Next Creative Leaders: North American Magnificence
By Alixandra Rutnik Posted on Jul 23, 2021
Getting to know our NCL 2020 Regional Winners
We've entered the final stretch for Next Creative Leaders 2021 — the last day for you to enter the portfolio-based competition created in partnership with The 3% Movement is next Friday, June 30! We know that women and non-binary creatives across the globe are putting the final touches on their submissions — both the amazing projects they intend to submit and the stories of leadership and initiative behind them.
As we've approached the deadline, we've taken the time to highlight some of the regional winners from last year's Next Creative Leaders competition. As you may know, alongside our usual ten top winners, we also spotlight notable talent from different parts of the world, and after featuring some of our stars from Latin America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region, we are ending this series with a look at three of our North American winners: Emily Berger, Senior Creative & Copywriter; Marybeth Ledesma, Creative Director; and Nellie Santee, Copywriter.
With the Next Creative Leaders 2021 entry deadline only a week away, we did a quick check-in with these regional-winning women in order to get you all hyped to stand in their footsteps this year.
What is rewarding about being in a leadership role? And what is challenging to be a creative leader?
My success is based on the team's success. I’ve spent the majority of my career being the one to help other creatives grow. It’s gratifying to watch them get better and better.
"The biggest challenge is trusting yourself and your judgment. Creative work is subjective, and it’s easy to think that someone else in the room has the correct answer. A BETTER answer."
The biggest challenge is trusting yourself and your judgment. Creative work is subjective, and it’s easy to think that someone else in the room has the correct answer. A BETTER answer. It’s a convenient fallback. I’ve had to work hard to grow out of this mindset and trust my gut and what I think is right. And if it’s wrong? We’ll figure it out and correct it. And if someone else has another idea that makes the idea even better? Great! We’ll pivot. But as a leader, you’ve got to have opinions and make decisions for better or for worse.
How was creativity a part of your upbringing, family, or hometown?
Growing up, I was a quiet kid. I lived in my imagination. I read a lot. I hummed to myself. I was totally spacey (in a stuck-in-my-own-thoughts way). My friends say they can “hear me think.” Not literally, I just have a thinking face. I’m constantly thinking. I’ve always got thoughts.
My mom was in PR, and my dad was in marketing, so I grew up around lots of business talk at the kitchen table. Neither of them was on the creative side, but they’re creative people. A big thing in our house was seeing what other people were creating and selling and then saying, “I can do that.” My mom handmade every single Halloween costume and planned all of our birthday parties. When I was into Beanie Babies, she started making Beanie Baby clothes from felt and puff paint and sold them at local stores. My dad’s obsessed with music and creative ideas. He loves knowing the cool, hip things and being an early adapter. He’s obsessed with TikTok.
My brother was athletic, and I was THE WORST at sports. Like, last place in every race. Only one to get cut from my middle school basketball team. Slow, spacey, and afraid of the ball. Not ideal! But I loved the arts. I did theater, read, wrote, painted, sketched. It was a place where living in my head worked in my favor. So I stuck to what I was good at.
What’s the piece of work in your NCL portfolio that you’re most proud of and why?
I’m most proud of GiveHerABreak. The first piece of work I made with Mojo Supermarket was the first project we made together as a team. It was all hands on deck, a ton of work, and everyone diving headfirst into tasks we’d never done before.
I had just left an established agency to work with Mo as one of the first hires at Mojo Supermarket, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. Creating GiveHerABreak was validating and indicative of the agency and culture we were building. It was the first taste I’d gotten of the team pushing an idea through against all odds (and against a ton of lawyers telling us it was a terrible idea). The work itself helped to highlight a cause I’m passionate about. I mean, what more can you ask for?
What would you consider your creative directing style to be?
My approach is entirely collaborative for two reasons: My teams can see I’m invested in the work, which makes them try even harder, and I create a safe space for teams to contribute to the conversation rather than just follow orders.
If you could go back in time, what pivotal advice would you give yourself before your first day as a professional?
Take every opportunity to present. It leads to more chances to join meetings where you get exposed to more of the process.
How do you strive to empower women and non-binary individuals in the ad industry?
When these individuals are on my team, it’s essential for me to create room for their perspective and authentic selves through team dynamics and the actual work.
"When these individuals are on my team, it’s essential for me to create room for their perspective and authentic selves through team dynamics and the actual work."
What is great about being a part of the NCL community?
It's just an honor to be in the middle of such great professionals in the industry and have this incredible network to tap into for the latest trends in culture and advertising.
What is your “breaking into advertising” story?
I worked in advertising in Brazil, but my big break happened when I decided to try my luck in the US industry. So I applied to Miami Ad School and having done one of their internships at DAVID Miami, I luckily got hired and have been there ever since!
What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing the creative industry right now, and how would you solve it?
The biggest challenge is to stay relevant but not gratuitous. Consumers can sniff a fake marketing ploy from miles away, so I think brands are trying to be more cohesive and holistic, not just making cool fun ideas but also improving the whole brand experience and brand positioning.
"Consumers can sniff a fake marketing ploy from miles away, so I think brands are trying to be more cohesive and holistic, not just making cool fun ideas but also improving the whole brand experience and brand positioning."
NEXT CREATIVE LEADERS 2021 IS HERE! Get your submissions in by July 30.