2 Minutes With … Xanthe Wells, VP of Global Creative at Pinterest

On the platform's big campaigns and her mentor, Lee Clow

Xanthe is currently VP of global creative for Pinterest under CMO Andréa Mallard. Since arriving in 2022, Xanthe has led several major initiatives, including one that broke just last week. Earlier, she spent five years as senior director and global ECD for devices and services at Google. She also served at TBWA\Chiat\Day L.A., working under Lee Clow on Pepsi, PlayStation, WaMu, Kraft and Pinkberry.

Also, Xanthe is an advocate, ally and mentor for both women and creatives of underrepresented backgrounds.

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

Xanthe, tell us …

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I was born and raised in the heart of San Francisco but now live in Los Altos, Calif. I left the Bay Area when I was 22 and spent the next 16 years in Los Angeles, where I went to Art Center and then started working in advertising.

How you first realized you were creative.

The adults in my life actually identified me as creative long before I even knew what that meant. I was just doing my thing, drawing up a storm. I was placed in a school that really nurtured it.  

A person you idolized creatively early on.

My first art book was The World of Carl Larsson, a retrospective of the Swedish painter. I spent many hours pouring over his paintings of home life, filled with intricate and sometimes puzzling details—like a nude lady writing letters at her orange desk. I still love his work but I don't know if I have ever "idolized" anyone. We're just people. 

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

When I was a junior in college, I applied to be an intern at Pixar. I mailed in my application along with some clippings of comics I had drawn for the Brown Daily Herald. Once I was there, my head exploded with possibility. I met the late Joe Ranft, the head of story (and the "heart and soul of Pixar" for many years). I watched him and others on team do draft after draft of a particular sequence—maybe 150 or more—until the joke or moment was just right. That taught me a lot about the underpinnings of work that moves you. And no amount of technology can save a bad idea.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

The band Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. They have an amazing sound that reminds me of the Chicago blues my dad used to play, with a twist of Bruce Springsteen and Rockabilly

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

Change Your Brain, Change Your Life was eye-opening because it visualized the effects of drugs and alcohol on your brain by comparing scans of healthy brains and those exposed to toxins. I have been sober for over a year, in large part owing to what I learned in that book.

Someone or something worth following on social media.

Warren Buffet

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

When we decided to cast models without ever seeing their faces for a Bare Escentuals campaign, I felt like we were onto something bigger in the superficial beauty industry. Instead of typical call sheets, we listened to interviews with these models on headphones and chose our cast based on their personalities. 

A recent project you're proud of. 

I'm proud of what my team has done with the Pinterest work over the last year. From our latest brand campaign to our "Unboring My Boardroom"...

... to "Pinterest Presents," where we turned a B2B keynote into a TV show:

But if I had to pick one piece that I'm most proud of from this last year, it might be our presence in Cannes with the Pinterest Manifestival:

When a brand only exists digitally, there is something incredibly powerful when that brand takes shape in the physical world. Leveraging the insight that Gen Z calls Pinterest their "manifestation app," we brought that spirit to life in a vibrant celebration of the diverse and sometimes unexpected possibilities people are exploring on our platform. Attendees told us they felt like they were stepping into Pinterest as they took part in activities to reinvent their style with clothes customization, micro makeovers, piercings and even real tattoos. They could also plan their bucket-list travel adventure and discover trending festival-inspired cuisine. 

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago. 

I was lucky enough to start at TBWA\C\D in 2006, where I got to work closely with the most inspiring creative person I've ever been around: Lee Clow. Lee has the most remarkable ability to get to the essence of something and deliver beauty. He never forgot that we feel with our eyes and hear with our hearts. His creative magnet only attracted work that was pure. No contrived, overwrought thinking; just simple ideas, beautifully articulated. "Mac vs. PC," "Apple Misunderstood," "Think Different," "Shot on iPhone"… ideas so iconic, they need no links. He has been a guiding force for me since I met him. "Make it smart. Make it beautiful. Have fun." Thanks, Lee.

Someone else's work you admired lately. 

I admire Scott Trattner and what he's managed to do with AirBnb. The OOH of late is sooooo envy-inducing for me. Chateau-GPT anyone? I admire Lola Bakare for the voice she has in our industry. She has the courage to bring to light a lot of important topics.

Your main strength as a creative person.

I'm good at knowing what other people are good at and putting them in a position to succeed. As a creative leader, deep knowledge of the talent I work with has been the key to any success I've had.

Your biggest weakness.

I still don't understand what work/life balance should look like for me. It's hard when you do what you love for a living—the lines get blurred.

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

Investment banking.

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.

Advertise With Us

Featured Clio Award Winner



The best in creativity delivered to your inbox every morning.