2 Minutes With ... Ashley Marshall, ECD at The Martin Agency

On absurdity in advertising, Pee-wee Herman, and a lesson in creative paralysis

Ashley Marshall has been an ECD at The Martin Agency for over two years, where she has helped guide creatives to make some of the most talked-about work for brands, including Axe, Old Navy, Carmax and Geico.

Previously, she was creative director at Wieden + Kennedy, where she helped teams to create iconic work for Old Spice, Samsung, Facebook, Herbal Essences and Secret. Her career began as a copywriter at TBWA\Chiat\Day in 2002, where she helped create the still-running "Blank the Rainbow" campaign for Skittles and did celebrated work for Starburst.

She graduated from the University of North Texas in 2000 and Creative Circus in 2002 and believes strongly in the power of strategic insights and creativity to solve our biggest business challenges with work that gets talked about.

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

Ashley, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in Teague, Texas. It's a rural town east of Waco. Now I live in Portland, Oregon.

How you first realized you were creative.

My mom is the most creative person I know. She was a drama teacher and saw my potential before I could walk. She's the reason I ended up in advertising. In the '80s they used to broadcast the Clio Awards on regular TV apparently and my mother always said she wanted me to win one, one day. So my first Clio, I shipped to her.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

So many. But Pee-wee Herman was probably my first. He was so offbeat and wild and sometimes felt a little dangerous in his style, like there was an underlying darkness you could feel in his humor but with talking chairs. I remember thinking it was so cuckoo it had to be sinister, and I loved it.

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

There were lots of moments but perhaps the most applicable to this forum is one time in college I had a big advertising assignment due in a campaigns class. I kept scrapping everything, believing lightning would strike. I was never satisfied with my work and woke up the day it was due with nothing to show for my time. It was an awful feeling. Lightning never struck. My teacher was kind to me. He told me this was a moment for me to learn the value of action. Don't let creative uncertainty lead to creative paralysis. Just start putting the ideas down and they will surprise you in the end. That moment alone made me determined to make decisions quickly and move on.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

I've always loved Mark Ryden's art. He combines such strange things to create totally unique surprises. That's what I look for. Where's the surprise?

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

I binged Severance. My god that show is incredible. I felt like it showed me things about the world I can't even fully put into words yet. I'm still thinking about it.

Your favorite fictional character.

This one is hard. I like fictional characters so much. I become attached to them like they're my friends. If I had to pick a favorite, I suppose there's something perpetually endearing about Clark Griswold. I love his persistence, imperfections and earnest love of nostalgia. I love that he is a hopeless idealist who envisions greatness in his every pursuit.

Someone or something worth following in social media.

@obviousplant. I love the cross section of banal consumerism, cheeky design and funny writing here. It tickles me on so many levels.

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

I work East Coast hours from the West Coast. I get up early when my family is still sleeping and get to be deep in my work in the hours they are either sleeping or at school. Then when they're home, the East Coast is wrapping up their day and I can try to be the best mom possible to them. I've spent my whole career wrestling a way to maintain work and my family and that's really hard to do. I finally feel like I don't have to take a backseat in either, and it's awesome.

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

I loved this this Pinterest Project project we did to reach moms several years ago. It was funny and self-aware and talked to mothers in a way that didn't discredit their intelligence or sense of humor. It was an idea the team showed me, and immediately I knew I wanted to fight to get it made.

A recent project you're proud of. 

I generally love work that's dead simple but brought to life in a surprising way. This work for LegalShield makes me smile. It's got a real insight. "The laws ARE hard to navigate because they can be so nuanced," but it brings that idea to life in such an absurdist way. Here's two of the spots. We also did a Waze activation that provides funny laws as you navigate the road.

Stupid Law #38 – Be Legal Ready for Home and Property Issues
Stupid Law #18 – Be Legal Ready for Traffic Tickets and More
Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

Easy. Cliff Freeman. "Where's the Beef?" Little Caesars.

Someone else's work you admired lately.

Apple's "The Greatest" is my favorite piece of work I've seen in a while. The song choice and the non-linear storytelling make it re-watchable for me and every time I get emotional.

The Greatest | Apple
Your main strength as a creative person.

Seeing the opportunity in constraints.

Your biggest weakness.

Talking. I talk all the time and always start meetings at least 10 minutes late.

One thing that always makes you happy.

Being shown someone's talent for the first time.

One thing that always makes you sad.

When anyone is being excluded.

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

I'd absolutely be a therapist. I truly enjoy listening to people and helping them work through their troubles.

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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