2 Minutes With ... Tara Lawall, Executive Creative Director at Droga5

On her humor book, 'Junk Sleep' and defying burnout

Tara Lawall is an executive creative director at Droga5 where she has worked for almost nine years on iconic brands like Mattress Firm, Pizza Hut, Coors, Allstate, Honey Maid, and Prudential. She has won awards at One Show, Clios, Art Directors Club, AICP, London International Awards, The Webbys and Cannes, including a Titanium Lion. Her work has also been included in the Advertising and Editorial Art permanent collection at the MoMa. Additionally, she has been featured on One Club’s list of Next Creative Leaders and Pitch 100’s Superwomen list. 

Outside of advertising, she published two books; a children’s book parody, "This Little Piggy Went to Market in the City," illustrated by Rich Greco. And her latest, a humor book called "There are Too Many Milks," she co-wrote with art director and illustrator, Anne Marie Wonder. Her editorial writing about motherhood has been published in Scary Mommy, Motherly and Parent.co. She also occasionally performs in storytelling shows across New York City including at Magnet Theater. 

She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two young children and is a big supporter and champion of working moms in creative fields. She believes that good ideas never die and the only way to make great work is through mutual respect, bravery, and having a really good time while you’re doing it. 

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

Tara, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now. 

I am from Newtown, Penn. (an hour north of Philly) and now I live in Brooklyn with my husband and two kids. 

How you first realized you were creative. 

I was a tap dancer, singer and theater kid growing up, but I don't think I really equated that to being creative until I looked back on it.

A person you idolized creatively early on. 

How embarrassing … but I am going to say Jewel. Pieces of You was the first CD I ever bought at the Middletown Grange Fair in 1997. It was the first time I fell in love with words, lyrics and storytelling. I dare you to listen to the song "Painters" and not ugly sob.

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

I started college at University of Maryland, and I met a man named Solomon who was teaching my Introduction to the University class. He told us to get as many internships as you can in college so that you don't end up teaching the Introduction to the University class at the University of Maryland. That hit me so hard, I transferred to Temple University in Philadelphia my junior year and did three internships at two advertising agencies and Philadelphia Magazine. Those experiences helped me figure out that I wanted to be a creative in advertising because those people seemed to be having the most fun. Thanks, Solomon. Hope your life got better.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire. 

The Chicks' Gaslighter album got me through Covid times, and my sister and I went to see them in Camden, N.J., last summer and had one of the best nights of our lives. There aren't a lot of mom rockstars, so watching them play music and tell stories about life, love, divorce and parenting in such a raw and beautiful way was really special. Each of their teenaged children joined them for one of their songs on stage and played with them—again, ugly sobs.

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

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert is a book I recommend to every creative person who is experiencing burnout (so I recommend it a lot). Gilbert talks about what it means to live a creative life and that all creative pursuits don’t always have to be in service of results or fame. I find that point of view really freeing and that way of living really liberating. She also stresses that thinking you need a sabbatical to finally pursue your art is a cop-out. Do it now. Make the time. 

Your favorite fictional character. 

Mindy Lahiri from The Mindy Project and Grace and Frankie from Grace and Frankie. Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are my idols in fiction and in reality.

Someone or something worth following in social media. 

Kimberly Harrington, @therealkimberlyharrington is a writer I met when we were both working at 72andSunny. She has written two books and shares her life in a beautiful, mind-blowing and real way. Definitely worth a follow.

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

We have all somewhat adjusted to a hybrid working model, and I think this flexibility helps everyone better care for themselves and the people in their lives. Pre-Covid, I remember talking to a friend and new mom who was trying desperately to figure out how to convince her company to let her work from home on Fridays, and it could not be figured out, so she quit. Nowadays, working from home on Fridays is practically standard in advertising agencies.

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

Last summer we released a bunch of "Junk Sleep" work for Mattress Firm, directed by Steve Ayson. We made great work with an incredibly strong team and had a really good time making it all. I missed in-person shoots in a real way, so finally getting to experience it all again felt awesome.

A recent project you're proud of.

I am launching my second book and first humor book called There are Too Many Milks that I co-wrote with Anne Marie Wonder during Covid times. She also did the 96-pages (sorry, Anne Marie) of very funny and incredible illustrations. My first book was a funny children’s book I created with Rich Greco called This Little Piggy Went to Market in the City. I am in the process of developing three other books and a short film with the incredible director and animator Johnny Kelly. 

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

The first spot to really blow my mind was Guinness’s "Surfer." In particular, the moment where the audio feels like it's coming from inside a bar. It's such a small detail, but it just speaks to the vision and craft and storytelling. It gets me every time I watch it.

Someone else's work you admired lately.

My friend and amazing commercial director, Sara Shelton, released a short film in Tribeca called Teddy Bear in June 2022. Not only is it a great film and a great story (that she co-wrote with Jed Cohen), but I am impressed how she willed it into existence against all odds.

Your main strength as a creative person. 

I am persistent, and I am not afraid to fail, so I am not afraid to start. Relentless persistence and keeping your ego in check are the only ways, I have found, to get anything done. 

Your biggest weakness. 

Confidence. I struggle with comparing myself to others and feeling like I am "not as good," as if there is some sort of universal ranking system. I am working on letting go of that wild notion and trying to embrace and celebrate my own "good."

One thing that always makes you happy. 

Cuddling with my kids, Cora (age 6) and Rhett (age three) and watching a movie. Guaranteed endorphin explosion. 

One thing that always makes you sad. 

Almost everything. The downfall of being a sensitive, empathetic person is that you feel everything, hard. It's also the benefit. So I have to be careful with myself and check in often.

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

Being some sort of writer is the obvious answer, but I'd also love to be a choreographer. I miss dancing, and I think I would love putting performances together.

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.

Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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