Emese Gillotte & Dorottya Tóth | Next Creative Leaders

By Laurel Stark Akman on Feb 15, 2024

Now in its ninth year, Next Creative Leaders is growing, expanding, and showing the world what advertising and design can be when you lift up every voice on your creative team. In the future, Next Creative Leaders hopes to continue to uplift women, trans, non-binary and gender expansive creatives as well as focus on growing the diversity of voices we honor. Below, co-founder, Laurel Stark, introduces some of the Next Creative Leaders to keep an eye on. 

Emese Gillotte, Head of Art

Dorottya Tóth, Creative Director

DDB Budapest


she/her (both)


Budapest, Hungary


Budapest, Hungary



What is your “breaking into advertising” story?

Emese: I must have been 16 when I first stepped foot in an agency. I was there for some unrelated reason but when I saw two guys playing with lightsabers in the middle of their office I told to myself: T H I S is what I want to do.

Dorottya: In short: I almost literally “broke in” to advertising, as I walked into an agency uninvited, saying that I came to work there, and just stuck around.

The full story, with all its incredible and embarrassing details: After one of my teachers told me that he recommended me for a trainee position at an agency, I was eagerly awaiting their call. Then days, a full week passed. So I showed up at a party for advertising people and introduced myself to the Creative Group Head as the person who was recommended but never called. She told me that they will at one point, but I simply said: “No need to call me, I’m right here. I can go tomorrow to the agency.” She said “Sure.” absent-mindedly, and went on to party. Naive little me walked in to the office the next day, and found that nobody knew about my arrival. But the receptionist let me in, then a senior copywriter found me with some copy to write, and that’s it: after a week, I got my contract as their new copywriter trainee.


How did your upbringing, family, or culture shape you as a creative?

Emese: I have a multicultural background. I was born in Romania in a place where most people have two mother tongues. We moved to Hungary once the borders opened and emigrated to France a few years later. There, I sort of forgot my origins, my language, and became French.

At the age of 21 I made the journey backwards, like a salmon. I undid what my mother worked hard doing (sorry mom) and I went back to Eastern Europe to reconnect with my roots. This hectic journey and multilingual setup contributed to making me curious and sensitive, always looking up for stories and understanding people.

Dorottya: Growing up in a post-communist country, advertising was all shiny and new for us in the 90s. It was fertile ground for a fascination with advertising in children. We knew not only the jingles, but entire dialogues from ads by heart. This certainly contributes to the fascination that I have for creativity.

But my point of view comes from a different place. Spending childhood in a small house of a small suburb in a small country, you know all too well the experience of being on the outside, looking in. As a creative, and also as a leader, I aim for turning the spotlight towards those on the outside: to the stories on the fringes, and to the talent that don’t have the obvious background for advertising, but could bring a lot of value to the team exactly because of it.


What is your creative team “meet cute” story?

Budapest, 2015. Chemistry meeting scheduled by the agency. Emese and Dorottya sit down on a charming little terrace, and start to talk.

Emese: One thing you have to know about me is that I’m a feminist.

Dorottya: That’s great, me too!

Emese: And I’m often angry.

Dorottya: Thank goodness. Me too.


What’s the piece of NCL winning work you’re most proud of and why?

Last year, we won a good handful of awards with our project the Impossible Campus for Cinego, a Hungarian streaming service. This campaign aimed to help the survival of free Hungarian film art in Hungary. With a clever audio solution, Cinego gave a chance to teach to the former professors of the local film art university, SZFE, who have been silenced because of the values they stand for. The awards are just a small part of why we are proud of this. SZFE is the alma mater of the most acclaimed local film directors who we often collaborate with when we shoot ads for our clients. Whatever we come up with, it’s their craft that makes it shine. We were really happy that with this project, we could stand up for the community of creators on whom the advertising industry so often relies, and, in our own way, give back to them.

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Who would you thank in your Next Creative Leaders acceptance speech?

Each other, all the mentors we had so far, as well as Hermione Granger and Courtney Love.


What does leadership mean to you?

The way we see it, a creative leader is still a creator: a creator of opportunities. We give chances for creatives, for brands, for ideas to shine. Our job is to set up a playground and fill it with interesting toys for others to play with. And if we do it well, at the end of the day we create stuff that shows that they were made with fun, excitement, and love.


What do you think the future of creativity will look like?

Once we find a time machine or a crystal ball, we will tell you. Until then, we can share what we would LIKE IT to look like, our own private utopia:

Susan Credle rises further to president of Earth, there are at least as many women CDs as men, we no longer have to type a letter on a keyboard or pick up a Wacom pen because our every thought will be realized by willing it to life, and we bring back the budgets (corrected for inflation) of the Mad Men in the 60s.


"Our job is to set up a playground and fill it with interesting toys for others to play with. And if we do it well, at the end of the day we create stuff that shows that they were made with fun, excitement, and love."


What type of story do you feel born to tell?

We were born in countries that, historically, have a hard time facing themselves and speaking their truths. You experience it in secretive family members, in taboo topics, in every corner of culture. When we work, we like to unearth the stories that wouldn’t come to the surface otherwise. 


How are you leaving the work and the workplace better than you found it?

We strive to challenge stereotypes and bring progress through our work. Even with small steps such as choosing the right character for a script, by not being stereotypical but truthful. We tackle uneasy or polarizing topics to bring them on the table. And we believe that if we assert our vision every step of the way, it liberates other creatives too. It gives them space to also speak up for what they believe is the right choice whenever they can.


Who is inspiring you right now and why?

We looked at this question for a long time, then blurted out “my sister” and “my grandma”. Surprise, surprise, it’s the women around us.


If you could go back in time, what would you say to yourself, on your first day as a professional creative?

Emese: Don’t overthink everything. Have fun. Quit smoking now.

Dorottya: If you feel like an impostor now, just wait and see what you’ll feel in 10 years’ time!:)






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