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Corinna Falusi, Chief Creative Officer of Mother New York, on why the agency doesn’t have a ‘house style’ and the power of embracing discomfort.
From coming back from maternity leave and asking for a promotion in the first week back, to actively looking for discomfort and friction in her career; the Corinna Falusi school of creativity is never boring.
The Chief Creative Officer of Mother New York, who describes the entrepreneurial spirit of Mother as “irresponsibly ambitious and delusionally optimistic” is not only comfortable with change, it is her driving force. An approach that has been invaluable in the wake of a pandemic in which living with change became the only constant.
Falusi was talking as part of the Game Changers interview series in partnership with global talent consultancy for the creative industries, The Blueprint. In a wide ranging conversation with The Blueprint’s founder, Gareth Moss, Falusi shared that a ‘search for discomfort’ has driven her creative career.
This search for discomfort has seen Falusi work with brands including BMW, Heineken and the United Nations. She joined Mother New York as Chief Creative Officer in 2016, from Ogilvy & Mather New York, where she was also Chief Creative Officer. She began her career at Jung von Matt in Germany, before a decade-long stint at StrawberryFrog in Amsterdam and New York.
Mother New York recently opened its new headquarters in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, a former industrial area that has turned into a magnet for the creative Industries. The office building is a distinctive and flexible space; the agency which began life around a kitchen table in London has successfully converted a 100-year-old grocery warehouse space for the next phase of its evolution.
It is clear that this evolution is not about simply rolling out a singular ‘Mother’ creative footprint across the globe but instead in forging the space - whether physical or digital - for creative exploration.
From launching two new companies to exploring how to work and live in the hybrid era, Mother has embraced the change of the past 18-months. Falusi cites the fact that the company did not let a single employee go during the peak of the pandemic as one of her proudest career moments. (In the UK the agency put its values into action by returning the furlough payments it had received to the treasury.)
Mercifully in a marketing ecosystem in which agency positioning statements are becoming increasingly complex and unwieldy, Falusi shares a jargon-free approach to creativity.
“In general the creative ambition for Mother is very simple; do the best work possible, have fun doing that and make a living,” she explains.
Creating the space for multi-faceted and eclectic creative outputs is clearly a strong focus for Falusi. An approach which ensures there is no singular creative footprint for Mother’s outputs.
“What really unites us in New York is a strong belief in no house style,” she explains. Boring that Mother doesn’t have the name of a person or founder on the door, she suggests that the agency is free of the baggage that comes with that.
She says: “Often with companies that have the name on the door there comes one style of work that is kind of the work. And that's really something I find is an insult for creativity,”
In its place of this singular founder-led vision, Falusi believes that the ultimate creative expression is to be found within variety. “We aim to have work that is as broad as fashion style, to smart tactical, to big ideas brought to life in a unique way to product innovation,” she adds.
So what makes a game changing leader? Falusi believes there are three simple ingredients; that you care about making great work, you care about people and you care about the world.
Bringing these people together is key to Mother’s creative output. Moss pointed to how the agency has brought in talent from product, entertainment and music backgrounds. While Falusi shares that blending those talents together is key; even if you don’t necessarily understand their approach. Notably, when she considers what makes a game changing leader the ability to think differently and challenge is top of her agenda.
“Tone deaf, same same work, that ignores what people think.” This was the stark warning Falusi delivered as to the very real business cost of not creating agency ecosystems which recruit and crucially, retain diverse talent.
Falusi, who has been a keynote speaker at the groundbreaking 3% conference, added: “The whole industry is ridiculously behind in diversity and in creating a diverse environment.”
She pointed to the fact that for humans in general it’s easier to hire people who have things in common with us culturally. She added; “It's not just about hiring people, it's about keeping people and creating a space where they feel welcome.”
So how would she meet this challenge? “Shame is the most powerful way to enforce anything,” Falusi explained, sharing that she would force agencies and clients to share diversity data. While Mother New York already shares this data on its website, there is no industry wide census to match the IPA data which is shared annually in the UK.
Looking back over her career it is clear that Falusi is comfortable with discomfort. A discomfort that has been a mainstay of business in the midst of the ongoing pandemic.
Underlining the truth that a successful creative career is a marathon and not a sprint, Falusi shares that there is not one singular moment that is the proudest of her career. Instead, her proudest achievements are a collection of many moments and many moments still to come.
From the joy of coming together after 18 months of remote working at Mother; to successfully challenging the myth that motherhood is a creative full stop by asking for a promotion in her first week back from maternity leave; Falusi’s career is propelled by her ability to sit with discomfort and still push forward.
“I have found a place where everyday is a challenge,” she says, referencing her creative home at Mother New York, adding: “I know this will never feel boring.” An ongoing evolution which underlines the fact that the most fulfilling creative careers are perhaps not focused on one single destination; but instead the ability to constantly challenge yourself to run your own race.