Next Creative Leaders: Chelsea Cumings

Posted on May 04, 2015

Three words you’d use to describe yourself?
This is always a hard one! I guess I’d go with: fastidious, compassionate and stubborn.

What work are you most proud of and why?
The “Santa Flies Coach” campaign. It was a project I worked on this past Christmas for Expedia and St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Expedia created a program where you could donate your travel points to the hospital. And since no one travels more miles during the holiday season than Santa, we thought it would be helpful to have him earn those points. So we asked him to ditch his sleigh and fly coach like the rest of us.

We flew our Santa to eight different locations around the world in about a week. There were only five of us on the shoot (including Santa!), so we were all racing through airports, lugging camera equipment, trying to help Santa navigate through the excited folks trying to hug him and snap his picture. When we made it to Memphis, Santa surprised the kids in their hospital rooms with gifts. It made the entire crazy trip worth it to see the smiles on those kids’ faces. It was one of the first times that I really felt good about what I was doing for a living—one of the first times I felt my work was actually making a difference.

You’ve worked in Miami, a multicultural market. How has that shaped your POV as a creative?
I felt really inspired in Miami. There are so many incredible characters, beautiful hand painted signs, tropical storms, so much culture. It also gave me a more global perspective than I’d had before. With so much advertising happening online these days, the world has become a much smaller place. It’s critical for leaders in our industry to be culturally aware because it makes them better storytellers and makes their work more relevant to large groups of people around the world. Through awareness, we can understand our responsibilities when it comes to sensitive issues like advertising in emerging markets or championing environmental causes.

You started in this industry at a very young age. What has that meant for your career?
It was so great to start young, because I’ve been able to grow up with my work. I’m an Art Director and when I started everything was about aesthetics. As I’ve matured, my objectives have become more about narrative, creating empathy in consumers and telling stories that reflect the needs of the brand. It’s also given me an appreciation for the things that people of different ages bring to the table. The young creatives are a fresh wave of energy that keeps all of us going, every day. They make our agency cool and keep us in touch. The older creatives help shape and sell those fresh ideas through. It’s a perfect balance—and now I’m somewhere in the middle.

You’ve really benefitted from the flatter agency structure at 180LA. Can you make a case for that?
Creative collaboration is key to success, so having too many “layers” in the chain of command makes it difficult to collaborate efficiently. With direct access to the senior staff, creatives can freely share ideas and get instant feedback—and do it casually. Agencies wanting to produce great work should focus on creating safe environments where their creatives can share ideas freely, without fear of failure. When creatives work in a place ideas are respected, they can take the risks necessary to develop that truly great work.



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