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Tara Ford is busier than ever. Now combining Chief Creative Officer of Accenture Song for Growth Markets while still holding the CCO tiller at The Monkeys Sydney. She found time for us and opened up on the personal side of creative leadership.

L[A] What is your morning routine?

TF Up early. Exercise. Dog walking. Kids' lunches. Making myself ready for public consumption …

L[A] What is the most exciting part of working on a new brief?

TF Dreaming up the ideas. It’s the most inspiring part that never gets old. Nothing trumps that feeling of hearing an idea that’s fresh and new for the first time.

L[A] Aside from your work as CCO for both Accenture Song and The Monkeys, you have an extensive background as a judge of creative content. How does this feed into your creative work and management role?

TF Judging creative work can be like a masterclass. You’re in a room with some of the industry’s best creative minds and getting to hear their perspectives and insights regarding the work. Even better if the judges are from around the world and have different backgrounds. It gets you out of your own bubble. And that can be very inspiring and expanding.

The other thing that’s so important is of course the work. You get to see the best of the year, see how people are thinking and applying creativity and technology. You get a sense of the culture of our industry and how creatives and clients are responding to the world. It keeps you up to date with the best of the industry on a global level.

L[A] Do you have any phobias?

TF Not really a phobia, but I don’t like it when things get too comfortable and I’m repeating myself. I like to get out of my comfort zone and do something challenging. If I’m too comfortable I feel like I may lose my edge. That, and I don’t like cockroaches.

L[A] Can pressure or stress be a positive factor in the creative process?

TF I don’t think stress enhances performance, but I think when the stakes are high it can bring about greatness. Especially when everyone on the team wants the same thing and is pushing in the same direction together.

L[A] If you could only recommend one book to someone to inspire them, what would it be?

TF Rick Rubin’s The Creative Act has been a good one recently.

L[A] Do you have any role models in your life? If so, who would they be and what qualities do they have that you admire?

TF Vivienne Westwood was someone incredibly inspiring. An incredible creative vision that was uncompromising and singular. Starting in the punk era and powering on with style, strength and individuality for decades.

L[A] How do you relax?

TF Drawing. Walking. Patting my dogs. Being with my kids. Although that last one can go the other way as far as relaxing goes.

L[A] What fictional character do you identify the most with? Why them?

TF The Terminator because I’m tenacious as hell. Although maybe I should say Sarah Connor because she ended up being the more tenacious character.

L[A] What does being “innovative” mean for you?

TF Questioning the status quo. Breaking down an existing system and using creativity and technology to build something new. Experimentation. Travels into the unknown. Being open to something that is unproven and has never been done before.

L[A] In 10 years, what will people be nostalgic for?

TF The smartphone maybe. It’s such a part of our lives, but it will evolve into something else. Driving a car. People are very romantic about driving and that too will never be the same. The everyday things we take for granted will disappear or change beyond recognition.

L[A] Is there a quote or mantra that you live by?

TF No guts no glory.

I have always taken chances to push into the unknown. There really isn’t any point being mild in this business, or in life.

L[A] What do you think are the biggest misconceptions about working in advertising?

TF It’s not just about thinking up fun stuff. There are so many parameters and constraints you need to work to as a creative. Also, the time and care it takes to make sure an idea lives. People don’t realize how hard it can be to get a great idea out into the world in its original unharmed and beautiful state.

L[A] Which song would you pick that sums up your life?

TF Van Halen’s Jump … but in reality, it’s probably Rihanna’s Work.

L[A] In what environment do you feel the most creative?

TF Big bustling cities make me feel alive and inspired. But going deep into nature is rejuvenating and brings space, clarity and creativity in another way. I need both.

L[A] For the COP27 conference, your work for the South Pacific island nation of Tuvalu presented a haunting concept of a country becoming solely digital due to the effects of climate change. In what ways can such campaigns create real socio-political change and how important will they be going forward?

TF That work was more than a campaign in that, if no real climate action is taken, Tuvalu will become a digital nation for real. They will have no choice. The film launching the concept at COP27 was designed to be a wake-up call for the world, that this is really happening, and the devastating effects are not a distant concept, they are here. So, in that way it was a concept that straddles both climate adaptation and mitigation. We know that Tuvaluan Minister Simon Kofe uses the concept of the First Digital Nation in his diplomatic talks to garner support and action.

L[A] Which childhood trait should we hold onto?

TF Curiosity and playfulness. And not caring so much what other people think.

L[A] What is something that gives you hope?

TF Art. The beauty and wit of a creative mind and what it can create from nothing.

L[A] What would you title your autobiography?

TF I’m not done yet.

L[A] What do you think might be different about the work of a CCO in 20 years?

TF There will be new tools and technologies and formats and media, but the idea will still be king. Humanity, craft, and empathy will remain. I hope creativity will be applied across business in many different ways. I think our industry can expand into much more than communications. We’re already starting to see this but I hope it will continue.

But I think the work is the ‘easy’ part of the job. The humans are the hard bit. The people side of things is ever-evolving and no matter how long I do this, I still manage to be surprised. Just when you think the balance and culture is just right … Bam! Something comes along to change it up. Humans will always be where creativity is needed but human problems may change in some way.

Tara Ford's Inspiration

The Last Performance, Partners Life

One of my favorite pieces of work from last year. This is a film, but it’s also a media idea. The spots were shown at the end of one of New Zealand’s loved crime shows. But before the credits rolled, the victim for that episode came back to life in the morgue to remind you to get your life insurance sorted. Unexpected, simple, smart … killer.

Weather Anything, Macpac

Macpac is New Zealand’s original outdoor gear manufacturer, making tough, high-quality outdoor gear. To prove it we created a simple and ridiculous product demonstration, delivered through the deadpan humor New Zealand is famous for.

Tesla Cyber Truck

Okay, hear me out on this one. Love it or hate it, this car changes it up in every way. I mean look at it. But it’s not just the outside, they’ve reinvented everything from the battery cells to the wiring architecture. No baby steps towards something were taken here. And I kind of like that. Following through on an authentic vision.

Tate Modern

I travel a lot and when I’m in London I always like to take a long walk to the Tate and look at the art. It’s one of my favorite things to do off the long-haul flight.

The Creative Act by Rick Rubin

A good book to pick up and dip into whenever creativity feels hard, when you feel like you need a little shake to loosen something.

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