Micaela Ortego Maciel | Creative Strategist
August 20, 2020

InterviewsMicaela Ortego Maciel | Creative Strategist

Meet Micaela - a creative strategist from London whos worked on campaigns for adidas, Amazon Fashion and Xtinction Rebellion. She talks to us about her diverse heritage, finding allies at work and knowing your audience.

Micaela At Work

Having worked as a senior creative strategist at some of London’s top agencies on some of the world’s biggest brands, what would you say are the biggest difficulties when it comes to brand storytelling?

This is a difficult one but I think from my experience, the biggest difficulty is navigating the space in which brands want to tell a story vs. the story people and fans want to hear. It’s also hard to discern what makes a story worth sharing, brands most times think “product or brand telling” is the same as “storytelling” and don’t get me wrong, it sometimes works out, but from my experience stories and storytelling should be human first. 

What three questions can marketers ask to try to better understand their target audience?

Audience insights – whether they come from a brand or from an agency – usually rely on lazy stereotypes and lives experiences, it’s hard to understand audiences without bringing our own biases into the mix so I think some critical questions people should be asking themselves are: 

  • Do your audience / target audience insights play into lazy and dated stereotypes, whether those be from a race, sexuality, gender, ageist, ableist or cultural point of view? 
  • Does the target audience depict real consumers i.e. is the target audience as diverse as the people buying into the brand?
  • Is your target audience looking beyond what you can see? I.e. are you looking beyond your own bubble – not everyone is from London, not everyone has access to technology or social media, not everyone has the same political affiliation – we need to look beyond what is immediately available and become more critical when thinking of audiences.
Are there any ways you can see, or would like to see the industry of brands and campaigns improve in the future?

As I answer these questions, we are in the midst of one of the biggest revolutions of our time. The Black Lives Matter movement has finally reached peak consciousness across the globe. A movement that is undeniable and can no longer be ignored, by brands, employers and people alike. I think the industry will have to quickly figure out a way to repair a system that has long been broken and has promoted the erasure of BIPOC. Without us finding a way to do better, the future we’re headed to will not be improved so there is no time like now to demand change and commitment. I also believe brands and the industry at large will need to be clear and commit to the wider climate emergency because for too long we have made individuals accountable when it’s brands who should be leading positive change.

What’s the biggest learning you’ve had in your professional life to date? Good or bad?

WOW biggest learning… perhaps my biggest learning, at least the one I can recall right now is that our industry is an echo chamber and that we take many things for granted – whether it’s about how consumers feel and behave or the type of work that will resonate with consumers I think sometimes we stick too much to our internal teams and don’t look out enough. Culture is created on the streets, in people’s houses, on social media and I think we can’t ignore this, we need to be where culture is being made.

What do you think is often a brand’s biggest mistake when it comes to creating content?

Overcomplication! I think for brands and agencies alike. It’s so easy to get caught up in a spiral that adds layer on top of layer of complication or feedback that sometimes everyone forgets why we’re even doing what we’re doing. Take a step back, go back to the brief and think whether or not your content is answering the brief. It’s better to go back to the drawing board and go back to basics.

Micaela After Hours

Can you talk to us about any rituals you’ve developed over the years that help you stay on top of your game?

I’d like to think they are a small series of actions that I follow to stay on top, stay inspired and stay accountable. 

A couple of years ago I decided that my ritual would be to do something different that made me whole; small actions I could bring back to my work and praxis, they happened to manifest themselves as short courses. I started my journey at Goldsmiths University joining a course called Bad Girls: Representations of Race and Gender in Popular Culture which introduces and explores the way popular culture shapes discourses on race and gender. I can’t recommend it enough and since then I have tried to invest in one short course per year that continues to build on this. I am currently doing one called Rhythm, Race and Revolution and it’s been an eye-opener, to say the least.

What key things got you to where you are today? 

I think perseverance and knowing myself very well. I’ve always had a very clear idea of who I am in my head and it made it easier to pursue things I loved with conviction and also helped me shape what I wanted to get out of my degree and career. That’s not to say it was a smooth ride or that sometimes I wake up thinking I could be doing more and better for people and the planet but I think overall that conviction and personal strength have guided my path.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Invest your time and efforts in working for places and brands that do good by the planet and the community, the rest is just marketing.

Do you have any health, beauty or wellness rituals that keep you feeling nourished? 

I wish I was more of a beauty and wellness kind of person – those would be good rituals to have but honestly, all I do in terms of health and beauty and wellness is keep myself hydrated, put on moisturiser and SPF and bike. Cycling is my latest obsession and for anyone struggling with mental health and able to cycle, it’s an amazing activity that has given me a lot of mental peace.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

I wish I had something ultra inspiring to say, something really upbeat and bouncy but mostly, breakfast gets me out of the bed in the morning. I think getting out of bed in the morning can be so hard for so many people – I’m talking mental health here – it’s a hard world and I think sometimes we really need to dig deep or, if you’re like me, look at the small wins and if you happen to love breakfast, it’s good enough. When I’m having a good day, knowing that I can change things and lead by example and believing in the work I do and put out gets me out. I guess it depends.

Who or what inspires you?

My friends inspire me – a lot! I have been blessed with a small group of intimate friends who are like family to me and we talk and discuss anything and everything and it’s inspiring to be able to have so many conversations so openly and to be challenged and be held accountable. Music is also a major source of inspiration and I have a constant soundtrack buzzing in my head. I am also inspired by literature and film and in the last couple of years, I have found the work of Issa Rae, Riz Ahmed and Reese Witherspoon extremely powerful.

What are your tips for showing up as your best self?

I think doing the work and knowing yourself helps infinitely. I couldn’t be happier to have started my thirties feeling like I knew who I was and what my intention in the world was, making it so much easier to show up as my true self. I used to be more conscious, being the child of Argentinian immigrants, born in Spain, who went to a German school and decided to move to London, I use to be conscious about my accent and my “loud and direct” voice – usually attributed to being a feisty Spanish womxn. But now I just don’t care and I show up as I am. So my tips are know and explore yourself, know your intention and show up and find your tribe. I found amazing allies at work who accepted me and welcomed me. It’s easier said than done and I don’t want to say this without recognising how much easier it’s been for me being white (!).

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?

I don’t know! Maybe I should ask around first… But perhaps the best advice I hope I have given is that I will back people up and if they want to say something, speak out about something they are passionate about, something that has affected them, something upsetting I will be there, I will have their back and I will speak up too.

What outfits and styles make you feel the best day to day?

Trainers, jeans and a jumper. That’s it. It’s my uniform. I absolutely love trainers and it’s probably my guilty pleasure and I always like to feel comfortable. I think this also helps me show up as my best self, the idea of feeling comfortable in your own body and clothes. Like a cool stylish shield.

What’s your favourite quote to live by?

I saw this really silly on TikTok where a creator reframed the tedious “Live, Laugh, Love” to “Alive. ahah. Fuck” and I thought it was absolutely genius. I wouldn’t say I live by it but I thought it was so telling of the times. 

But otherwise, from one of my all-time favourite films Almost Famous: The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool. I find it to be a very comforting quote which I see myself in, it’s empowering to think that everyone shares an uncool self with others and that is all that matters, that real spark and chemistry you have in that moment.

How do you keep on top of updates in your personal areas of interest? Any podcasts, newsletters, Instagram accounts, sites or events you follow?

Too many!

Podcasts, I am obsessed! I think NPR is the cream of the crop in this space and their Code Switch and Throughline podcast are incredibly educational and inspiring. Instagram… I think my go-to’s are Gina Martin, Mikaela Loach who is a climate justice activist amongst other amazing things, Refinery29 Somos and Unbothered which focus on Latinx and Black experiences and then I just sign up to the usual newsletter for updates on concerts, panels etc.

Unbothered Refinery29 GIF BLM Black Lives Matters

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