2 Minutes With ... Melissa Withorn, Creative Director at Dagger

Her creative journey in Atlanta, and having a baby during Covid

Melissa Withorn is creative director at Dagger in Atlanta. Bringing a passion for art direction and a decade of agency expertise, Melissa believes in the power of great storytelling and sharing universal human truths in new, unexpected ways that spark connection. 

Before joining Dagger, Melissa was an associate creative director at two Atlanta-based agencies where she focused on brand, experience, and design. Current clients include Aflac, Intercontinental Hotels Group, The Coca-Cola Company, American Cancer Society, Krystal, AbbVie, United Way, Interface, Boys & Girls Club of America, SweetWater Brewery and The Home Depot. 

We spent two minutes with Melissa to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations, and recent work she's admired.


Melissa, tell us...

Where you were born, and where you live now.

Born in Long Beach, California, and I live in Atlanta now. 

What you wanted to be when you grew up.

I was obsessed with dinosaurs, and I wanted to be a paleontologist. I think it was just a reason to be outside and explore all day. 

How you discovered you were creative.

I had the good fortune of having a creative mother who exposed me to art from a young age. I have very visceral memories of listening to Whitney Houston on my boombox while I painted all night. I just remember getting completely lost in it and spending hours in the zone just creating.

A person you idolized creatively growing up.

I loved watching SNL with my dad when I was younger. A lot of my early heroes were comedians, but Bill Murray was the GOAT growing up (still is). I was also mildly obsessed with Jane Goodall. I think it's every kid's dream to grow up and live outside with animals.

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

My college years were completely transformative for me. They really opened up a whole new world and exposed me to new people, places and ideas. When I started college, I wanted to be an investigative journalist, and by happenstance, I ended up in a visual design class that changed everything and brought all my interests into one area where I could play.

The first concert you saw, and your favorite band or musician today.

I'm so embarrassed but my first concert was Hanson—so basic, but wow—I remember being so excited at the time. Present day, it's hard to narrow down to just one artist I love because my tastes are pretty varied, but a longtime favorite is John Legend. His music is so nostalgic for me and takes me back to being young and falling in love—plus his songs are just so sexy!

Your favorite visual artist.

Of all time, Salvador Dalí or Keith Haring.

Your favorite fictional character.

Liz Lemon.

The best book you've read lately.

Glennon Doyle's Untamed. It's a truly magical revelation.

Your favorite movie.

I love anything the Coen brothers make, but honestly I've watched Step Brothers so many times and it always makes me laugh.

Your favorite Instagram follow.

@butter.atl

How the Covid-19 crisis has changed your life, personally or professionally.

I had a baby during the pandemic, so life has changed dramatically in the last six months. It's hard sometimes to separate Covid from new motherhood. Both have a strange time warp effect: The days seem to go slowly, but moments feel like they're flying by. In a lot of ways, I feel intense gratitude for this time. I don't want to minimize people's pain and suffering right now, but for me it's allowed me to be home with my baby for much longer than I anticipated. Being able to see his face and hold him throughout the day is such a gift and gives me a dose of perspective that I'd miss sitting in an office.

Your favorite creative project you've ever worked on.

A spot we created for Boys & Girls Clubs of America last year. I love it when we get to use our creative powers for good, and this was truly a collaborative effort. We did everything in-house, from shooting to sound mixing, and really leveraged the talents and passions of the team. It makes me smile every time I see it and reminds me why I love my job.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America | Listen
Your favorite creative project from the past year.

There are several Aflac campaigns currently in the works that have been a lot of fun to work on. The Aflac duck is iconic; it's been exciting to work with the team on the next evolution of the brand.

Someone else's creative project that inspired you years ago.

Nike's "Believe in Something" campaign. In today's climate, brands jumping on the bandwagon for social justice is the norm, but when that spot came out, it was such a bold statement. Nike is always on the forefront of storytelling—the brand just makes you feel all the feels.

Nike | Dream Crazy
Someone else's creative project that you've been impressed by lately.

The Thinx "MENstruation" campaign that BBDO launched last fall. It's brilliant and edgy and pushes the conversation forward in a very courageous way. I know it was polarizing when it came out, but to me that's what makes it so great—it's provocative and makes you think.

Your main strength as a creative person.

Empathy. I think it makes me a more effective communicator and a stronger leader. 

Your biggest weakness.

Procrastination. There's nothing like a looming deadline that gets the creative juices flowing. I wish I didn't need that carrot but there's something chemical that happens in my brain when I know I have a finite amount of time. 

One thing that always makes you happy.

Seeing my son smile. And breakfast.

One thing that always makes you sad.

My morning alarm.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising/design.

If I could somehow read books in faraway places as a profession. I'd like that job, please. Or I'd be a career camp counselor. 

2 Minutes With is our weekly interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards and founding editor of Muse by Clio. Prior to joining Clio in 2018, he was creative editor at Adweek.

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