Advertising through the lens of 5 young female creatives

(L to R): Grace, Alina, Samantha, Sydney, Christina of Digitas and sister agency GroupeConnect
(L to R): Grace, Alina, Samantha, Sydney, Christina of Digitas and sister agency GroupeConnect

Let us introduce you to the under-30s defining agency culture and carving modern brand narratives.

You’re looking at the next generation of creative leaders. And the next generation is fierce.

Meet Samantha Salzano, associate creative director at Digitas NY, Christina Swan, senior copywriter at Digitas Chicago, Alina Chong, associate art director at sister agency GroupeConnect, Sydney Spence, copywriter at Digitas NY and Grace Messarra, associate copywriter at GroupeConnect.

All are under 30. All are hungry. And all placed in 2019's U.S. Cannes Young Lions competitions.

Campaign US sat down with the group to talk all things inclusion, creativity and inspiration. Enjoy. Learn. Hire.


What does it mean to be a young female creative in today’s landscape?

Sydney
It’s just the same as being a young creative -- I don’t think about the designation of being female. I’m lucky to be working in an environment where that doesn’t come up much.

Christina
Unfortunately, it means more to me than it should right now. I think about doing work that matters and that’s the most important thing. What was really cool about this digital competition is that it shows women are more than capable of doing the work. It was blind judged. Ninety percent of the finalists were women. We don’t often get to look around this industry and see 90 percent of the interns be women, or see 90 percent of the creative directors be women. It’s got better, but it’s still the opposite. It was cool to see the script being flipped.

Grace
For me, in addition to being a woman, it’s also about a woman of color and representing that diverse perspective. We have some unique things to bring to the table and it’s important that we get to do that. I’m happy to see more diverse faces in the industry, especially diverse women. It’s exciting to be a woman in these times -- a lot of responsibility, though.

Alina
Being a female creative in this industry is about giving you the space to use your voice however you want. Whether you’re doing it just to be the best at your job or you have a lot to say and want to push for something that’s more than about you -- either way it's our personal responsibility. But it’s nice that within this space women are pushing more to be heard and more people are listening.


What are the advantages and disadvantages of being young in advertising?

Sam
Being young is a huge advantage because what is driving culture is what younger people are doing. The younger generations are much more in-tuned naturally and are more comfortable pushing those ideas forward.

Christina
There’s a balance. I came from small agencies where most of the work was done by younger people, and I found [the above] to be true in practice, but I also think it’s important to see that we can have a long career in advertising which is not a given just yet.

Sydney
I do feel at more of an advantage as a young creative -- it’s easier to find opportunities. As we talk about diversity I do think that the industry needs some work when it comes to age. It’s very easy to be a young creative, but I think more experienced creatives have trouble.

Grace
We often find ourselves having to see what the client’s expectations are and what ours are and find a happy medium where everyone can understand each other. But I don’t think we’ve ever had an instance where it’s been completely different worlds. We always find a way to communicate and understand completely what each other needs.

Alina
Because we’re still juniors on our team, they do look to us a lot for ‘what’s hip these days.’ It’s nice that -- while our team may be the most junior -- they do put a lot of responsibility on us and still look to us for our voice. Throughout the company we do still have to fight quite a lot to be heard and have our place, but it’s a noble fight and definitely worth it. Once you prove yourself, people know it and relay it.  


What inspires you to get creative?

Christina
It’s important to keep the work that influences you out of advertising as much as possible. It’s important to know what’s going on in the industry, but when you live too much in that bubble it’s easy to get stuck in it and left behind. It comes as second nature to care about Beychella and the movies that we’re watching and books that we’re reading and bring an influence from that. Make it a habit to know what gets a reaction out of you and your friends. It’s the age filter this weekend on Snapchat. When you get into that habit it’s a really useful well to pull from.

Sam
I like to look at weird stuff on the internet and things that aren’t huge trends. It’s interesting to see what’s starting to bubble up and haven’t become worldwide trends yet. It’s important to keep tabs on that. I have two little brothers and I constantly ask them what they’re doing and what their friends are doing.

Sydney
You can find inspiration everywhere. If you want to create a campaign that means something to the world you have to actually get out in the world and experience it. As many different experiences are you can get makes the work better. Personally, I find that a lot of my better ideas come when I’m outside the office, in the shower or walking the dogs.

Alina
I identify as an illustrator over a creative director so I think a lot in storytelling. The more conversations you have and the more voices you are able to hear broadens where you get to pull from.

Grace
Having grown up abroad, I already came in with extremely different world views in terms of how things work. There were things I had to learn about living in America that for many people was just second nature to them. For me, it’s also languages -- I think in many languages at once. If I’m angry I’ll tend to think in Arabic or French, rather than English. So I’m able to express ideas in a different way based on the languages I speak. I can translate those to English and use them in a way that makes sense in my copywriting. I find that to be very helpful. Music is also a big thing for me.


Where do you see advertising right now through the diversity and inclusion lens?

Sydney
It’s changing and we’re all here today because it is becoming more diverse. We still have a long way to go, so we should continue to push for diversity -- not just of gender but race and age and ability.

Christina
Things are definitely changing for the better in the work. The trend is towards being inclusive and telling more representative stories. I’ve truly never had to fight a big battle on any of my brands about how we’re showing women. That’s huge. What’s great is we’re having more and more conversations on the other side -- our side -- having more people in the room. I’ve been on 20 sets and never worked with a female director. The behind-the-scenes stuff is going to take a long time to rectify and ensure we have a diverse pipeline.

Grace
We’re at the forefront of social and cultural influence. We have such a huge platform and ability to make a difference, and though we are doing that in some way, we need to double-down and do it more. It’s getting better but there’s still a lot of work to do and just us being here is a big part of that work.

Alina
The industry as a whole is over saturated -- we’re everywhere talking about everything, and brands just want to keep talking. The ads that are so good are more than just ads -- they tell a story. That’s where the industry wants to go to and should go to as it becomes more diverse because as more voices are shared that will make ads something much more.

Sam
The Millennial audience especially will call bullshit on stuff that isn’t authentic. So clients and us are hyper-aware of that, which is a good thing and it makes the work better. On the inclusion front, I’ve been very lucky to be in this unique situation where I’ve never felt that inequality -- I’ve always been treated as an equal and have the same opportunities. I know that that’s a unique scenario and I’m grateful for that. We see it on the client-side too where brands are asking for more diverse teams.


What is the future of advertising in one word? 

Sam
Equal: We focus so much on numbers and percentage so much in terms of gender equality and I think it would make for better work, better perspective and a better world if they’re 50/50 everywhere.

Alina
Inclusive: Just being able to relate to some part of an ad is a really cool place advertising could be.

Grace
Responsible: We have such a huge platform and the budgets and the words, and we just need to be wary on how we use them.  

Sydney
Purposeful: A lot of our favorite ads are ones that actually do good in the world. The more we can keep doing that, the better.

Christina
Thoughtful: We need to be reflective of the people we’re trying to talk to and make sure all of those people are in front of the camera and behind the camera at every stage of the process and be thoughtful about how we get there.

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