2 Minutes With … Amy Carvajal, CCO at Code and Theory

The silver lining of switching jobs in a pandemic

After four years as executive creative director at J. Walter Thompson (and Wunderman Thompson), Amy Carvajal joined Code and Theory this year as its first chief creative officer—right as the coronavirus pandemic was hitting the U.S.

"I was in and then quickly out," she told AdAge of her brief stint in the Code and Theory office before everyone was mandated to work from home. Still, she tells Muse that the unconventional start to the new job has had some upsides, like getting to know her new colleagues in a more intimate setting over video chat.

We spent two minutes with Carvajal—a former Publicis, Organic, McCann and Ogilvy creative—to learn more about her adjustment to the new job, her background, her creative inspirations, and recent and classic work she's admired.

Amy, tell us...

The town where you were born, and where you live now.

Born in NYC on the Upper West Side, and I currently live in Gramercy.

What you wanted to be when you grew up.

When I was very young, I wanted to be a waitress and marry a butcher. As I got older, I started to think about art therapy and scientific illustration before discovering marketing.

How you discovered you were creative.

Always. As soon as I could hold a crayon, I started drawing. I wrote and illustrated my own books, even binding them with thread. When I was about 6 years old, I went around to my neighbors and took custom orders for painted signs. Then I would paint onto pieces of scrap wood and deliver the painted signs for whatever they were willing to pay. I think my biggest single sale was for 35 cents, and I thought I was rich.

A person you idolized creatively growing up.

Madonna. I thought she was a bold change maker.

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

In my freshman year of high school, my art teacher noticed my talent and recommended that I take adult life drawing classes. Because there were nude models and it was an adult class, I needed special recommendation and parental permission. I took it very seriously and grew as an artist.

The first concert you saw.

My uncle is the lead singer of the J. Geils Band, so I was concert-going since I was a baby.

Your favorite visual artist.

Egon Schiele. And today, the creators of Meow Wolf for their crazy experiential art.

Your favorite hero or heroine in fiction.

Wonder Woman. Debuting in the '40s—now that's staying power.

The best book you've read lately.

Sarah's Key. Leaders Eat Last.

Your favorite movie.

This Is Spinal Tap.

Your favorite Instagram follow.

Anything that makes me laugh. Chelsea Handler makes me laugh.

How the Covid-19 crisis has changed your life, personally or professionally, in recent weeks.

It has forced me to be a homebody, which doesn't feel natural and I have always had a tough time embracing. It has also made me very grateful for small things like the fact that I can see a sliver of the East River, which brings a bit of calm when things are stressful. Plus, everyone has been curious about what it's like to start a new job during all of this. While very tough, there have also been some unexpected pros, like being able to meet talent in a focused video chat, which has really allowed me to get to know people on an individual and personal basis. I get to see a glimpse of their homes, their kids, their pets, and hear what they made for lunch. And that has made a quicker deeper connection with others.

Your favorite creative project you've ever worked on, and why.

The "Break the Cycle" campaign for the U by Kotex launch. It was a new line from a 90-year-old feminine care brand in a category that was filled with euphemisms and ridiculous ads. We created digital tools that allowed girls to call out bad period ads and created a mission that completely flipped the category upside down. It was exciting to see other brands follow suit on the category with campaigns such as "Like a Girl."

U by Kotex | Break the Cycle
Your favorite creative project from the past year, and why.

OSESP's "See the Music," an exhibition of work made by tracking the principal conductor's movements of the most famous classical songs and transforming the data into painted strokes.

OSESP | See the Music

And one related to reacting during the pandemic—after the cancellation of SXSW, MailChimp worked with Code and Theory to create a global digital destination for the 70-plus short films slated to premiere during the festival. It was a seven-day deadline! Impressive speed from a remote team, and a successful launch showcase.

Someone else's creative project that inspired you years ago.

Nike Chalkbot for innovation and messaging. Avis' "We're No. 2!"—classic and amazing creative strategy.

Someone else's creative project that you've been envious of lately.

Doritos Cool Ranch integrated campaign experience, including their use of Sway technology for the dance AI experience.

Sway + Doritos #CoolRanchDance
Your main strength as a creative person.

Ability to translate feedback (or lack thereof) into something actionable for the teams and speak the different languages from product dev to brand marketing.

Your weakness or blind spot.

Wanting to see the potential in work that people feel attached to and sometimes not scrapping it sooner.

One thing that always makes you happy.

When I'm told that I was helpful.

One thing that always makes you sad.

If someone doesn't feel heard.

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

A building contractor.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd was editor in chief of the Clio Awards and editor of Muse by Clio from 2018 to 2023.

Advertise With Us

Featured Clio Award Winner



The best in creativity delivered to your inbox every morning.