critical part of the advertising experience, and all of a sudden I was in a different type of meeting talking about campaigns. The switch away from print was genuine excitement at the possibilities that digital had to offer around the depth of the things we could build.

Throughout your career, you’ve worked at a number of digital agencies. What changes have you seen over the years in the digital landscape?
I feel like have watched every evolution of what digital has to offer to brands. At first, it was just a very simple extension of a marketing message. Today, the work we do can genuinely change a brand’s business. It can drive their bottom line and open up new markets and customer bases. That is very powerful. Social changed everything. In a way, it completely democratized advertising, giving small brands a bigger voice and making big brands have to try something different.

Now, the brands that haven’t invested in their digital infrastructure are getting left behind. The foundation of technology that they now need to be successful isn’t always where they need to be. So the ask can be everything from at a brand level all the way down to rebuilding their infrastructure—and both of those asks are needed for them to be competitive.

What piece of work are you most proud of?
That’s hard! The work I am most proud of is probably the work that had a personal impact on me, and I hope made a difference to the lives of others. A few years back I did some work with Brad Mancuso for The Meth Project, where we got to work with Darren Aronofsky for a cause that needed something different. The work we did with TD Ameritrade for their Winter Olympics sponsorship was just some really nice design work that I was really happy with (plus, we got to hang with some incredible athletes.)

More recently, the Sweeper project we did for the United Nations—that was a happy medium between digital innovation and a great campaign/cause.

Also, if I look at “work” in the broader context of a CCO, the job of building teams was incredibly rewarding. It’s amazing how much energy you can draw from being around incredible talent. You never stop learning.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in your career?
I have been incredibly lucky. There are no mistakes, just opportunities not to repeat things that didn’t turn out how you expected. So the biggest mistake was to not realize that earlier in my career, it’s OK if it doesn’t work out how you hoped, just don’t keep doing it.

What’s your next move? Will you return to the industry?
I am still very passionate about design and want to get back to being a hands-on designer again. I don’t want that to be my side project anymore. I want design and making something to be at the center of what I do. I want to try and connect my passions for design, cycling and technology, and see where that takes me. So that is where I will be putting my time; I feel like I owe it to myself to try that.

@Minda_Smiley Minda Smiley is an agencies reporter at Adweek.