Next Creative Leaders: Tara Lawall

Posted on May 04, 2015

Tara was selected for a special Judges Award. She won a ticket to the Annual Fall 3% Conference in New York and a ticket to The One Club’s Creative Leaders Retreat.

Three words you'd use to describe yourself?
Driven. Compassionate. Intense.

What piece of work are you most proud of and why?
Probably my most recent work for Air Wick. We captured and recreated the smell of a soldier’s home using scent-capturing technology and sent it to where he was stationed in Qatar. This project faced a lot of complications along the way, so I’m proud that my partner, Devon Hong, and I had the stamina to pull it off. It’s a perfect example of how it takes resilient people across all departments to take an idea from page 140 in a 144 page pitch deck, and bring it to life.

You’re a part of a unique women’s program at your agency. Can you tell us about it?
The Women’s Initiative at Droga5 was started by our General Manager and Head of Account Management, Susie Nam. The group’s main focus is to understand the issues that women face in advertising and create programs that affect positive change. I host a monthly event called Skyside Chats where the women of our agency get to sit down and have a drink with our agency’s top executives. These chats are inspiring and offer a better sense of how the people at the top got there. We’re also studying gender breakdowns and data from our own agency. Other agencies should do that—it’s a great way to start the conversation.

You were pretty single-minded in landing your current job. Can you talk about that process?
After my third year in advertising, I freelanced and took the time to think about the mistakes I’d made and what I wanted the next five years of my career to look like. I picked five agencies that I really wanted to work for and decided to convince one of them to hire me. No matter where you work in advertising, you work hard, but the stress comes from different things. I wanted my stress to come from trying to make the best work and not from trying to navigate the agency politics.

The agencies that do the best work have strong teams working with their creatives. I knew amazing creatives everywhere I worked, but the best agencies have strategists who are finding bigger insights, account people who are more driven, and producers who are more resourceful. All five of the agencies I pursued had great people across the board.

You teach and run an internship program. Why do you make mentoring a priority?
I probably learn more from teaching than my students learn from me, so it’s almost a selfish act. When I teach it forces me to analyze what makes a great idea and how to make the beginnings of a good thought into something—and that makes me a better, faster creative. When I am in a mentoring role, it makes me think about my own career and what has worked or not worked. Taking time to reflect makes me more appreciative. But it also reminds me how much it meant to me when I was just starting out to get advice so I always try to make time to pay it forward.

When Felix Richter and I started Droga5’s internship program, we modeled it after the one Menno Kluin ran at Y&R. He showed us the value of having consistently fresh thinking and eager talent in a creative department. Agencies should definitely consider getting involved with Miami Ad School’s internship program (contact:

Any advice for creatives who want more happiness out of their jobs?
It takes a great amount of effort to find out how to love being a creative in advertising. To choose to remember the moments when the job is great instead of the late nights and frustrating meetings. And to celebrate how lucky you are to work with such interesting people instead of dwelling on the stress. Finding that balance is a constant struggle. But committing to finding that balance is imperative to being happy in this industry.



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