"Thank U, Next"
By Alixandra Rutnik on Jul 31, 2020
What happens next with Next Creative Leaders winners?
Next Creative Leaders is here! We're all about highlighting the talented women and non-binary creatives in our industry who are thriving in their careers. Since 2015, we have been partnering with The 3% Movement to discover all the Next Creative Leaders – now five years later, it’s 2020, we’re in the middle of a pandemic, but we are still going strong.
This year's final deadline will be here very soon — August 10, in fact — but while we wait for all of those superb submissions to roll in, we figured it was the perfect time to catch up with the lives of those who have already been in the spotlight. We wanted to see what happens "next" to the professional and personal lives of Next Creative Leaders winners after their moment of glory.
Neisha Tweed Bell
Associate Creative Director
Group Creative Director
Sr. Art Director
Have you made a career move recently or have any advice for someone contemplating a switch?
Neisha Tweed Bell: I added another role covering a colleague who is on parental leave.
Jessica Toye: Any type of life-changing career moves are scary. Whether seemingly positive or negative, I always try to look at it as a new push to do something different and to learn. You learn the most when you are challenged.
Mariana Oliveira: I just got a new job in February after looking for a long time. I was really unhappy at my last job, and I ended up staying there for longer than I should have because I was afraid to end up somewhere worse. Fear should not keep us from trying to improve ourselves and our careers. My advice when making a move is to put anxieties aside and concentrate on what is good for you, what you deserve, and what you want your body of work to look like. It’s okay to make a move based on salary and position, but will you be okay if the quality of your work changes? It’s also okay to make a lateral move, but will you be okay with not getting a promotion for the next year or so if it means getting great pieces for your portfolio? If you can’t easily answer these questions on your own, ask friends in the industry. It’s always helpful to have a second, third, and even fourth opinion. Also, always ask for more money than you think you should, because they will try to talk you down no matter what.
Tara Lawall: Don't be afraid. Everything seems scary until you do it, and then once you do it, it's not a big deal. Complacency and “being comfortable” can be a trap to justify avoiding something you’re scared of doing. So just go for it. It's fine. I promise. If the move was a mistake, that's fine too, just make another move. The more times you face what you’re scared of, the easier it is to change things the next time around.
"Complacency and “being comfortable” can be a trap to justify avoiding something you’re scared of doing. So just go for it."
I have two kids– a daughter who is four and a son who is one. I changed jobs when my daughter was one. Then I changed jobs when I was six months pregnant with my son, and then I changed jobs when my son was seven months old. I'm still standing. (Although, I will admit I put my husband, sisters, parents, and couple of my friends through the wringer as I made them listen to me talk myself into and out of each move, ad infinitum.)
Liz Cartwright: I was promoted to CD a year and a half ago. If you're like me and you spent a decade in the creative trenches, ask for leadership training when you get promoted. The role of a CD requires a completely new set of skills and muscles that need to be exercised regularly. Leadership isn't something that anyone should just "wing" and you deserve support to help you transition from creative to creative leader.
What is the biggest challenge you are facing right now?
Neisha Tweed Bell: I'm having a hard time being present for work and being a mom– whenever I have a break from work meetings, I throw myself into being a mom then right back to work, however, then I have no time for non-meeting work, so I do that at night after my toddler goes to bed. But then I have no time for me!
Jessica Toye: Right now the biggest challenge is motivation. I feel very lucky, but with so much happening in the world right now it makes you think about what's really important in life.
Mariana Oliveira: Working during the pandemic has been incredibly challenging. We are not working from home– we are living at our jobs. I just shot and edited eight spots in Denmark, from my living room in Brooklyn, on a 6-hour time difference. I'm navigating it all by trying to embrace this new way of working as best as I can, without putting too much pressure on myself for things to run as smoothly as they normally would.
Tara Lawall: The biggest challenge I face right now is trying to balance everything while standing on very uneven ground. There are so many unknown variables to work with, which can get overwhelming fast. So I've been taking it slow. Planning for the next two months, and not the next two years. Being more present. I got a diffuser? You know things are bad when you turn to essential oils… but eucalyptus smells nice.
Liz Cartwright: Like so many others, the biggest challenge I'm facing is figuring out how to produce great work while also practicing social distancing in a pandemic. Our toolbox as creatives is smaller, but creative expectations aren't any lower. It's a cliché, but it does help me to know that we're all braving this new world of remote productions together. It's going to be clumsy and it's going to be messy, but having a strong team with a healthy sense of humor is getting me through this.
"..the biggest challenge I'm facing is figuring out how to produce great work while also practicing social distancing in a pandemic. Our toolbox as creatives is smaller, but creative expectations aren't any lower."
Erin Evon: Agencies are having a tough time right now as are our clients. Many clients have had to slash budgets and/or postpone projects. It's tough as a creative person to stay motivated when ideas die for circumstances out of our control. Often times, pushing out things can be a death sentence for an idea because by the time it is able to be executed, it's no longer fresh or deemed interesting. I'm navigating it by reminding myself that a great idea will always stand out and rise above the rest. It's important to trust yourself and clients to be able to execute an idea even if it's in the future.
We’re in a global pandemic and most everyone is still working from home– how have you been staying motivated and inspired these past five months?
Neisha Tweed Bell: I made a list of all my projects and wrote down why I was working on them. Then I prioritized the ones that had the biggest impact on others, meaning it was doing good for a certain audience or for the world. Whenever I feel stressed or overwhelmed, I go back to this list to remind myself of why this is worth it. It also gives me a filter for new projects. I ask myself, “Is this helping people? If not, pass.”
Jessica Toye: I have pivoted pretty easily to working from home, but as I said above, motivation and inspiration can be tough at times. I've really been trying to really take every moment I'm not working to do something the feels productive and healthy– reading, going for a walk, or taking on a home project.
Mariana Oliveira: Actually, I'm trying to be okay with feeling unmotivated and uninspired right now. Things are objectively bad. It's not me– it's the world.
"Actually, I'm trying to be okay with feeling unmotivated and uninspired right now. Things are objectively bad. It's not me– it's the world."
Tara Lawall: We have an incredible career-coach resource at Droga5, Maureen Falvey from Mark Strong Coaching, whom I regularly speak with. She keeps me focused on having goals and keeping me on track with the things I’m trying to accomplish professionally. Plus, she’s a fantastic person to regularly talk to, and she’s a big supporter of working moms.
In addition, I have found through the years that the best way to keep myself motivated and inspired, in general, is to constantly be trying out other aspects of creativity. This has led me to realize that I am horrible at Improv and decent at Storytelling and that the stand-up world generally makes me sad.
Liz Cartwright: To quote Apple, "Creativity goes on." We couldn't have asked for a better mantra to get us through this pandemic. I am constantly inspired by humanity's need to create despite the obstacles.
Erin Evon: Honestly, I've been really inspired working from home. I went down to North Carolina and being able to go out into nature vs. the NYC grind has helped me stay positive and feel refreshed. It's also nice to hear perspectives from people outside of advertising. It's a great way to level-set and make sure your work resonates with people who aren't doing advertising for a living.
Kate Desmarais: A group of friends and I started a virtual cinema club where we watch a different movie every Friday night over zoom. Have you seen Tampopo? You must! I've also just been so inspired by all the people still creating during this time– whether it's lockdown still lifes, writing, or a really impressive TikTok.
Mental health is paramount in these times. How are you caring for yourself and your mind?
Neisha Tweed Bell: Weekly therapy sessions!
Jessica Toye: Honestly, not doing a great job and still struggling with this! If anyone has pointers I'd love to hear them. For me, the biggest thing has been shutting off all electronics. No email, no Twitter, no YouTube.
"For me, the biggest thing has been shutting off all electronics. No email, no Twitter, no YouTube."
Mariana Oliveira: I wish I was prioritizing my mental health a bit more to be honest, but it's so easy to get wrapped up in the frenzy. I asked my agency to make sure I don't have to work any weekends in July. I'm trying to go for walks when I can. I've been listening to a lot of Fiona Apple while lying down on the floor in between Zoom meetings.
Tara Lawall: I have a mental-health text chain with some friends that has been going on for years now (shout out to former Droga5 employees Sara Shelton and Dan Brill). We are constantly checking in with one another, and we gently encourage one another to get help when we are dipping too low. These conversations help me reflect on my mental health so that I can “do the work” (as Marc Maron says) to keep my mind right and get the help I need when my mind is not right.
I also bought crystals on Etsy. So between Dan, Sara, Maureen, and some rose quartz, hopefully, we will be able to ride this thing out.
Liz Cartwright: Daily sunshine and exercise. Taking care of my body helps me care for my mind.
Erin Evon: I've been able to steadily exercise more regularly since working from home. I'm able to maintain a workout schedule that was harder to do before when I was commuting into the city. I also highly recommend @ericachenyoga classes. She does a donation-based class every Friday on Instagram during lunch which is a great way to end the week.
Kate Desmarais: Going for lots of walks, trying to create boundaries between work and home, even though the home is work. Reading to escape. Lots and lots of journaling. (Oh and I recently did my first new moon ritual because why not!)
What are you most proud of creative work-wise recently?
Mariana Oliveira: A notoriously difficult client just told my partner and I that the work we did for them raised the bar for the brand, and they bought additional, longer versions of all the cuts we presented to run globally. In the past, saying things like this have always felt like bragging, and I've avoided it at all costs. But lately, I've been trying to make a conscious effort to get out of my comfort zone and to publicize my successes just as much as I do my failures. I'm learning that if I don't value my work, no one else will.
"I'm learning that if I don't value my work, no one else will."
Tara Lawall: I have a couple of productions kicking off in a couple weeks that I am very excited about, so turn on your television in the fall to check those out. But aside from that, I recently got a publishing contract with my illustrator partner, Droga5 Executive Design Director, and fellow parent Rich Greco. It’s a children’s-humor book called This Little Piggy Went to Market in the City. It will launch next May if there’s still a world then. Follow @littlepiggybook for preorder info and updates. :-)
Liz Cartwright: I'm very proud of last year's Nissan Heisman House campaign. I truly believe it was the best year in its nine year history. Here's just one spot from a whole 360 campaign.
Erin Evon: I loved launching Shopify's latest campaign– Supporting Independents. It's all about supporting independent businesses in every way possible... and one way we’re doing that is by featuring as many independent businesses as we can in our latest advertising campaign. It launched before and during COVID-19 which in a way, supported independents when they really needed it.
Patty Orlando: We were lucky enough to get to work with Calmatic, the director of Lil Nas X’s "Old Town Road" video, on our latest TurboTax Super Bowl spot, All People Are Tax People. Not only was the spot really fresh, but also we tried our best to represent “all people” with our casting and agency and production collaborators. Calmatic and Prettybird pulled together an incredible and diverse group of production partners across the board, including "This is America" choreographer Sherrie Silver.
Calmatic recently helped launch Change the Lens, a new initiative calling for 15 percent Black representation at all levels of production including talent rosters. It also calls for producers, directors, and department heads to have a 15 percent Black crew on every job. The 15 percent figure reflects the fact that Black people make up 15 percent of the population in the U.S. and in London.
Are you a talented woman or non-binary person with creative work to share? You should enter Next Creative Leaders! The final deadline to enter is August 10.