Next Creative Leaders 2020: Chloe Saintilan
on Oct 29, 2020
She / Her / Hers
Hometown and country:
Current employer, city and role:
R/GA, New York, Associate Creative Director
How did your upbringing, family or hometown shape you as a creative?
My upbringing definitely shaped how I approach work as a creative. My mum is a teacher and my dad is an environmental scientist, and both have a strong sense of purpose in everything they do. They are both very vocal and action-oriented towards issues close to their hearts, and they raised me to see the role I can play on an individual level in helping create change. This mindset is something I bring to every client brief I work on, from concepting down to casting, as well as driving my proactive projects outside of work.
Starting out in the Australian industry shaped me too. A lot of the time you’re working with a pretty small budget, so from the very beginning of my career I was taught to approach briefs with an earned media mindset. I’m very grateful for that.
What’s your “breaking into advertising” story?
While I was still at university, I applied and got into AWARD School - Australia’s main advertising course. TBWA was my designated tutor, and after the course finished, they offered me a role. I obviously couldn’t say no, so I accepted it despite having no idea how I would manage university studies and full-time work! I reached an agreement with the Department Head of my university course - I would be allowed to jump in a cab at lunchtime to attend a university tutorial, and hop back in a cab and get back to work before doing university assignments all night. I did that for a few years and probably got a total of three hours sleep.
What’s the piece of work you’re most proud of and why?
‘No Limits’ for Mercedes-Benz, because it was focused on an area that I am very passionate about (female empowerment), and because it turned into so much more than an ad. A career highlight was being able to attend a STEM Day event in Brooklyn where the video was screened to a large group of young girls, and they were gifted the Matchbox cars. Seeing their reactions was insanely heartwarming - I felt really proud of what we had achieved. I also nearly cried when I got sent a photo of Ewy, now 90 years old, smiling with her Matchbox car at home in Stockholm!
What does being named a Next Creative Leader mean to you?
It is very humbling and motivating with a splash of imposter syndrome. I’ve always looked to the women recognized in the past for inspiration, and I have constantly been in awe of the impact they’re already making in their careers. It’s also a huge honor to be recognized alongside the rest of the winners who are all incredible in their own right.
Who has most influenced you in your career thus far?
My OG role model is Chloe Gottlieb. Being a junior in Australia – an industry with barely any women in top creative positions – I always looked to her as an example of a strong, authentic female leader. Her creative output, leadership style and advocacy (and great name, obviously) remains very inspiring for me and was one of the reasons why I jumped to R/GA. In terms of people I’ve worked with who have influenced me, there are so many people I could name! If I had to narrow it down I would say Craig Brooks, Russ Tucker and Andrew Torrisi in Sydney, my creative partner at R/GA Zack Roif, and Mike Donaghey and Chris Joakim who hired me here. All amazing creatives who I’ve learned a lot from, and have pushed me to be better.
What is your secret (or not-so-secret) creative super power and how do you flex it?
I’m weirdly organized. I am obsessive about writing to-do lists and writing notes during meetings. It stops me from drowning from work… but would definitely be a weird flex.
You turned your creativity into a way to give back with Merch Aid. What advice can you give entrepreneurial creatives who want to make a difference but aren’t sure where to start?
I think so many entrepreneurial creatives have ideas for proactive projects, but put them on the backburner for various reasons – whether it’s needing money to execute it, a developer to build the site, or simply a lack of time. In my own experience, I’ve found that the best way to get past this blockage is to start sharing the idea with people. By telling people you not only start to feel accountable for working on it, but it’ll help lead you to people who will want to help you out in some way.
With Merch Aid, we made a deck explaining the concept and shopped it around to some people we trusted with the skills we needed. Its purpose resonated and people naturally wanted to get involved - without these people we could never have made it.
At the end of the day, with any purpose-led creative idea I’ve always said that it’s better to do something than do nothing. If you’re short on time, get the most basic version of your idea out, even if it’s not perfect. It feels good regardless and you never know where it may lead you.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing the creative industry right now and how would you solve it?
I think that the industry’s biggest challenge is genuinely committing to the change it says it wants to see (and needs). Committing to diversifying talent and leadership, committing to retaining talent, committing to finding new ways of finding diverse talent, committing to workplace flexibility…
Too often we see the press article announcing an initiative, and hear nothing of it ever again. Everything stays the same. With the unprecedented amount of policies and initiatives launched this year in response to everything that’s happened, my hope is that going into 2021 action continues to be taken and meaningful, lasting change begins to be made. Everyone on every level should be holding their workplaces accountable and checking up on progress.
What’s the biggest lesson that 2020 has taught you?
2020 has taught me to be less obsessive about making plans, to be patient and to be comfortable with just going with the flow. I’ve also learned a lot about mental health, resilience and the importance of self-care.
How have you pivoted your creative process/the way you work while sheltering in place?
To be honest, aside from all collaboration now happening over Zoom, I haven’t really pivoted my actual creative process. But as someone who would never leave the office during the work day and who was perfectly chill with eating lunch at my desk, I’ve discovered that getting outside more has a positive impact on my productivity… who knew?
How do you “fill up your cup” creatively?
Meeting people! Working from home, I found I was really missing those interactions with new people that I always found energizing. I quickly realized Zoom presents a great opportunity to connect with interesting people who I never would have bumped into IRL. I’ve found people are way more comfortable reaching out to chat and saying yes to a request to meet over Zoom, and the conversations this has resulted in have definitely ‘filled my cup’ in some way or another.
How are you caring for yourself during this stressful time? Any self-care tips and tricks you can share?
We’re on technology 24/7 so I’m focusing on wholesome analogue activities. Friendship bracelets (seriously therapeutic). Cooking. Chilling in the garden on my street. Trader Joe’s face masks. Tending to my plants and trying not to kill them.
How are you working to celebrate, support or elevate other marginalized voices and experiences?
I’m working hard to elevate and celebrate marginalized voices in both client work, and things I’m involved in outside of work – from using the platform we’ve built with Merch Aid to celebrating designers and business owners from marginalized communities (as well as raising money for relevant organizations), to helping brands support causes where meaningful impact can be made. I’m also involved with the young professional groups of Day One NY and Bottomless Closet which are both doing important work in helping support and empower marginalized voices.
Creativity can save the world. What real world problem would you want to tackle with creativity, if time, budget and logistics were not an issue?
So tough, but I’d say two very different issues. As the daughter of an environmental scientist, I’d have to say climate change. Totally easy fix! A close second could be period poverty and the detrimental, extensive impact it has on millions of women around the world.
What or who is currently inspiring you?
This may be a weird choice, but recently I’ve been really inspired by the work Meghan Markle is doing here in the United States. She has done an amazing job at using her voice and platform to spark conversation and make meaningful impact in various spaces and finding creative ways to go about that - especially in building positive online communities and addressing the spread of misinformation. I’m really excited to see what the couple does with Netflix and their new organization, Archewell.
How are you leaving the work, the workplace or the world a better place than you found it?
Bringing impact-focused creativity to client work. Using my skills to help nonprofits continue spreading their own impact. Mentoring the next generation. Using my voice to help elevate others and just trying to be a decent person.
If you could go back in time, what pivotal advice would you give yourself before your first day as a professional creative?
You are not confined to your client work. If you’re not getting a sense of purpose from that, pursue other creative projects.