2 Minutes With ... Mishy Cass, ECD at DNA
Mishy Cass is a Seattle-based creative director who has spent 20-plus years working agency-side for clients like Amazon, T-Mobile, Nike, Coca-Cola, Coors Brewing and Levi's. She spent three years client-side as group creative director at REI, learning the ways of client-side creative, with the goal of introducing new people to the joy of spending time outside. She is currently executive creative director at DNA.
Mishy has spent a lot of time talking about how to be an effective creative leader and the differences between client-side and agency-side creatives for The One Club. Mishy believes great creative starts with a strong strategy that is brought to life in an unexpected way, and that as a creative leader you have to have an engaged and talented team that shares your passion for the work.
Her greatest joy as a CD is to set her team up for success and then get out of the way and let them do their thing, knowing they have a rock-solid strategy and creative vision to solve the business problem that has been defined for them.
We spent two minutes with Mishy to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations, and recent work she's admired.
Mishy, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I was born in Australia, but grew up in Minnesota. I live in Seattle now.
How you first realized you were creative.
When I was in first grade and I never wanted to leave the art room at school. All the pens, crayons and art supplies were addictive.
A person you idolized creatively early on.
Mark Fenske. A teacher at school who we all wanted to win over and impress.
A moment from high school or college that changed your life.
When Hazel Belvo, my high school art teacher senior year, gave me a little studio space and called me an artist. I felt like one then.
A visual artist or band/musician you admire.
A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyast—so good!
Your favorite fictional character.
I know it's cliché—but Holden Caufield. When I first read The Catcher in the Rye in middle school and the image of him standing at the edge of a field catching kids before they fell off into adulthood wrecked me. That he so badly wanted to save us from ourselves and what happens as we grow older was so intense and moving.
Someone or something worth following in social media.
Amanda Gorman because she is pure talent and goodness and deserves everything that is coming her way.
How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.
Made my parents in Florida get an iPad, so now we do weekly Zoom calls and text daily. It made my three sisters, my parents and me feel closer than we have in 20 years—and really appreciate each other and take the time to slow down and really talk to each other.
One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.
Gary Busey for Amazon Fire TV. Fire TV was the first voice-activated streaming media player, so this started as a very tech-driven strategy—explain how voice activation works. We fought back hard on that and wanted to focus on the entertainment value of voice activation to help you find what you want to watch. Once we got Amazon to buy in on that, the spot wrote itself. What celeb talks to things all the time and expects them to respond and they don't? What if one suddenly did? BAM! There's our ad.
A recent project you're proud of.
"Opt Outside" is such an amazing campaign from REI. Hard to beat each year. This was pre-Covid, when the outdoors really needed us to save it—as opposed to where we are now, where we have learned the outdoors can save us! We focused on small, simple tasks that people can do to combat climate change.
Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.
Steve Luker. I was a junior art director at Cole & Weber and he was a creative director and he was my ad god. He went on to Goodby and Wieden+Kennedy and eventually started Mutt. I got to work for a year with him, and it was the biggest mid-career shot in the arm. He's crazy and creative and tells clients to f—off if they won't buy good work.
Someone else's work you admired lately.
See Amanda Gorman reference above—she made poetry cool, readable, and got my 18-year-old son writing it.
Your main strength as a creative person.
I'm always positive and try to see nothing as a problem—just another situation to try and find my way out of.
Your biggest weakness.
I want everyone to like me.
One thing that always makes you happy.
Watching people be nice to each other—seeing a stranger pay for someone's groceries who is putting items back because they don't have enough money to pay for them (happened last night at the grocery store).
One thing that always makes you sad.
Seeing someone fall down.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.
I would be running an art and crafts focused daycare for toddlers and puppies.