Next Creative Leaders: Jessica Coulter

Posted on May 04, 2015

Three words you'd use to describe yourself?
Jessicish. Jessicesque. Jessicy.

What piece of work are you most proud of and why?
I’m most proud of is the Harden Soul integrated campaign I created for Foot Locker with my then-partner, Matt Sorrell. It’s always a challenge to do comedy with an athlete, but thanks to everyone involved, we nailed it. I also like that with the removable beard flash drive, we created a real, physical thing. And Foot Locker is one of the clients at BBDO NY that gives me a chance to show that a female writer’s inner-teenage-boy can be just as weird-smelling and drop just as many “dopes” and “tights” as a male writer.

You’re a “pen mentor” to many junior creatives. What is it that drives you to give back?
I pride myself in having never failed to return a junior creative or ad student’s email or phone call. I am often contacted by aspiring female copywriters and I’m always eager to have an encouraging conversation with them. I can’t not help those women. And helping is my way of paying back the many people who helped me—and who continue to help me—along the way.

You've always had more than one job. How has that shaped you as a creative?
In order to be a great creative in an agency, you have to be just as great of a creative outside those walls. At different points in my career, I’ve been a sketch comedian, hip-hop dancer, food writer, burlesque world champion, improviser, aspiring screenwriter, NFL cheerleader and jingle singer. My side writing gig has taken pressure off my ad writing gig, and helped fuel it. I started and directed Todd Brogan’s Sketch Show, a sketch team of both ad creatives and comedians who performed sold out shows at The People’s Improv Theater. My partner, Matt Sorrell and I made some funny, original creative during those crazy busy weeks. With the release of not having creative restraints at night came the strange relief of a good ‘ol ad brief the next day.

You recently became a mom. Any advice for agencies that want to better support new mothers?
Be cool about maternity leave. Give women a private place to pump if they are breastfeeding because that is also the place they might cry a little. Make it ok for them to say the words “my family comes first,” because it should. Not all good work comes from late nights and weekend. Let it come in different packages. Whether that means working non-traditional hours, working part-time from home, working harder for less hours or working from a different city. As long as the work is good, be open to how it gets there.

The transition from maternity leave back to work is different for every mom. I wanted more time with my baby and more family around to help…and that meant a move to the west coast. I didn’t want to leave a job and agency I loved, but knew that what I needed to stay was a big ask. But thanks to the support of David Lubars and Greg Hahn (along with a patient work partner in Eli Terry and incredibly kind and understanding ECDs, producers, account people and an assistant) I now work east coast hours from the west coast—and get to spend half my day being a stay-at-home mom. The days are long and it's not always balanced, but I’m mommin’ it up and still get to make sophisticated fart jokes for money. Yes, I was brave enough to ask. But my bosses were braver because they said yes. We need more bosses like that.

What’s this we hear about an awesome holiday card?
I’m lucky to be married to an insanely talented Art Director, Cyrus Coulter. Each holiday we join creative forces and produce an elaborate holiday card.



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