Meet Ross

Meet Smokeylemon’s Ross Bennett, brand developer, marketer, artist, firefighter, radio host, humourist, consumerist and once NZ’s second most popular public speaker. Our self proclaimed “studio Dad” won’t be pigeonholed, find out why in his blog.

cover image Ross Bennett

Written by Ross Bennett

30 July 2020 | 6 Minute(s) to read

There’s a few old tales that go something along the lines of “butcher baker candlestick maker, or tinker tailor soldier sailor”, but have you heard about the brand developer, marketer, artist, firefighter, radio host, humourist, consumerist and once NZ’s second most popular public speaker? 

That’s me, the last one, not the candlesticky tinkery one.

Wait, am I the studio Dad?

It downright scared me when I ran out of fingers and toes to count how long I’ve been in the creative industry. Graduating from what was then Victoria University School of Design (now Massey) in 1995, I’ve been a professional illustrator, graphic designer, marketer and copywriter since Alanis Morissette was complaining about everything being ironic. Incidentally, Alanis, none of those things were ironic, they were annoying at best.

Speaking of annoying, like many creatives, I’m difficult to pigeonhole. Tending to not settle for one specific pathway but to weave my talents into many different disciplines and roles both in a professional and non-professional capacity. 

Possibly the world’s worst wallflower.

Here’s an insight into the side of me you may not see at work. Being the world’s worst wallflower means sticking your neck out, taking risks and potentially, ok sometimes literally, making a fool of yourself, which I seem to have a penchant for.

After a successful stint of public speaking where I just missed out on representing NZ overseas at the Toastmaster World champs, losing on a 1st equal placing decider vote … and yes, I’m still bitter. I took to the stage to perform stand up comedy and had the privilege to share the stage and learn from many of the comedic champions we now see regularly on TV. 

Ross bennett and Greg Woods on MostFM

Here's a picture of me totally believing something Greg is saying

Stand up then led to radio where I co-host Pandora’s Box on Taranaki’s MostFM every Wednesday night with my mate Greg. Greg has extensive knowledge of music history and an endless catalogue of vinyl, whereas I can make fart noises with my hands and own a copy of megamix from 1984 on cassette, but just like Bert and Ernie, the contrasting dynamics seem to work.

The exhibitionist

In contrast to shooting my mouth off or making people laugh, I’ve started to gain a reputation for my paintings. Something I’ve always had the ability to do but not necessarily the drive. With added public interest in my work, I’m currently busy creating for the Oakura arts trail coming up in November this year. 

Artwork and paintings by Ross Bennett

I’ve also been lucky enough to have a work exhibited in the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt and I aim to put on a solo exhibition in the next year. Painting is pure escapism for me, free from a stringent brief and expectation. I’ve learnt that every painting develops its own story and personality as it is created, it's not something you can force to your will.

It's not just the lemons that are smokey.

When I’m not painting you might find me putting out fires and helping to protect life and property with the Oakura Fire Brigade which I’ve been a member of for the last 14 years. It’s exciting, nerve-racking, emotional and rewarding but more importantly, means we have a first aider at work in case of paper cuts.

Somebody call 111 - That moustache is out of control!

Captain sensible.

Public ridicule, paint splatters and singed eyebrows aside it's time to prove that I can actually be sensible and talk about my professional career.

I carved out the first few notches of my career in our creative capital Wellington, working with Watermark, a dedicated illustration agency. I loved being able to see my work in the public eye with my illustrations ending up on Mac’s beer labels, Steinlarger promotions, V cans, Popsicle boxes and at one point every phone box in the country. I even gave the Perky Na-Na monkey a tickle up at one stage.

Having a wider skill set than just illustration led me to the senior marketing designer role at Learning Media, who at the time was New Zealand’s largest educational publisher and producer of the famous School Journal. My role there was to design resources to sell the book series’ into international markets and have my spelling corrected every single minute of my life by the abundance of ex-teachers and professional educators that I worked with.

After a small stint overseas where I picked up design and copywriting work at Irish design studio Huguenot, I returned to New Zealand and settled in Taranaki where I established my own freelance brand studio Cause & Effect.

Brand and deliver

Growing brands became a passion driven by helping companies set the direction of their brand and have a greater understanding of how to communicate through design. It also helped me to develop my facilitation skills and structure workshops to assist companies to clearly identify and communicate their own brand.

Design and brand work Ross Bennett

One of my clients, IncaFe coffee, then asked me to come on board full time as their marketing designer and with this opportunity I got to combine many of my passions, amazing coffee, design and marketing and the opportunity to travel to international markets and present the product, Taiwan and Korea being two of the highlights.

It was an opportunistic meeting over lunch with Mandy (which I’m pretty sure is her standard hiring policy) that opened up a chance for me to join the talented Smokeylemon team. With some retraining to upskill my digital marketing knowledge we started to build some strong foundations for the marketing side of the business. 

Both my skills and the team continue to grow under Mandy’s guidance and as we continue to extend our achievements from design, web and marketing to TV ads, touch screen experiences and creative facilitation to solve business problems, we seem to be getting stronger and better as an agency by the month - an agency that when I think about it, is perfectly suited to someone who’s difficult to pigeonhole.

pigeon saying don't even think about it.

Photo by . MCLT from Pexels