Creative Insights: Howatson+Co's Harriet Ronn on a balanced diet for the brain

By Ruby Derrick | 25 October 2023

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

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

It was so deliberate. I went to Ad School in the UK and then straight into internships in London off the back of that. I did seriously consider studying both illustration and fine art, but those disciplines felt quite solitary. I love working with people, and this industry’s great for that - whether that’s working daily with a creative partner, the wider team or on specific projects with directors, photographers, illustrators etc. (Maybe in a parallel universe I’m an illustrator sick to death of working with chatty, extroverted ad people?)

What’s your secret sauce for commercial creativity?

A balanced diet. And by that I don’t mean making sure you eat your carrots, but what you feed your brain with. Good film, good art, good writing, good TV (OK but I did watch Real Housewives of Sydney last night, as a treat). The more inspo you pack your brain chocka-block full of, the more likely it’ll spark something when you least expect it. You’ll be working on a washing detergent brief and you’ll remember that scene in that weird film you watched three months ago and BAM – you’ve got something good on your hands. 

What’s the biggest hurdle now for creatives?

Keeping up with change and innovation (and I hate myself a little bit for using those buzzwords). But there’s always a new program to learn, a new social platform to be on, new tech to get your head around. As an industry, we have to evolve how we connect with our consumers based on how they want to consume. What worked 10 years ago isn’t necessarily working as well now. And there’s real creative opportunity there, if you stay ahead of curve and don’t just stick to what you know (as comfy as that might feel). 

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

I feel like I’m so the latter, that for me wearing a black t-shirt actually feels like I’m being non-conformist? Does that make any sense at all?

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

If you want to advertise products solely to people in black t-shirts, sure. But our industry needs to get better at bringing in minds, voices and perspectives from different backgrounds, beyond the black t-shirt brigade. That way you get better work from a range of brains that are actually reflective of what our society looks like. 

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

I currently have a few fun campaigns in the works but (by dramatic comparison) I’m also working on a couple of projects for the children’s charity UNICEF. Thinking up silly stuff for drinks brands and corporates is great, but when you get to make work for a brand that is truly helping people, it feels good. 

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

Read more about these related brands, agencies and people

comments powered by Disqus