Creative Insights: DDB's Jenny Mak on keeping curious, connected and exposed to different ideas

By Ruby Derrick | 12 April 2024

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

DDB Sydney creative partner: Jenny Mak

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

It was a deliberate misstep. I knew I wanted to study something when I finished high school, but I had no idea what. Back then, there was a big telephone book that listed every uni and TAFE course in the country. So, I started on page one and read course description after course description, crossing each one that didn’t appeal to me off as I went. After crossing out almost every course in the book, only one remained – the Bachelor of Arts in Advertising at RMIT. Who knew you could write ads for a living?! Luckily, I secured a place in the course, as there wasn’t really a back-up plan. It was everything I’d hoped it would be and more, and the rest is history. And there’s still no back-up plan.

What’s your secret sauce for commercial creativity?

I think the secret sauce for commercial creativity is a combination of many things; strategic thinking, bold experimentation, empathy, and craftsmanship, all driven by a relentless focus on delivering value to the audience and achieving business objectives.

What’s the biggest hurdle now for creatives?

You don’t just have to jump hurdles, you have to be a decathlete. Being a creative in today’s ever-evolving landscape requires a combination of creativity, resilience, adaptability, and a commitment to continuous learning and innovation. You have to stay attuned to industry trends, embrace new technologies, foster diversity and inclusion, and prioritise mental health and wellbeing – which is a lot. But show me a job that keeps you as curious, connected and exposed to different ideas and ways of thinking. It’s rewarding enough to keep on jumping.

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

I like to wear whatever makes me feel comfortable, confident and brings me joy. I don’t overthink what I wear, but fashion does have the power to affect your mood and behaviour.

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

Absolutely not. Creativity knows no boundaries and doesn’t have a dress code. Whether you choose to wear black t-shirts, suits, jeans, or anything else is ultimately inconsequential to the creative process. What matters most is creating an environment that fosters open communication, encourages experimentation, embraces diversity of thought, and supports the free exchange of ideas. The pandemic proved that creativity can also take place virtually with people collaborating remotely across different locations and time zones, while wearing whatever they want. I know I wrote several campaigns while wearing my pyjamas at the kitchen table at the height of lockdown, and it didn’t stifle my creativity. It may have stifled my waistline being in such close proximity to the fridge, but my ideas remained healthy.

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

We launched a new brand platform for Volkswagen earlier this year called ‘Let’s go for a drive’. What made this campaign particularly enjoyable to work on was the opportunity to collaborate with such a talented team of people. From the agency team, to the client and our production partners, there was a shared ambition to do something special from the start.

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