With a Masters in Medieval Literature, Creative Director Clare Wilson is yet another proof that there isn't a fixed way to develop some explosive creative talent – and her work demonstrates this in the best ways possible.
Clare has all the features of an incredibly caring leader. She's a self-declared introvert who found her own way to navigate the ins and outs of being a creative director. Diversity and empathy are at the top of her list of values. And she loves to listen to her team, work with non-profits, and lead on creative work that matters. It's no wonder she landed at Wunderman Thompson, where all her wildest ambitions can find the tools to come true.
Today we are Getting to Know Clare Wilson, a much talented, ambitious and empathic creative director from Wunderman Thompson.
Tell us a bit about your role! Is there a “typical” day?
As a Creative Director, every day looks a bit different, and I love that. I might be reviewing ideas with a team, or in the VO studio, at a photoshoot, in a mentoring session, showing clients work, or maybe writing copy. Now we’re hybrid working, I might also be in the office, or at home with a cat trying to clamber all over my keyboard.
What was the biggest challenge in getting to your current position?
I’m not the world’s most self-confident person, and I think that an extrovert, assertive persona is what a lot of people still expect from a Creative Director. Finding my own path with that, and learning to lead in a way that feels true to me, is something I continue to work on.
What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?
I was raised in a single parent family, and my Mum worked really hard to support us, meaning she sometimes worked two jobs. I think that helped to make me really self-motivated, and also taught me not to take anything for granted in life. Hopefully, it also means I’m more considerate towards colleagues with caring responsibilities, as I know just how tough it can be sometimes.
What is your biggest career-related win? What is your biggest loss?
Campaigns that get real, tangible results for clients are always a win. I’ve worked with quite a few charities over the years, including Cancer Research UK and Guide Dogs, and knowing your ideas have helped them raise lots of money is a fantastic feeling. In terms of losses, there have been a couple of pitches I’ve been gutted about, brands I’d have loved to work on. Hopefully I’ll get another chance!
Which individuals and/or agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
I’m fortunate to work with an outstanding team of creatives who inspire and astound me every day, and I’m in awe of leaders like Vicki Maguire and Chaka Sobhani, who show us all how it should be done. But I’d also like to shout out to the heroes who keep our agencies running and don’t always get a mention – such as the IT experts who kept us connected in lockdown, the team at our Greater London House Black Cat Café who keep us caffeinated, and the cleaners who keep us safe and make our office environments nice places to work in.
If you could go back to your teenage years, would you have done things differently? Do you have any regrets?
I would tell my thirteen-year-old self not to get that perm and undercut combo. It took years to grow out. Years.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
I have a Masters in Medieval Literature. So in a parallel universe I’m probably an academic, transcribing some 14th century manuscript, or giving lectures about swearing in Middle English.
What’s your one big dream for the future of the industry?
That it truly represents the people we’re creating work for. At Wunderman Thompson, we’re a founding member of BRiM, a cross-agency initiative to increase Black representation in marketing, and we’re also part of Creative Equals’ fantastic Creative Comeback initiative, supporting female and non-binary creatives back into the business. We can all be doing more to make our industry more inclusive and representative.
What are your top tips for aspiring creative professionals?
1) Broaden your sources of inspiration – a lot of work ends up looking the same because people are starting from the same place… start somewhere that’s unique to you. 2) Don’t be afraid to ask questions, or to disagree with people who are more senior than you. You’ll be surprised at how often they respect you for it. And 3) Work with people you actually like, rather than the kind of people you think you should like.
What are your top tips for other creative leaders?
Hire and promote more diverse talent.
When you think about your team, what is the thing that matters to you the most?
That they feel genuinely heard and respected. We work in a multi-tasking world, with notifications constantly pinging from every device. Switch them off and just listen. Everyone deserves to be heard, to be believed in, and to feel psychologically safe in their workplace. I hope that my team always feels that way.
Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?
I really enjoyed the podcast ‘Made not Born with Alison Chadwick’ - she interviews an interesting mix of creative leaders. And I think ‘Brandsplaining’ by Jane Cunningham and Philippa Roberts is a must-read, as is ‘Invisible Women’ by Caroline Criado Perez.