2 Minutes With ... Stevie Archer, Executive Creative Director at SS+K

Adventures of a North Carolinian in New York City

Photo illustration by Ashley Epping

North Carolina native Stevie Archer, a 2005 graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, worked copywriting jobs in the state—including eight years at McKinney—before heading to New York in 2017. After two years as creative director at Big Spaceship (where she ran the Starbucks account), she joined SS+K as executive creative director last summer.

Yes, she is named after Stevie Nicks. But she has "yet to display any musical talent. So I’ve devoted myself to a life of advertising," she writes on her LinkedIn.

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

Stevie, tell us...

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

I was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, land of Krispy Kreme donuts and cigarettes. I currently live in Brooklyn.

What you wanted to be when you grew up.

A writer.

How you discovered you were creative.

From a very young age, I read all the time and would write little stories on my own. My parents always encouraged me, and I was lucky to have teachers who did too. So I didn't really discover I was creative, as much as I had imaginative inclinations that were nurtured. And the first time I tried to write an ad, I had no idea if I would have the creativity required. So I just tried really hard, and that first ad probably sucked. But I tried again and again, and now here I am.

A person you idolized creatively growing up.

I always loved to read, so my creative idols were real writers. I read a lot of Roald Dahl and Shel Silverstein in particular. And the common thread in their writing is that even though they wrote for children, they never underestimated their audience. They always captured real emotions, real fears, real imperfect behavior. They understood that children are just slightly smaller people.

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

When I was in college at UNC taking my first intro to copywriting course, my professor John Sweeney got me a copywriting internship at McKinney. That internship was my entry into copywriting, my first agency training ground, and the reason I was able to break into a career I love. 

The first concert you saw, and your favorite band or musician today.

I saw Juvenile and the Cash Money Millionaires live at the House of Blues. I listen to the news and podcasts more than anything now because things change so fast, I feel like I have to be constantly vigilant.

Your favorite visual artist.

Kehinde Wiley. His most recent work, "Rumors of War," is a response to the Confederate statues in the South that are still on display. His monument features an African American man heroically posed on horseback dressed in modern street clothes. It's currently on display in Richmond, Virginia.

Your favorite hero or heroine in fiction.

I can't stand a pure hero. Moral clarity is why Superman is so boring. Give me a complicated, misunderstood, morally gray character like Severus Snape or Sandor Clegane any day.

The best book you've read lately.

The American Way of Death Revisited, by Jessica Mitford. Did you know they use spiked plastic discs to hold deceased people's eyelids closed? Now you do. You're welcome.

Your favorite movie.

Just give me two hours of Meryl Streep's scenes in The Devil Wears Prada on repeat.

Your favorite Instagram follow.

Instagram makes me feel self conscious about my life, so I'm a Twitter person. 

For advertising and media: @dereklwalker @dongtent @AishaAnnHakim @GodisRivera and @TaylorLorenz

For weird humor: @dril and @pixelatedboat

For dogs: @dog_feelings

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

My favorite creative project ever was for Sherwin-Williams paint. I didn't even work on the account at the time. But I was in the process of painting my house and kept wanting to know what paint colors were in the inspirational images I was pulling for reference. So I conceived and built a digital tool called Chip it! that allowed people to instantly get a palette of Sherwin-Williams paint colors from any image online or on their computer in one click. Then the tool let them save the image alongside the color palette for later.

Chip It! - Sherwin-Williams

It was so simple and easy to use, even Photoshop-challenged copywriters like me could figure it out. People went bonkers for it and started sharing the color palettes all over Pinterest. Now more than a million paint palettes have been created and shared. And for me it will always be proof that if you create things people want or need, you will succeed.

Your favorite creative project from the past year, and why.

SS+K was recently chosen as the creative AOR for Mount Sinai Health System in New York. And while we've just begun our creative partnership, it's incredibly exciting to get to help tell the story of such a vital New York institution. Healthcare affects each and every one of us, and right now the ways we get care are advancing and shifting quite significantly. In this era of profound change, Mount Sinai's physicians, nurses, researchers and medical students are leading this charge. We see Mount Sinai's opportunity as defining a new way forward for a hospital, and changing our very understanding of what innovative medicine looks like. For me, creatively bringing that story to life is the kind of assignment I've always dreamed of getting to take on.

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

One year when I was still a student, I got a copy of the One Show awards annual. It was the year Crispin's launch of Mini swept everything. The simplicity, irreverence and the creativity of that campaign showed me how ads could be more than just ads. It just felt like pure fun.

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

Pretty much everything on TikTok. Give a kajillion people some creative constraints and some basic editing tools and magic happens.

Your main strength as a creative person.

Resilience.

Your weakness or blind spot.

A creative career trajectory is weird. You spend the first three quarters of it proving you can come up with compelling, rule-breaking, borderline irresponsible ideas. And then they put you in charge. Balancing the no-holds-barred mentality you need to create amazing things with the responsibility required to manage a business and a department of people is a constant push and pull.

One thing that always makes you happy.

When my dog Libby gets excited, her ears flap out like an elephant.

One thing that always makes you sad.

The last spoonful of ice cream.

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

I'd be a trial lawyer. I love presenting. I love winning. I love using words to make a case for something. I love figuring out complicated problems. And I love strategy. Seems like a perfect fit.

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards and the founding editor of Muse by Clio.

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