Tobias Lord ’03

Major in Corporate Communications (Now Global Communications)

Tobias Lord '03

Tobias Lord ’03 graduated AUP with a major in corporate communications. His international profile helped jumpstart a twenty-year cross-border career in brand and design strategy. Lord is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker; Distressed, his collaboration with Australian photographer Tim Elwin, won Best Short Documentary at the Paris Independent Film Festival in 2020.

How did you discover AUP?

I did the baccalaureate at the American School of Paris, and I wanted to stay within that international system. I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to study at first, but Professor Waddick Doyle, who I think it’s fair to say had a big impact on students of my generation, convinced me to major in corporate communications. He taught us to look at the world with a more critical eye instead of taking things for granted.

Aside from the faculty, what else do you think makes AUP unique?

Paris is a huge deal. AUP’s campus isn’t a bubble; you’re immersed in Paris culture as you walk between classes. As someone who grew up here, attending AUP meant that I could rediscover the city through the eyes of visiting students. I worked as a student advisor because I felt a duty to give back to other students as they shared their perspectives with me. I became more curious about the city around me, and I soaked up the culture both at home and abroad – because Paris is also a gateway to the rest of Europe.

How did your time at AUP impact your career?

It was fundamental. Professor Peter Barnet suggested I apply for a capstone internship at Landor Associates, a branding and design consultancy with offices worldwide. He’d worked there himself and was able to tell me all about the experience. My international profile gave me a leg up, and after six months the company created a permanent job for me. I was on a tobacco account with Phillip Morris. Funnily enough, we also rebranded AUP at that time!

Where did your career take you next?

I worked in Marseille for a local consultancy before coming back to Paris for a role with the advertising company Ogilvy. After a couple of years, I decided I needed a change. I was born in Australia, and so I came here for what was initially a six-month trip to figure out what to do next. I loved living here, so when I was offered a job with Landor in Sydney, I stayed. The role built on my experience in consumer goods but gave me the opportunity to explore the dynamic Asian markets. I later moved to an independent consultancy, Bold Inc., where I stayed for ten years. We grew the company from a smaller packaging studio to an international consultancy operating across South-East Asia, Australia and Europe.

What do you think makes a strong brand?

For me, brands are about trust and transparency. On my first day of my internship, I heard this quote from Sir Walter Landor: “Products are built in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.” A product does something, but a brand enables a sentiment, reassuring you and connecting with you on an emotional level. Strong brands are ones with which people build affinities. Brand purpose is everything today; to succeed in branding you need to tap into emotional triggers in a way that feels simple and authentic. Today, consumers are all marketing-savvy, and the trust that takes years to establish can be destroyed in minutes with a disingenuous faux pas.

At what point did you start being interested in photography and film?

My photography bug dates all the way back to my time at AUP: it was Professor Pat Thompson who first gave me a camera. There were no special effects or clever edits at the studio at that time, so planning and narrative were your only tools to connect with your viewers. I began to explore how to connect emotionally with viewers through images and stories. But it was during the Covid-19 lockdown that I began to explore it more seriously.

What projects did you work on during the pandemic?

I launched a photography project called Finding Space that explored the tension and confusion between isolation and loneliness. At the time, isolation had a bad rap; it was synonymous with loneliness and the effects of social restrictions. But for me, isolation can be replenishing, particularly when you are out in nature. I wanted to capture people at their best in a time of social isolation. I’ve always been a big outdoors guy: surfing, swimming and mountain biking. It gives me mental space.

How did Distressed, your documentary film, come about?

I met Tim Elwin in the water while out shooting. He had been involved in a motorcycling accident and had spent a lot of time in hospital. He wanted to explore his struggle with pleasure and pain in the water. Learning to surf again saved him; our film is the story of that post-traumatic growth. We worked on an initial edit, which to me still felt quite rough. But then he called me a few weeks later to say we’d been selected for the Paris Independent Film Festival. The honesty of the early edit highlighted the power of a beautiful story. Again, simplicity and authenticity proved to be powerful narrative tools considering the rudimentary production, technically speaking. If people connect with the story, you have their attention and you’ve earned their time, which is a real premium resource nowadays. Tim and I are now producing a second film that explores happiness in the water, but I consider myself a fortunate storyteller more than I do an accomplished filmmaker.

What are you working on now?

I continue to shoot the Australian lives around me with the ocean as a backdrop. Capturing people feeling fulfilled and in their element. I’ve created an online gallery and store where I share these moments with people around the world. I’ve recently joined an Australian watch company called Bausele as Brand Director. I met Christo and Arron, the founders, out in – you guessed it – the ocean. We are rebranding and relaunching this amazing human connector of a brand to take it to the world in March 2023. Watch this space!