Creative Creative Works My Creative Career

5 pearls of wisdom from adland's top creatives in 2023


By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

December 28, 2023 | 8 min read

Advertising legends such as Vicki Maguire, Nils Leonard and Jo Wallace told us about their lives and careers while sharing some advice for fellow creatives.

My Creative Career

My Creative Career

Our My Creative Career series launched just over a year ago, and in that short time, some of adland’s brightest stars have sat down and told their stories of successes, failures and the tough journey to the top.

With decades of experience between them, each creative had a unique take on the industry. Uncommon’s Nils Leonard told us the importance of finding like-minded crews, moving fast and making yourself famous, Havas London’s Vicki Maguire stressed that you must choose your moves based on your gut, and Jellyfish’s Jo Wallace urges young creatives to find their style and ignore the naysayers.

So, whether you’re a creative who’s thinking of getting into the industry or just looking for some dose of inspiration for the coming year, take a scroll and get inspired.

Nils Leonard, co-founder, Uncommon: ‘Get used to being under siege'

In April, the Uncommon co-founder told the story of his route into advertising. He chatted through his earliest inspirations, his first mentor, his need for heroes and how he no longer lets anyone tell him what to do.

The latter sentiment has somewhat defined Leonard’s career, and it’s a mentality that seeps into all aspects of his work.

He says that he “loves being under siege all day” and getting to “come up with ideas that we make and then there being 25 reasons not to do them, but you just fucking do it.”

There’s also the belief that you need to make yourself famous and try not to need others to be impactful in the world.

“The biggest con in agencies is dependency. Don’t fall into the default position of getting someone else to do the work for you. Find like-minded crews, move fast, make yourself famous and never let anyone tell you you can’t go out and do that.

“What will happen if you do that is that, eventually, you’ll just keep going, and instead of people telling you what you can and can’t do, they’ll come begging for your attention.”

Vicki Maguire, CCO, Havas London: 'Get comfortable with pitching'

Next, we sat down with Vicki Maguire. She’d previously with Leonard at Grey London. They remain good friends.

From running market stalls to being sacked by Vivienne Westwood and saving lives with Vinnie Jones, Maguire revealed that she has always been a storyteller, and it’s a trait she credits to her Irish parents, a bricklayer father and a mother who ran a stall in Leicester selling second-hand clothes.

She still gets nervous pitching. “You need to get comfortable with it because it never leaves you – and if it does leave you, it’s time to do something else.”

Her advice for a fulfilling career is: “Choose your moves based on your gut and on the people, not by the name on the door because that means fuck all, which is brilliant.

Suggested newsletters for you

Daily Briefing


Catch up on the most important stories of the day, curated by our editorial team.

Ads of the Week


See the best ads of the last week - all in one place.

The Drum Insider

Once a month

Learn how to pitch to our editors and get published on The Drum.

“In the back of my mind, I can always hear my mum going, ‘You can always come back to the market,’ and I love that.”

Jo Wallace, global ECD, Jellyfish: 'Find your voice'

The week before, Wallace announced that she was departing Media.Monks for Jellyfish, we took a moment with her to hear what she was excited about in her new venture.

From a young age, she said she was obsessed with logos, determined to make a name for herself within the advertising world and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

The lengthy profile covered everything from the work she is most proud of to date to taking the Daily Mail to court after being subjected to unfair media scrutiny by the title.

“Find your voice and don’t stand for things that are so obviously inaccurate,” she said. “Have your allies, have your people that have your back and don’t let people shut you down.”

Liz Taylor, global chief creative officer at Ogilvy: ‘Be so good they can’t ignore you’

Ogilvy’s top creative, Liz Taylor, talked through how she almost became a lawyer (until she realized it wasn’t like LA Law), the world-changing work she holds dear and the quote from a famous actor she lives by.

Her career has spanned nearly 30 years. She prides herself on her work ethic, using creativity for good and being competitive.

During the interview, she highlighted the work Morning After Island, which advocated for women’s birth control rights in Honduras, and her anti-gun campaign, The Lost Class, which she had made while at Leo Burnett. For the past 10 years, Taylor has made some form of gun control work. It’s personal, she adds.

Oh, and that quote she lives by? It’s from Steve Martin: “Be so good that they can’t ignore you.”

Ajab Samrai, founder of Blitzworks: ‘Write every day’

Ajab Samrai told us in August this year how secretly squatting at Saatchi & Saatchi paved the way for a 25-year career.

He came from humble beginnings, “immigrant poverty,” as he puts it, but it impacted every aspect of his career. His “background, psyche, visual, everything. “When he first started in the advertising industry, he was one of the first British-born Asian people at Saatchis.

Samrai didn’t think much about it at the time but has reflected on it in the years since and has always championed diversity and anti-racism within his work.

He told us how he ideates every single day. “I write every day,” he said. “Because I love it. That’s why I got into this. It makes me feel like a kid again.”

And his advice to young creatives? Embrace AI, it’s already changing the business. For more seasoned adland execs, he’d encourage them to take a leaf out of his book and jot down ideas daily. “It keeps you sharp, in tune and relevant.”

You can read all of the My Creative Career profiles here.

Creative Creative Works My Creative Career

More from Creative

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +