EPISODE #94 || Zoe Kessler, Creative Director at Barton F. Graf


Zoe Kessler, Creative Director at Barton F. Graf (at the time of recording*), joins us to talk about embracing what makes you different in the industry. Hear about how to make the most of your job even if it’s not your ideal position, why we should grill the person interviewing us, working with other agencies on the pro bono campaign Donate:60, and learning to accept recognition as a female creative.

*Note - since we recorded this episode, Zoe has moved on from Barton F. Graf.

If you’re in the Portland area, RSVP for Friday’s Double Back event at Wieden+Kennedy, hosted in collaboration with FIR Northwest.

Topics Discussed

  • Studying art history and sculpture in college, how sculpture is like creative problem solving, and assisting 90 creatives as a creative assistant at BBDO.

  • How to make the most of your job, even if it’s not your ideal position, and building relationships while doing peoples’ expenses.

  • What drew her to Barton F. Graf, grilling Gerry Graf in her interview, and the category-shaking work she led for Welch’s.

  • Working with other agencies on Donate:60, a pro bono campaign which reached 25 million people.

  • Learning to accept recognition as a female creative, and not tip-toeing around the fact that you bring a different perspective to the room.

Mic Drops

“Theres’ never going to be someone that you aren’t going to be in contact with again. And that’s everyone, from your creative assistant, to your CCO and everyone in between. Be kind to people. I think it’s really important to make relationships with everyone that you come across, and find a way to be someone that everyone wants around.”

“It’s really easy to go to the wrong agency, because you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. I know firsthand that not asking enough questions about who you’re going to be working for and what you’re going to be working on can prove to be really detrimental to your experience at that agency.”

“That made me think about how I’ve always carried around the idea that I’m a woman being this thing that I have to overcome, when instead with this new perspective, it’s an asset to be female in this industry. Having a different background and a different perspective creates value in a room.”

Keep in Touch

About Zoe

Zoe Kessler is a freelance creative director who most recently left at Barton F. Graf where she had a hand in shaping every piece of the business, from Supercell to Snyder’s-Lance to Sour Patch Kids, resulting in some of the agency’s most iconic work to date. She was named as a 2017 finalist on Ad Age's “A-list for Creative Director of the Year," was recently featured on The Drum’s “50 under 30” list for 2018 and earned a spot on Adweek's Creative 100 as one of 14 Young Agency Creatives Whose Work Is Far Ahead of Its Time. She worked on the Emerald Nuts, "Yes Good" campaign, has made several short films for the mobile gaming giant, Supercell, and helped lead the Coverage Coalition, a rebellion of creatives organizing an industry wide effort to make up the 90% advertising budget cut for Affordable Healthcare sign-up. She was also the creative director on Barton's most recent campaign for Welch's Grape Juice, Tough as Grapes, targeting men for the first time and shaking up category and industry norms. 

Zoe is a passionate force and spends a lot of her time outside of work dedicated to causes important to her. She’s a member of Nevertheless, a group of women in advertising working to market the resistance, and Head of Design on Tickled Hot Pink, a committee that throws events to raise money for female reproductive rights each year, raising upwards of $120k for Planned Parenthood at last year’s event.