Creative Insights: 303 MullenLowe's Sara Oteri on more is not more

By AdNews | 24 April 2024

Creative Insights is an AdNews series investigating and uncovering the secrets of the creative side of advertising.

303 MullenLowe Perth ECD Sara Oteri:

How did you fall into the industry? Was it deliberate or a misstep?

As a self-proclaimed type A personality, I find missteps and accidents slightly terrifying. Growing up, I always had an entrepreneurial spirit alongside an artistic flare. So, when I discovered that I could get paid to create ideas, I was sold. I studied creative advertising and film at university and as soon as I graduated, I completed Award School in Melbourne. Next minute, I was filming my first TV commercial in Africa. It’s fair to say I was hooked thereafter.

What’s your secret sauce for commercial creativity?

Be human! I know, I know, that’s obvious right! Ironically, I think it’s so obvious many of us forget to do it. Too many of us make decisions out of fear, we worry about public opinion, and we put ideas through a gauntlet of committee opinions that what comes out the other end lacks humanity.

It’s not a secret. If you find it funny, if it made you cry, if there’s something about an idea that lights you up inside, chances are you’re not the only one. Forget about what your brand wants to say, it’s about what your audience wants to hear.

What’s the biggest hurdle now for creatives?

If I put aside the grind that is balancing motherhood and career and I forgo the conversation around time vs output, I’d have to say quality. In a lot of ways, quality is being overshadowed by quantity. Conversations around long-term brand building are taking a backseat to mediocracy, more often. I’m an ECD but I’m also a consumer. The frequency of garbage I get served on every platform, all the time, is frankly suffocating. I wish more marketers, and ad people, saw the value in doing less, but doing it really bloody well. More is not more.

Do you wear the black t-shirt uniform or are you a nonconformist?

I wish I subscribed to the black t-shirt uniform. One less thing to think about.

Can commercial creativity only take place in a room full of people in black T-shirts?

Yes! In fact, I make my whole department change into black t-shirts before they can ideate on anything! Gosh, I better point out that I’m being sarcastic just in case I get a letter from a disgruntled white t-shirt creative. What a time to be alive…

What was the latest campaign that you worked on that you really enjoyed?

My first mentor in advertising was Sean Cummins and he always told me to find the joy in the work. At the time, twenty-two-year-old me didn’t quite know what he meant by that. I think I do now.

Ad people are a cynical bunch, it’s what makes us good at our jobs. But if you’re a tortured creative, work can feel crappy and frustrating until you land that killer idea with that dream client. Reality is those campaigns happen occasionally. So instead, I try to find the joy in all the work, all the time.

To answer the question, the latest campaign that I worked on was repurposing old creative with a new angle and I really enjoyed it because the client was articulate, respectful of our advice and lovely to work with.

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