Creative Directors / Interviews

Balancing the Grind with Matt Batten, Executive Creative Director at Momentum Worldwide

Matt Batten is the Executive Creative Director at independent creative agency Momentum Worldwide Australia.

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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role? 

I was a creative kid. I could sketch with a pencil so realistically that I won my first art competition aged 11, was hired as an illustrator at 13, and wrote my first ‘novel’ (never to be published) at 14.

But I didn’t take creativity seriously until I went to university. As the first in my family to do so, I didn’t want to disappoint so I worked hard. And being the first time Western Sydney University had ever offered a Bachelor of Arts, the course was quite gruelling with a lot of theory, history, philosophy, and aesthetics in addition to practical work in the studios which I loved the most because I was creating, making, doing.

After graduation, I worked for a company that painted murals on the walls of rich people’s homes before seeking more steady work in a design studio. That was when I encountered my first Mac and suddenly realised “Oh, I work in advertising now.” It was not a vocation I had ever conceived, but I loved it.

Later, while working as a Designer at Saatchi & Saatchi, I enrolled in AWARD School (Australia’s leading course for would-be Art Directors and Copywriters in advertising) and came out the other end in the much-lauded Top 10. From this point on, I would be ‘paid to daydream’ as a tutor once put it.

Following steps up at different agencies, I landed my first Creative leadership role for the Australian office of a global network. Partnered with the irrepressible Jo Lloyd in her first stint as Managing Director, we learned so much from each other and about this business. The success of that partnership and that office saw me promoted and relocated to the flagship office in London as Chief Creative Officer, also overseeing creative leaders across EMEA.

Having returned to Sydney in 2016, I am now the Executive Creative Director at Momentum Worldwide Australia. I’m proud to have led teams of creatives – some truly amazing people – to develop award-winning ideas, campaigns and innovations.

2) What does a day in your life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?

Days in the advertising industry have always been a mixed bag depending on how busy the agency is with client projects, how many projects are presenting challenges, and how many deadlines are imminent.

But the people and culture at Momentum maintain a very comfortable cruising speed which makes the days much easier to manage. And makes it easier as a manager so I can focus more on the team, the business and the briefs.

On the business side, I could be working on the agency’s strategy, going over the finances, building agency profile, building new ways of working profitably, ensuring we have the absolute best case studies and credentials for presenting to prospective clients, or keeping the team motivated.

On the creative side, I could be interrogating briefs, working with the team on current projects to ensure it will exceed the client’s expectations, putting on the headphones to focus on cracking a brief myself, or presenting to clients.

3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine? 

I’m lucky to live very close to the city, a conscious decision that has allowed my wife and I to focus on building careers in industries where late nights are a given.

Now, it also means that each morning, after the always tumultuous and frenzied start of getting an 8-year old ready and at the school gates in time, I have an easy 12-minute trip to the agency. That lack of lengthy commute already affords more flexibility than most.

Momentum has always had a positive culture for work-life balance and flexibility. We’re not clock-punchers. We appreciate everyone has a life that sometimes has demands between 9am and 6pm. We give people the freedom to work remotely when required. We put tools down early on Fridays (every week, not just in Summer like some agencies) so everyone can get their weekend buzz on early.

Like all agencies, Momentum had to proof-test long-term remote working during Covid. Aside from our team members who endured home-schooling (myself included), it worked well.

But Momentum is a people business and we all craved to be among our colleagues again, not just for the camaraderie over a lunchtime pint, but also the spontaneous free flow of creative conversation that simply doesn’t happen remotely.

Without the metaphoric watercooler, there are no watercooler conversations. And that’s where the best ideas can happen more often than you’d expect.

Flexibility is led by culture, not by mandated protocols. Our learnings from lockdown will continue to shape Momentum’s culture as an agency that helps people be happy.

4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?

Many people focus on the ‘work/life’ part of the philosophy and not the ‘balance’ part. 

Taking focus off work could sacrifice a successful and lucrative career. Likewise, focusing only on your career could leave you wondering why you hadn’t enjoyed life while you were younger.

Balance is about a healthy management of both work AND life.

Not many people work just for the shits and giggles of it all. We mostly work for money that helps us afford the life we want. Bigger lifestyle goals require more money which requires more work.

Start with being honest in the values you have for work as much as for life. Play the long game.

And finish with embracing moments wherever and whenever you can. Life should be a series of endless little joys, punctuated with big joys. Some of those joys can be work. Some of those joys will be unexpected. But most of them need to be sought and made.

5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life? 

The greatest challenge for a creative in advertising is that you are often held back from being as creative as you would like. The frustration and friction this causes in the job, day after day, is damaging. Even soul destroying.

Over the years I had dabbled here and there in various creative pursuits outside my career, but only half-heartedly. After a cathartic reality-check moment, I finally accepted the creative restrictions of the advertising industry and began a concerted effort on several endeavours.

I painted, sketched, and photographed a bit, but rediscovered my passion for writing.

I founded Mr Chicken (@Mr.Chicken_films on Insta), and now have several award-winning screenplays under my belt (open to calls from any producers or directors searching for a project), have several film projects of my own, have completed the final draft of my first novel, started on the second, am developing a podcast, and planning a series of children’s books.

6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?

My forthcoming fiction debut, of course. But until that hits the shelves, I am an avid follower of (on Facie and Insta) for bite-sized moments of entertainment, inspirational storytelling, and quality indie filmmaking.

I also recommend This Is Colossal (website, newsletter and social media) for incredibly creative and innovative projects from around the world.

7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?

Aside from my all-important iPhone for jotting down ideas as they suddenly appear, I actually could live without anything else.

But next in line would be my iPad and Apple Pencil for sketching and storyboarding, my MacBook with Highland 2 application for screenwriting, Sonos for music throughout my home, Sennheiser noise-cancelling wireless headphones for music on the go, Spotify, and Global Player for listening to London’s Classic FM.

8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?   

Certainly not from any celebrities or Fortune 500 rich-listers. While they sometimes moan about how busy they are, when you have that much money (and support staff), you have freedom to live however you want.

I’d prefer to hear from real people who strive for a fulfilling work/life balance. 

People like Sarah Greenaway, who founded girls’ sportswear brand @lava-tribe while still working full-time in her own career while being a kick-ass mum, wife and producer for the exceptional photographer/director @shooting_steve, but still managing to live a joyful life.

Or Matthew Morgan, a prolifically busy chaser of work/life balance. He’s been a writer, cabinet maker, ice cream vendor, van driver, stand-up comedian, advertising strategist, bicycle e-retailer, political blogger, doting husband, loving father of two, co-founder of a tech startup, and most recently published a political thriller while building the online fitness brand @fitat60dotcom.

9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?

As Juan Sánchez Villalobos Ramirez once sang to Connor McLeod in a boat, “B-A-L-A-N-C-E, balannnnnce…”

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About Author

Hey there! I'm Hao, the Editor-in-Chief at Balance the Grind. We’re on a mission to showcase healthy work-life balance through interesting stories from people all over the world, in different careers and lifestyles.