2 Minutes With … Sarah Collinson, CEO of Havas New York

On being pushed to excellence

Sarah is chief executive officer of Havas New York, recently joining from Joan Creative, where she was managing director for six years.

Earlier, Sarah was a global business director at Anomaly New York, running Diageo and leading the team that launched and built the health and wellness cannabis brand Dosist. 

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

Sarah, tell us …

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in Swansea in South Wales, and now live in Brooklyn. In summary: Brooklyn has more bars. Swansea has more sheep.

How you first realized you were creative.

I was a Play-Doh prodigy at age 4. It's pretty much been downhill from there. 

A person you idolized creatively early on.

C.S. Lewis for coming up with Narnia. And my mum for always dressing in exceedingly bright colors (as someone who dresses in black 99.8 percent of the time, I still find this impressive).

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

Not getting arrested.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

I saw Madonna recently, so I'm going to say her. Four decades of being risqué and shocking everyone! (This time mainly by not going on stage until 10:30 p.m. on a Monday). Can't get better than that.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow for beautiful storytelling and making me think I should take up gaming.

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.

When I lived in the U.K., I had the privilege to work on some of the early John Lewis Christmas campaigns. While the rest of the industry focused on price points, we created a world of emotional storytelling that was also some of the most effective marketing of all time. It's still some of my favorite work—and still makes me cry.

A recent project you're proud of. 

The Harris Project at Havas—a pro-bono piece we released last year to drive awareness of addiction disorders. A beautiful and powerful film that's made a sizable impact.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

Sony's "Balls" from Juan Cabral and Fallon London. That spot was the reason I applied to Fallon for my first internship. The tale was that it was first cut to "Ace of Spades," which would have had a SLIGHTLY different (but probably still excellent) ring to it.

Someone else's work you admired lately. 

In adland, Joao Medeiros, our new ECD at Havas New York. He created an incredible piece of work in Dubai with the first swimmable billboard.

Outside of adland, anything that brings a moment of fun. I took my 3-year-old to Fotografiska—an amazing gallery in NYC—to see a photography exhibition about pets. There was a series by Gerrard Gethings of pets that look exactly like their owners, which I'm still laughing about.  

Your main strength as a creative person.

Never giving up. 

Your biggest weakness.

Never giving up.

A mentor who helped you navigate the industry.

I've been fortunate to have some brilliant female mentors who helped me navigate different roles, pushed me to excellence and reminded me to have a good time. Tammy Einav, CEO at adam&eveDDBKarina Wilsher, global CEO at Anomaly; and Lisa Clunie, founder and CEO at Joan. These are incredible leaders and businesswomen whom I will always admire for their careers and general awesomeness. Thank you forever for the time, the advice and the laughs. 

How you're paying it forward with the next generation of creatives.

By always making time.

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


2 Minutes With is our regular 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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