Q&A with Vida Cornelious:
Tell me a little bit about yourself, who you are, and where you are from.
I’m originally from New Jersey, born and raised. I’m the youngest of five girls so it was pretty noisy in the house growing up… my poor dad. But he survived. I’ve always been pretty “artsy” even as a little girl I can always remember spending time drawing over anything else.
How do you describe yourself as a creative and the kind of work you do?
I started out in graphic design. I had every intention of going off to NYC and working at a record label designing album covers! But I had a professor in college that exposed me to being and advertising Art Director. He guided me through pursuing graduate school to learn the business and create a portfolio
Everyday I work on, or manage my teams in doing, a variety of “ad objects”–broadcast, social, print, content creation. I’ll always be a designer, but I’ve been doing more writing as well, primarily TV script ideas. I think creativity is about stretching yourself, and not being afraid to try things.
As the Chief Creative Officer of GlobalHue, what does your job entail?
I basically champion the creative vision of our agency. I make sure all the balls stay in the air and the team is delivering the most imaginative, innovative thinking that can muster up for our clients. Some days it does feel like being a bit of a ringmaster, but at least no two days are the same. And I’m really grateful for that.
Please describe GlobalHue, and what sets you apart as an agency.
GlobalHue historically was a Multicultural full-service ad agency with 25 years of experience and leadership in that space. But in recent years, the agency has positioned itself to drive understanding of the Total Market space. Our practice is to glean relevant insights from the ethnic experience and apply those beliefs and values to a broader audience. That is how we arrive at more compelling, authentic, creative solutions.
How did you get to where you are today? What has been your career path?
I will honestly say, I always knew I wanted to do something that required me to have ideas. Creative ideas.
I had crap summer jobs as a teen like everyone. But thinking back on it, I was always loosely intrigued by “marketing” and the effect it had on people. I remember, when I was 15, I was one of those characters at an amusement park, “Sally the Seal.” It was a great job, even though it was disgusting wearing a neoprene suit all summer! But I learned how much the kids loved it when I playfully slapped them with the flippers instead of hugging them like I was supposed to. It made my character more interesting, popular and a bit ironic I guess. Without even knowing it, I had created a “point of difference” in my character’s personality and brand.
My path was pretty straightforward. I interned in agencies during the summer and I landed my first job after Graduate school. I had to teach an ad lecture course to undergrads when I was pursing my degree and although I was teaching myself as I was teaching them, I believe it made me a confident speaker. And that was probably one of the best pieces of unconscious training I ever had. When I started working, I was very fortunate to have talented, seasoned people take a chance on me and then allow me to flourish without fear of making mistakes… and there were plenty!
Have you had any mentors that have helped steer you along on your professional path?
Many people have given me helpful advice, but unfortunately, no official mentors. Which makes me more open to any young person that wants information from me. I try to be available and answer any questions I can, participate in career development programs whenever I can and speak on panels. You never know when the one thing you say can be the exact words someone else needs to hear.
What is one of your favorite projects you’ve worked on and why?
I was very proud of the work I did on our 2013 Jeep Super Bowl commercial entitled “Whole Again.” I learned so much about the military, their families and their plight. It was eye opening to hear their emotional stories and to be able to work with Oprah Winfrey. Her energy is supernova powerful, so it was a huge compliment to me that she was willing to be the voiceover on the spot. In this business, you will create ads that are seen by millions of people at some point. But knowing the message you are saying is one that will touch people in their hearts and make them take action – that is a great feeing. The spot sparked a social and digital campaign to raise money for the USO and it was viewed over 9millon times on YouTube on Super Bowl Sunday.
What are you currently working on?
I’m focused on new business pitches. I’m also carving out time to work on some personal writing projects I’m excited about. I hope to devote more time to my writing in the near future and see where it goes.
When are you most creative?
I’m a morning person for generating ideas and writing. That is when my head is most clear and I am focused. I don’t like to work under pressure if I can help it, but I have some serious epiphanies when I do.
What has led to some of your greatest successes?
Working with passionately curious people. Passion and curiosity are defining traits of a creative person. That’s what makes you keep digging for a better answers, for a better way to sell an idea, to fight for it and ultimately deliver it. You have to surround yourself with passionate, curious thinkers that are also believers – that is the real key to being successful to me. I like to say, “ideas don’t move unless you do.”
What is your creative process for conceptualizing and starting to work on a new project?
I read up on the topic quite a bit. I read blogs, articles and sometimes scan books. The Internet is dirty research, but that’s where you hear people’s real feelings and thoughts about everything. About your product/brand. Sometimes you will find the barrier, the REAL barrier, not the one written on the creative brief, in a blog post comment section. Then I look at images, I imagine the tone of voice and who is speaking. I try to think about the conversation that needs to be had around the product and what tension is keeping that conversation from happening.
How do you get new and keep old clients?
Be engaged. Know their business and really care. Try to deliver the best work you can consistently. And sometimes you just have to accept that you have to meet the client where they are. Which means, respect what the brand is and realize there are some things that will never be a part of their DNA. So the challenge becomes being creative within their framework.
Who inspires you?
It may sound cliché but my family–my parents and my sisters. They have always been my biggest fans and believers in my ability. I respect the talent and careers of many ad people and great names in the business world, but it’s really my family that keeps me inspired to do my best and believe in myself.
How do you define success? What has helped you to become successful?
I know awards are definitely a marker of success in the ad world and like anyone else, I aspire to have them and I am proud of the ones I do have. But I think success is really measured in how many lives you touch, how many people can say they really respect your mind and your leadership. That means more to me; that I have always tried to lead by example. I know I’m not the easiest person to work for as I demand 100% from my team. But I won’t ask anything of them I am not willing to do myself.
I think remaining humble has helped me be successful. I have shot well over 100 commercials in my career and I will still ask questions on every shoot. I am always willing to learn, to see how I can do something better.
What advice would you give to others interested in following in your path?
First, know there really is no set path… this is probably the one profession you can totally carve your own way.
Second, be open. Never shut yourself off to learning. Every experience you have in life will be valuable in this profession, be curious, and try things, so you can tap into those experiences and emotions when you need it.
Third, don’t pass on the grunt work! You can learn far more by working under someone who has the title to be responsible for the outcome, but you have the freedom of learning by making a few mistakes.
Fourth, the client is not the enemy. They just like your job better than their own.
To see more from Vida, check www.VidaCornelious.com