Next Creative Leaders 2018: Mietta McFarlane

Posted on Nov 06, 2018

Hometown and country:

Sydney, Australia


Current employer, city and role:

Droga5, New York, Senior Copywriter


How did your upbringing, family or hometown shape you as a creative?

I grew up in an environment that nurtured and valued creativity. Unlike many of my friends who had to do what their parents deemed a “real career”, I feel fortunate that my family encouraged me to find something that I loved to do.


What’s your “breaking into advertising” story?

I worked at an agency’s café making coffees. I won’t say I was a “barista” because that would imply that I knew what I was doing. Making (terrible) coffees, I found myself surrounded by a bunch of incredibly funny, weird and interesting people. It was enough to lure me into a night course in advertising.


What’s the piece of work you’re most proud of and why?

The New York Times campaign for World Press Freedom Day. For me it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to ignite real change in the way people think, and even, behave. Not just by creating a ‘one off’ campaign, but by making a contribution towards a more informed society. Having the chance to work on a campaign as culturally relevant as this, was my reason for moving to New York. Working for a client that wasn’t just ‘selling’ something, but actually ‘stood’ for something was a humbling and rewarding experience.


What does meaning this award mean to you?

Working at Droga5 has allowed me to work with some great leaders in the business. Now, I’m keen to pay forward that support. Winning this award feels like I’m taking one step forward to becoming a leader myself. Sharing a spot on this list with some of the most talented women in the industry makes me a little intimidated but pretty damn excited about the next generation taking the reins.


Who has most influenced you in your career thus far?

This is a far more generous industry than most outside might think, countless people have given up their time to help me along the way. Two incredibly talented women, in particular, over the last three years: Casey Rand and Karen Short. To me that’s the future of advertising.


What do you feel is the biggest challenge facing women right now (work or non work related) and how would you solve it?

Managing your career and life outside the office. Working long hours for the passion of your creativity is easy and enjoyable when you don’t have kids. I’m honestly in awe of any woman who can hold down a creative job and manage motherhood at the same time. But I don’t think this is unique to our industry, it’s a big challenge for all professional women.


If you were CCO of your company, what would be the one thing you’d change (if you could just wave your magic wand?)

I’d pass that wand over every clock to slow this entire industry down. I wish we had more time for the creative process. Who is the sadist who invented multitasking?


The theme of this year’s 3% Conference is “Bring it.” What do you think you bring to the table as a creative and a leader?

Hopefully an optimistic view of our industry. It might be a bit frayed around the edges right now, but it still contributes a great deal to society, the economy and culture. Of course, it has to adapt and change, but I’d like to help make that happen.


What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in the past year?

Sleep is more important than I realized. There was a time, when I could work until 2am in the morning and I thought functioning on 6 hours sleep meant I was achieving. Now I get more rest and come in early—I have a lot more clarity in the morning.


What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken in your career so far and how did it pan out?

Moving to New York for my job at Droga5 — it was terrifying. For me there was a lot at stake. I gave up the comfort and security of home to come over on a work visa and a 3 month probation period. Thankfully it all worked out and has turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made.


How do you “fill up your cup” creatively?

By looking out the subway window, exploring the streets and taking a moment to listen and talk to different people. This is a city of ideas.


What’s currently inspiring you?

My current obsession is this Canadian artist, Sara Cwynar. Her work is inspired by the aesthetics of old studio photography and the unnatural cleanliness of contemporary commercial imagery. She assembles found objects and pictures into sculptural constructions; which she then photographs and reproduces as c-prints. Although she uses a little Photoshop in the final work, nearly every stage of her work takes place in pre-production. Her creative process is incredible.


What would be your dream project and why?

A project that went seamlessly from beginning to end would be nice for just once. But more seriously, a campaign that tells the truth, offered genuine benefit to the lives of audiences. We make a living “selling” but that doesn’t mean we have to sell crap.


How are you leaving the work, the workplace or the world a better place than you found it?

This is a question of some magnitude. In my spare time, I work on projects and issues that I feel passionate about, I don’t know if I’m leaving the world a better place, but I’m trying, one very small step at a time.


What’s the biggest piece of advice you can give to women embarking on a creative career?

Don’t hang back. Don’t hide behind the guys. You need to make your own opportunities. Most of the time the best briefs don’t just land on your desk. You need to hunt them down or better yet, create them. Oh, and I almost forgot, for God’s sake have fun.

Click here to view her award winning work 


Nedal Ahmed

Lama Bawadi

Maddy Kramer

Julie Matheny

Mietta McFarlane

Krystle Mullin

Evelina Ronnung

Jessica Shriftman

Gayatri Sriram

Lizzie Wilson


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