5 Questions for Creative Director, Sarah Barclay

For our 5 Questions series, we ask creative professionals five questions about the nature of creation and collaboration. This week we spoke with Sarah Barclay, Executive Creative Director at the ad agency JWT and recently named one of the 36 Most Creative Women in Advertising by Business Insider. Beginning her career in Australia, Sarah has worked in the ad world for years, working with clients like Nestle, FedEx, and Mercedes Benz along the way. Having won many awards for her work over the years, Sarah recently wrote to us to talk about her love of working with people from disparate backgrounds, a memorable underwear ad, and collaborating with cats for a series of music videos.


1. LASTBLOG: Where do you go for inspiration?

Sarah Barclay: I travel a lot for work and fun so I find sparks wherever I go, but inspiration can come just as easily from a piece of graffiti on my way to the subway. Finding visual inspiration in a tram ticket, hearing a witty rejoinder in a bar or seeing a film clip for a band. And, of course, all the usual suspects: Art galleries, museums, films, music, boutiques and being exposed to different cultures around the world. I am always inspired to try and push the envelope, no matter what the brief is, and will hunt for ways to bring things to life unexpectedly.

2. LASTBLOG: Walk us through one of your favorite things you’ve created.

SB: I’ve been very lucky to have been involved in a lot of great work. Early in my career back in Australia my copywriter and I created a television ad for a pair of knickers called Antz Pantz, that involved an anteater and a lot of ants crawling over a woman’s crotch. It went on to win the best ad in 30 years. More recently here in the US, we relaunched a brand of tampons, UbyKotex, that parodied the myths and stereotypes of the imagery and advertisements that had existed in this category, and we dragged it, with black packaging and a wry smile, into the 20th century.

“The director miraculously extracted performances from cats…” – Sarah Barclay

3. LASTBLOG: What is the value of collaboration?

SB: Collaboration is essential in advertising. Working with people from diverse disciplines brings invaluable ideas and beautiful craft to any project. It also creates a healthy competitive environment so the concept can become even stronger. Creativity is a constantly evolving process that benefits hugely from cross-pollination. At its best, and when nervous clients or damaging research can be held at bay, when everyone involved is inspired to take it to the next level, collaboration can turn something ok into something great.

4. LASTBLOG: Tell us about your most memorable collaboration to date.

SB: We recently made a series of cat music videos for Litter Genie, a cat poo disposal system. The creative team must have written a hundred versions of the songs. The director miraculously extracted performances from cats, the post production process brought textural layers and interesting techniques that nodded to each musical genre and the music company crafted the songs into rocking, catchy tracks. The end result was proof of how the process made the end product so strong, despite some not very collaborative moggies.

“…inspiration can come just as easily from a piece of graffiti on my way to the subway. Finding visual inspiration in a tram ticket, hearing a witty rejoinder in a bar or seeing a film clip for a band.” – Sarah Barclay

5. LASTBLOG: Who would you like to collaborate with, past or present? Why?

SB: These days it’s so much about assembling the right cast for a project, and that cast will most likely involve people from disparate fields. Musicians, inventors, artists, filmmakers, comedians, typographers, designers, technicians, manufacturers, stylists. A team of people bringing their expertise to the table to help make the idea better.

Sarah Barclay

Sarah Barclay

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