DON’T INTERRUPT: CASEY RAND
Becky Brinkerhoff is a copywriter and manic pixie meme girl at Hill Holliday in Boston. She’s a diversity & inclusivity activist in all things and hasn’t been “chill” a single day in her life.
To wrap up Women’s History Month, 3% spoke with Casey Rand—one of Adweek's 18 Most Culturally Influential Creative Leaders. (She was first on that list, but who’s counting?) Casey shared her thoughts on keeping up creative energy, using advertising for societal impact, and why you shouldn’t take pictures of Mariah Carey on set.
What were you like in high school?
I was a weird hybrid of class clown and good student. Really lanky and awkward. I definitely got by on my sense of humor. It was...fine. I’m Canadian, so I didn’t go to a big American movie high school where the cafeteria is a battleground and you have to find your tribe. I was at a 300-person school in a Montreal suburb. We wore uniforms and people generally got along. That might be me wearing rose-colored glasses, but I don’t remember any scenes like the one in Mean Girls where the cliques attack each other by the mall fountain.
What keeps you up at night?
So many things! I’ve recently been working on a climate change project (to get people to care about it, not to create more of it) and reading a ton about how screwed we are and I have to say, it’s really bleak. Once you go through that door, you can’t really come back. So, that’s been on my mind, especially with our current administration dismantling every environmental achievement from the last eight years.
Also, my husband snores, so that keeps me up.
You’ve worked on a number of impactful campaigns. Which impacted you the most?
I think The Clinton Foundation’s “Not There” campaign was the most moving experience I’ve had in advertising. The campaign literally erased women from the media for a day to make a point about gender inequality. It was a massive undertaking that took forever because there were 100 different partners and we needed about 1000 permissions, but when it launched, I really felt like it impacted people. On International Women’s Day, I marched with hundreds of young girls holding signs that read “Not There” and watched this new generation, who is already so woke at such a young age, adopt the message and fight for it. It was definitely a highlight of my career.
Has there ever been a situation where speaking up would harm your career?
I’ve definitely felt uncomfortable speaking up out of fear of being labeled a certain way. Some of those scenarios are very cliche, old-school advertising stuff (I’m old). You know, being on a shoot and the male creative directors want to take the client to a strip club and you don't feel comfortable going, so you leave, but then wonder if you’re sabotaging your career, or if they’re going to think you’re lame and never want to go on a shoot with you again. Basic, textbook sexism. But, I’ve felt that way in more subtle situations too. “If I say what I really think, are people going to think I’m a bitch? Who am I to have an opinion about this?” That’s so common for young women in the workplace. You have to remind yourself, “They hired me because they think I have a unique perspective” and teach yourself to be comfortable sharing it.
Go back to the beginning of your career. What would you do differently?
As a junior, I felt like I should just do the work assigned to me to the best of my ability. But, I wish I had done more proactive stuff. Like jumping on another brief or coming to my CDs with an idea of my own. Droga5 is really good about that; my most awarded work at the agency was born out of a side project. Juniors should remember that all your bosses want are good ideas, so you’re never going to be penalized for putting yourself out there.
What’s the most embarrassing professional faux pas you’re willing to admit?
My first shoot was an AT&T spot starring Mariah Carey. We shot in Miami and stayed at the Fontainebleau. Bennett Miller directed. It was bananas—I couldn’t believe this was my job. I remember calling my mom and listing all the snacks in the mini bar. When we got to set on the first day, I was so star-struck by Mariah that I couldn’t talk to her. As you know, she’s a very particular person (diva). I was sitting in video village, and I had a shitty little digital camera. She was setting up for a scene and I pulled out my camera to take a candid photo of her. She looked straight into the lens and moaned to Bennett, “That girl is taking pictures of me.”
He apologized and told her it was my first time working with a celebrity. The theme of the week became ‘Casey’s first shoot.’ A producer would hand me a sheet of paper and be like, “this is paper” or point to a mic and say “this is for sound.” I was mortified. There’s a photo of all my colleagues posing with Mariah at the end of the week and I’m MIA because I couldn’t face her.
Do you feel as though you are creatively fulfilled?
Yeah, I do. As I progress in my career, I’m more comfortable presenting brave work. There can be an inclination as you get older to show clients safer concepts because the process will be easier. But, I’ve felt the opposite. A client rarely punishes you for trying to push them (and if they do, you probably don’t want them as a client).
Obviously, there are times when the grind gets me down. On those days, I try to remember that it’s just advertising. The only thing dying on my watch is a joke or a digital activation, you know?
I also don’t rely on advertising to get all my creative rocks off. Otherwise, creativity becomes a job and you start resenting it.
You’ve got a number of writing-related side hustles. What’s your motivation for doing so?
Well, I love writing and you don’t always get to do the kind of writing you want to do in a toilet paper ad. So, I’ve learned to be my own taskmaster and carve out time to make other stuff. One thing I’ve learned in the last few years is that your day job and your personal creative time aren’t mutually exclusive. Ultimately, a good job fuels your art and your art fuels your job.
You just took some time off to focus on personal projects. Whatcha working on?
A bunch of stuff. I’m writing short humor (my goal is to crack the New Yorker’s Shouts & Murmurs section). I also have a screenplay percolating, but I don’t like to talk about it because it’s the first one I’ve attempted and will likely be a disaster. Other than that, I’m doing some volunteer work at 826 in Brooklyn and learning how to season food properly.
What are you looking forward to?
It feels like we’re living through pretty revolutionary times. Between the #metoo movement, Black Lives Matter, the March For Our Lives, and all the other groups speaking truth to power, change is coming.
I hate that we, as Jon Lovett would say, “have a dotty old racist in the White House,” but I think his ascendancy might be the catalyst for a something extraordinary. And I’m not an optimistic person.
I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of future we’ll create.
(And making ads for any woman who runs in 2020 - Kamala, Elizabeth, Kirsten…call me.)
Casey Rand is an award-winning creative director and writer in New York City. She spent her early 20s in Ontario getting her business degree from Queen's University, her mid-20s in Virginia getting her Master's in Communications from VCU, and most of her 30s wondering why she didn't go to film school. Connect with Casey on Twitter.
Don't Interrupt is an interview series from The 3% Movement that showcases inspirational indust
Illustration by Raphaela Putz.