As kids, Laura DeSantis (right) and Sasha Ortega (left) had two main things in common. They both asked a lot of questions and dreamt of working creatively. Fast forward and a lot has changed for the better. Laura and Sasha now work together as a creative team at Canadian agency Cossette. Their skills have improved and their inquisitive nature remains as strong but is now more refined. They took two very different paths to come together but this meant their skills became complementary.
On top of this, their magnetic personal chemistry has taken the two past many deadlines, helped them to forge a working friendship that can think on its feet and has transformed the twosome into a formidable and sometimes ‘hangry’ creative force.
Intrigued to know more about Laura and Sasha, LBB’s Jason Caines sat down with this dynamic duo to discover how they got their foot into the door of adland, how they came together as a team, their favourite Canadian work, favourite career projects so far and their advice for budding creatives.
LBB> What were you like growing up as kids in Canada?
SO: I loved colours and asked 99 questions. I was a walking curious rainbow. Which is weird because now all I wear is black and ask 101 questions.
LDS: I thought I’d write and star in my own movies. So, I used to get my sister to pretend to be David Letterman and interview me. So that’s probably not that normal.
LBB> What inspired your interests in creativity?
SO: I got my hands on Photoshop at a very early age. For Christmas one year, I Photoshopped my parents as the little mermaid and a centaur. Guess who was who!
LDS: I loved making up stories. And my kindergarten teacher said I had really nice printing. So, I guess it was meant to be.
LBB> Did you study a creative or advertising-based course and if you did this how has it benefited your career so far?
SO: Halfway through my business degree at Schulich, I said “oh no, no”. Instead, I pursued a BA in Creative Advertising at Humber College. More than anything, it opened tons of networking opportunities.
LDS: I went to Humber for the 1-year post grad Advertising Copywriting program. It definitely made me look at ways to make my writing more concise. And I met great people. So, I guess that’s called networking.
LBB> How did you both get your foot into the door of Cossette?
SO: As an account intern during my second year in Schulich, hah. Guess you can say the business background came in somewhat handy! Once I got my foot through the door, I showed Carlos [Moreno] and Peter [Ignazi, Cosette’s global chief creative officers] my book. Carlos told me to finish up school, get better and come back to him. REJECTED. Neither of them remembered me until after they hired me as a full-time Art Director a couple years later.
LDS: Did a nice little interview with Peter and Carlos. And then it all kind of happened.
LBB> What’s a day to day like as creatives at Cossette? What are your roles and what are the main challenges of your individual roles?
SO: Unpredictable. But for the most part, we brainstorm… stare at each other… stare at the ceiling… and hunt for our creative directors. I’m the art director! The biggest challenge is knowing exactly what you imagine an idea to be in your head but are limited to the help, or lack thereof, of stock photo websites.
LDS: Busy! Brainstorming, meetings, more brainstorming, snacks. I’m the writer. Challenges for writers…probably just the notion that the three or four words that can be a tagline, campaign idea, have to sum up something so much bigger. That that statement has to perfectly wrap up everything you want to say can be tricky.
LBB> How do you work as a team and collaborate on projects?
SO: We just click. When deciding to work with someone, always make sure they get you. L gets me both at work and outside of it. It’s pretty amazing how collaborative we can get. We don’t just stick to our own individual roles. Laura will come up with really cool visual ideas and I’ll spew a couple of nice lines here and there.
LDS: We work really well together. And Google Docs is our lifeline!! I’d say we essentially do everything together, start with the brainstorm, throw everything on the table. And just do that in circles. We’re essentially with each other 24/7 so it helps that we’re completely transparent with one another. We know when we need to take a step back, put an idea aside, and we are really good at knowing when the other is getting hangry.
LBB> What have been your favourite projects to work on so far into your careers?
SO: My favourite project to date would be ‘Where Am I?’ for Ontario Tourism Marketing. I created these posters made up of multiple layers of user-generated Instagram content. Once together, they created this surreal world that no one would ever guess is Ontario.
LDS: I worked on the BMO ‘Celebrating Women’ campaign which was awesome. We gave female leaders a spotlight, and a chance to be seen for their accomplishments. So that felt really relevant to the conversations that have been happening recently. And it was a predominantly female team doing everything so that was nice to see as well.
LBB> What Canadian advertising/brands or ad makers inspire you both to create?
Both: How could we not be excited and inspired to work with the people who were responsible for the SickKids ‘Versus’ campaign.
LBB> What are you into outside of advertising?
SO: Travelling and my French Bulldog, Poe. The travel bug itch is so real but I’m always running back home to my baby boy.
LDS: Bulk barn and checking my step count on my phone. And my iPod shuffle. Seven years strong baby.
LBB> Do you have any advice for younger, budding creatives who want to work professionally in advertising?
SO: Don’t stay comfortable. If you find yourself comfortable with anything - whether it be your workplace or your idea - move on. Find opportunities that intimidate you and ideas that will scare your creative directors. They’re usually the good ones!
LDS: Do it! It’s rewarding to see something start as an idea on paper and see it come to life. But advice, make opportunities for yourself. Don’t wait for things to come to you because they won’t, get them.
LBB> Do you have any soon to be released projects or plans for future that you would like the people out there to know about?
Both: We’ve got a little somethin’ somethin’ for the Royal Canadian Mint which should be cool.