‘I had to work twice as fast, twice as hard, to prove I was twice as good’: Snap global chief creative talks career, challenges and being a female creative

Colleen DeCourcy, one of the world's first female creative leaders, has spent her impressive career working twice as hard as her male colleagues to prove herself. Now global chief creative of Snap Inc, she is experiencing in-house work for the very first time - and there's a lot that's different from agencyland. DeCourcy sat down with Mumbrella's Lauren McNamara to talk all things careers, challenges, and the future.

Boasting an impressive career history, Colleen DeCourcy is not one to shy away from a challenge.

Having spent most of her working life in agencyland in various C-suite roles at TBWA, JWT and Wieden + Kennedy, among others, DeCourcy has been a trailblazer for females in the creative space across the world.

She’s led agencies to multiple award wins, was named Adweek’s Creative Leader of the Decade 2010-2019, and in 2022, was recognised by Cannes Lions with the Lion of St Mark Lifetime Achievement Award.


She tells Mumbrella she’s had a “lovely career”, with her belief system being the key driver. She reflected on her luck and hard work, explaining that the creative work, clients and advocating she’s done over the years kept drawing her back to her career.

“The fact that I was a copywriter, and a creative, and made things while I was progressing through that were all the joys of the career,” she says. “That was the stuff that really mattered to me, so, of course, it was the stuff that pulled me back to work.”

While DeCourcy felt lucky throughout her career, she acknowledged that it wasn’t easy for her as a woman, and the challenges, albeit not as often now, continue to present themselves.

“It wasn’t easy for women, whether you look at journalism, advertising or tech, it wasn’t where women went to shine. Until we did,” she says.

In the early 2000s, DeCourcy was the chief creative officer at Organic, one of the world’s first digital agencies, which was an experience she says was a mix of good and bad.

“I liked it because it was full of surprises and new tools,” she explains. “But what I didn’t realise at the time was there was this confluence of being a writer, who was also a woman, who understood tech…and that wasn’t easy to navigate.”

Then, when she became global chief digital officer at TBWA in 2007, she was one of the firsts: “There might have been one or two other chief digital officers in the industry, but they were both men.

“It was an opportunity of a lifetime for me, and as tech started progressing, it was nice to be well-schooled in that, but it was definitely difficult,” she reflects.

DeCourcy said she doesn’t feel the challenges of being a woman in the creative industry as much now as she did then, and the last few years in particular have seen a shift.

“When I was younger, it took me far more effort and energy than it took men who I was equally talented to. I had to work and run twice as fast, twice as hard, to prove I was twice as good. Plus, I had to be good at the business stuff, and be not just good, but better, than everyone else at the creative stuff.

“Plus, I had a kid at home and was navigating motherhood,” she remarks.

“If I could meet my younger self right now, I might shake myself by the shoulders and said,’ why are you trying to hard to be somewhere that doesn’t want you?’,” she explains.

“But the last few years have been so different, I have girls looking up to me now, and that’s makes everything worth it. The further I go where I felt I could take more risks with my career, because I had the body of work to back it up, the more I would push myself out of my comfort zone.”

She says women need to learn that what you say no to, is as important as what you say yes to. Women take on every single brief they’re asked. just to prove they can do it, according to DeCourcy, and that needs to change.

“There becomes a moment in your career where you want to shape your legacy and your body of work, and women need to do that earlier. I wish earlier I’d started saying ‘no I want to do that one’, ‘no, I think I should do this one’, instead of saying ‘sure, if you give me the ones I want, I’ll do all those other ones too’,” she explains.

“There is no yes without no.”

She came out of semi-retirement in 2022 to take on the global chief creative role at Snap Inc, and explained she wouldn’t have done that for any other offer.

An example of Snapchat’s new campaign

“I don’t think I would have ever gone and worked at another agency” she says. “Not that there aren’t good ones or anything, running Wieden + Kennedy was the joy of my career and I loved it up until that moment. But I dovetailed with the explosion of the tech industry, so according to my belief system, it felt right to say yes [to Snap Inc].”

The role of a creative is to disrupt and provoke, and often, an agency creative has a less objective view on a client than an in-house creative would, and that was the biggest learning curve for DeCourcy.

“I am both the CCO and the CMO now, I am my own client now, you know?,” she says. “That’s been a new level of growth that I did not expect to find at this point in my career, and I love that.”

Snapchat, which has recently launched a new campaign, follows the themes of her belief system – authenticity and the role technology can play in forging real human connections.

She told Mumbrella the new work, ‘Less Social Media, More Snapchat’, aims to share the message that Snapchat was built as an alternative to social media – it was never meant to amass huge ‘friend’ networks, compete for likes or offer an endless stroll of carefully curated content, but instead, it was designed to be a place where users could just be real.

The campaign will be rolling out in Australia in the coming months.


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