SARAH BARCLAY, EXCECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR AT JWT NY
Sarah is an Executive Creative Director at JWT New York, working across a number of global clients like Nestle, Energizer Personal Care, Johnson & Johnson and more. She has won awards in every major advertising show, including the best TV commercial in 25 years in Australia. She was ranked with her partner as the 10th most awarded creative team in the world before heading to NYC. From early in her career Sarah has been a tutor in advertising schools and she was recently a contributor to a book about Advertising’s Top Women.
Why did you get into advertising?
I was doing a degree in visual communication at Sydney University before there was an advertising course, but knew I wanted to get into advertising after I saw an ad for margarine that had a song congratulating women for using it. It completely insulted me, so I knew I had to be part of the industry to effect change.
Which recent projects have you particularly enjoyed working on?
We just made a series of cat music videos for Litter Genie, a cat poo disposal system. It was truly a work of love that everyone got behind, despite some very uncooperative stars. The end result was proof that you can do great work for any product. And a couple of years ago we relaunched UbyKotex, parodying the myths and stereotypes of the imagery and advertisements in the tampon and pad category. We dragged it all, in black packaging and with a wry smile, into the 20th century.
Is there something you hate (or don’t like) about advertising?
I think the heavy reliance clients have on rational, persuasion-based testing, when most people make decisions intuitively and emotionally, is especially challenging. Marketers have lost a lot of their power to research companies. But Unilever’s Marc Mathieu calls for “more magic, less logic,” so hopefully the industry will reawaken the importance of gut feel.
In your opinion, what characteristics should a good commercial have?
A commercial has to provoke some emotion. It should move the viewer in some way, whether making them laugh, cry, smile, wonder or want to punch the device they are watching it on. Something. Anything else is just wallpaper.
In percentage terms, what’s more important in advertising, the idea or the execution?
Some erudite philosopher once said, you can’t polish a turd. If the idea isn’t strong then it’s just a bit of pretty fluff.
What is your favorite ad ever?
Unfair question! There are too many. I could give a list of my top five funny ads, top five make-me-smile ads, top five with a dog, top five beer ads, etc. But I will pick one of my favorite ads in a category that usually does very uninteresting work: dating companies. This spot is cleverly written, perfectly cast and beautifully directed and makes the brand seem intuitive, sophisticated and modern.
Do you have any creative heroes – within or outside of the industry?
Way too many to mention. But Martin Sharp, Neville Brody, George Lois, David Abbott, Scott Whybin, Lionel Hunt and David Droga, to name just some.
There are few women who are executive creative directors. Why is that so?
Gender bias is one. The kid thing is probably another. The less-driven ego a third. And fewer role models. I think with more attention in the media, organizations like the 3 Percent Conference and the 50/50 Initiative championing change, and younger women feeling more empowered anyway, it will probably slowly change.
What do you like about Berlin?
Love Berlin! Touring around the wide open spaces on bicycles in summertime was lovely.