Kathy Delaney at home in Manhattan. Photography by Kristin Gladney.
Q&A with Kathy Delaney:
Tell me a little bit about yourself, who you are, and where you are from.
I grew up in the Bronx; contrary to what most people guess when they meet me. Most people think Southern California, which is hilarious to me. I guess I come off super calm and Zen. Little do they know I am a born and bred New Yorker and angst-ing on the inside pretty much all the time.
Please and explain what your job entails as the Global Chief Creative Officer of Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness.
It’s my job to make sure that our output is buzz worthy and business building. No pressure! I also make sure that I bring out the very best in the individual creatives here. I’m a big believer in collaboration and love the fact that really productive creative brainstorms spontaneously happen all day long around here.
How do you describe your self as a creative and the kind of work you do?
I try to keep it as real as possible. It’s all about creating and inspiring work that is soulful and human-centric. The challenge is to uncover the real human truth and let the creative expression explode from there.
I trust my instincts – for coming up with creative work and managing creatives. Everyone is unique and requires different motivation to achieve amazing results. I like to take a very individual approach to managing people. It requires more time, but is worth every minute.
Kathy with her dog Sadie on the terrace.
Are you working on anything else creative outside of your work at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness?
I was just named one of two inaugural Presidents for the very first Cannes Lions Health and Wellness Jury, which is exciting. Creativity is what advances business and innovation across all industries, and I’m thrilled that Cannes is recognizing this with its first-ever Health and Wellness category. Having an award show that communicators in the industry can strive for will raise the level of work in this industry to new heights.
How did you get to where you are today? What has been your career path?
I worked full time through college and had a day job as an assistant in the creative department of a big agency. After sharing my schoolwork with some of my supervisors, I got promoted to studio assistant cutting matts and helping art directors make their work presentation-worthy. It was great ‘in the trenches’ learning. All the while I was taking night class at the School of Visual Arts and putting together a portfolio that ultimately landed me a job as a trainee in the creative department of the same agency.
How did you figure out what you wanted to do? Was there anyone in particular who influenced your life, therefore gave you direction?
My Irish grandmother was the ultimate storyteller. She would take me for walks when I was a kid and make up elaborate stories about the homes we were passing and the people who lived in them. Of course I believed them as gospel, but they were completely born from her imagination. She had a gift of ad libbing and inventing, and never once read me a story from a book. My love of inventing stories comes from her. That’s what we do for brands, we tell stories about them. And the better the story, the more successful a brand becomes.
How did you learn to do what you do?
I met my husband of 20 years, Steven, while I was still in school. We were both night students at SVA. I was mucking about with classes that were not really specific to being an art director. (Steven likes to say he found me drawing cow skulls and got me into typography—not that far from the truth.) He literally wrote me my own curriculum that got me on the path to creating a good enough portfolio to be hired as a junior art director.
What is one of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on?
There are so many! Crossroads Community Services is my current favorite. It’s an effort that Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness has created to help the homeless in New York City by raising awareness of the real mental and physical benefits tied to performing acts of kindness. I’m so excited about that work and the extraordinary team that created it from literally nothing. I am truly honored to be a part of it. It’s starting to go viral, and people in other countries around the world want to get involved and raise awareness in their respective cities by doing drawings that extend the campaign’s message globally. To do something that is truly going to make a difference in the lives of people who have so little is incredibly humbling and energizing.
What do you love about the work you do?
Seeing people realize their own potential is the biggest thrill in the world. Giving someone the confidence and the freedom to create work they didn’t think possible. That’s my favorite part.
You have an awesome apartment in NYC. How does it play a role in your life, work and creativity?
My husband and I both grew up city kids – he in Manhattan, me in the Bronx. We bought this apartment because it had an insane amount of outdoor space for a New York City home. To come home at night and be able to go outside and look at the stars is a novelty that will never get old. I find it incredibly grounding yet inspiring at the same time.
Please describe how your creative brain works.
I have no idea. I’m afraid I will stop coming up with ideas if I discover there is a formula behind my thought process.
Describe your style. Is your personal style different from your professional style?
My personal and professional style are actually pretty similar. Again, it’s all about going with my instincts – when it comes to creating, managing people, and how I pull together a look in the morning. I just listen to my inner voice and go from there. It doesn’t lead me astray…usually.
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have?
I read as much background as possible. It’s good to get all the literal stuff in your brain, and then let go. Go for a run, go see a movie. Walk the dog. When you least expect it, an idea will come, and then off you go.
What do you think makes a successful advertising campaign?
Campaigns that get into the fabric of our culture, and the minds and hearts of people. When consumers develop an ‘unreasonable passion’ for a brand, you know you did it right.
How do you define success? What has helped you to become successful?
It’s always been about the work. I can’t stand politics, but unfortunately they still exist in our industry. It’s distracting and detrimental to the creative product. My M.O. has always been heads down and focus on the work. It has served me well.
What is the best creative advice you’ve ever received?
You are only as good as your last idea, so keep them coming! I was a bit scared as a junior when a supervisor said that to me, but now I am grateful. It’s so true in this business.
To learn more about Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, go to http://www.saatchiwellness.com/.
Article by NYC based photographer - http://www.kristingladney.com/