How did you discover your passion for advertising and gain the skills necessary for your field? If you had asked high school–aged me what I was going to do when I grew up, I would have confidently told you that I was going to be a producer on editorial magazine–style shows like 60 Minutes or CBS Sunday Morning. I loved writing and storytelling. I loved sociology, psychology and political science. But mostly, I loved the movie All the President’s Men. So, I went to journalism school to become the next Woodward or Bernstein. And by November of my first semester, I discovered that A, I absolutely hated having to write in an inverted-pyramid style—if you ever worked on your school newspaper, you’re picking up what I’m putting down—and B, I didn’t have what it took to elbow my way into a room and “get the interview.” Once journalism was out, I almost intuitively turned to advertising. I loved the idea that it allowed me to tell stories my way. But mostly, I also loved the movie Crazy People.
Congratulations on being appointed chief creative officer of BBH USA in 2022! What do you do in your current position? Unfortunately, the only thing I don’t often get to do as chief creative officer is spend my entire day totally focused on concepting or production or post-production. Fortunately, I have amazing partners who help protect my time so I can squeeze in as much of that good stuff as possible. Otherwise, I’d just get swept away into HR-legal-account-operation-land, where the snacks aren’t as good and the people are rarely as funny.
Your current position is also especially momentous as you’re part of a now-all-women leadership team. Has this ever happened before in BBH USA’s history? Thank you. The makeup of our leadership team is a first for BBH, but it wasn’t by design. President Agnes Fischer and I were tasked with building a team strong enough to usher in a new era for BBH—no small task. After interviewing countless qualified candidates, we just so happened to end up with a team of four women. Agnes, chief strategy officer Samantha Deevy and chief marketing officer Lindsey McNabb are wildly talented, whip-smart women who I feel incredibly lucky to call my partners.
At BBH USA, you oversee the creative for many high-profile clients, including Heineken, Netflix, Jif and Samsung. What have been some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on? Our relationship with J.M. Smucker has definitely impacted our approach to creativity and creative problem-solving, in large part due to how our team is structured. We have all disciplines at the table with creatives—PR, media, commerce and data—working together at all times. So, creatives are learning how to pull all these different levers to discover and execute totally different kinds of ideas, like campaigns such as Jif vs. Gif, Lil Jif, Meow Remix, and lots more commerce- and entertainment-first ideas to come.
A more recent favorite is the work we just released for Netflix’s show Squid Game: The Challenge. It’s a digital and OOH campaign that brings to life such a simple, yet comically reprehensible human insight around the price of morals. The campaign is based on a national survey we launched to find out how much money the average American would need to do something borderline immoral, like pee in a pool. You can find out your price on the campaign’s associated website everyonehasaprice.co.
You mention that part of your mission as chief creative officer is to create work that resonates with culture. How do you accomplish this, and where do you look for inspiration to do so? I spend as much time off TikTok as possible.
In order to grow, trust needs to be at the center of every relationship: trust with your team, trust between leaders, and especially trust between agency and client.”
What is one challenge currently facing ad agencies that they need to address in order to remain relevant? In order to grow, trust needs to be at the center of every relationship: trust with your team, trust between leaders, and especially trust between agency and client. It’s essential and can often be overlooked. Build yourself up to be an available and attentive partner for your clients. Be proactive in identifying and solving any problems that keep them up at night. Whether the challenge is good, bad or extremely ugly, tackle these problems with 110 percent effort. It can’t always be about what’s flashy or what gets the most eyes on your agency. Trust is letting the brand shine and succeed. From responding to late-night, gut-check emails to a top-ranked Super Bowl spot, it’s about delivering work that keeps your client’s expectations met, high and constant. Trust is the engine that powers creative magic, enduring client relationships and lifelong partnerships.
What’s your philosophy on the role of creative leaders in cultivating talent opportunities? Between industry trends and exponentially changing technologies, one truth that remains is that we are a people business. Our success relies on our amazing talent. Every member of the BBH flock is equally vital to our success. We are a collective that works in tandem, and if one element is lacking, it becomes a barrier to developing the best work. I’m very proud to be leading a team where camaraderie and synchronicity come first.
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Enjoy the ride! You’re entering an industry with a ton of flexibility, particularly in creative. You can truly choose whatever path best suits your strengths, whether working agency side, client side or floating around as a freelancer. You can choose to stay focused on the conceptual aspect of things for your entire career and become an absolutely invaluable, go-to creative director until the end of time, staying head down in the work and generating groundbreaking ideas. Or you can choose a more managerial path, helping shape the work, the agency and careers. There are no wrong answers. Just figure out what aspect of the work excites you most and follow that path. ca