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Unexpected Intros: Jo Cresswell and Sian Coole

Advertising Agency
San Francisco, USA
DDB chats to San Francisco's Jo Cresswell and Sian Coole to launch its new 'Unexpected Intros' series

At DDB, they have a simple belief. That Unexpected Works. It means that the best idea is the one you never saw coming. The thing that catches you so off guard that you can‘t look away. And the only path to genuinely unexpected works is through creativity.

And in order to create awesome works, you need awesome people. Because you can’t make the unexpected if you only work with the usual suspects. In this Unexpected Intros series, DDB takes a peek behind the curtain at some of the diverse thinkers that make up its network, and validate Bill Bernbach’s notion that an idea can turn to dust or magic, depending on the talent that rubs against it.

Q> Name, Title, Office

Jo Cresswell, associate creative director, DDB San Francisco

Sian Coole, associate creative director, DDB San Francisco

Q> Introduce yourself in three emojis.

Jo>  🥳🍻⚰️ 

Sian>  🌊🔋🚑

Q> What was your very first job?

Jo> My first paid job was working in, what we call in the UK, an ‘old man’s pub’. Basically, a village pub where all the local blokes came for a beer. I’d pour their pints and keep them in line. I remember being really pleased when the smoking ban came in, so I didn’t have to clean ashtrays anymore. But I soon realized that cigarettes actually masked the smell of… more offensive ‘bodily scents.’ Then I prayed for the smoking ban to be lifted. 

My first ‘proper’ job after uni was at an engineering company in the finance department. Because I did an accountancy degree. Yep. And part of my job was to chase timesheets. What’s terrible is that nowadays I am always one of the culprits being chased for a month’s worth of timesheets… I’m a bad person.

Sian> My first job was as a cleaner in a hospice. It wasn’t the easiest role for a teenager, but I stuck at it for seven years because despite the sadness that often clouded a shift, I appreciated how much life there actually was there. The hospice was run by a group of extremely strict Catholic nuns who scared the living daylights out of me; I have them to thank for my phenomenal cleaning skills. 

Q> How did you wind up in advertising?

Jo> Well, after about 18 months of learning about P&L sheets and business plans and taxes (I still have to pay someone to do my taxes) I realized, surprise surprise, that maybe the world of accountancy wasn’t the road for me. One day I was watching morning TV (probably when I should have been in a Financial Accounting lecture. Gross.) and I saw this random show where Rosie Arnold from BBH London was talking about her career in advertising. I thought it looked way more fun than balancing books for a living. It never really left me, particularly when I was working in a finance dungeon for a year following uni. I knew I had to get out, so in just two days I’d found an Advertising degree, signed up, resigned from my job, and started on a new path. One that led me to my partner Sian, for my sins.

Sian> Advertising was the only course at uni that was creative enough for me to want to do, but sensible enough for my Dad to give me his blessing to study. 

Q> Piece of creative that inspires you?

Jo> Whenever I’m clutching at straws for an idea, I always end up watching my favourite ad, ‘The Bear’ by Canal+. It’s so funny and smart and somehow always helps me see more clearly. Plus, one of the lines is really inspirational. Sometimes just shouting ‘I don’t give a shiiiiiiit!’ really helps, y’know?

Sian> I’m terribly jealous of pretty much all the work that exists in the world for Marmite, the polarizing British condiment. They’ve been touting the same ‘Love it/ Hate it’ thought for donkey’s years but somehow every campaign manages to re-invent it. Clearly, I’m a lover. 

Q> What are you currently reading, watching, and listening to?

Jo> I love historical fiction and just finished a book based on the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage scandal, ‘Before We Were Yours’. I’d never heard about it before, but that’s what’s so great about historical fiction - you learn stuff! I read lots of fiction set in Nazi Germany too because I was terrible at history in school, so I’m doing my learning now instead.

I just binge watched the latest season of Curb at 4am because I was up sick with a virus (but not Covid, unbelievably). I feel like Larry David is my male alter ego.

And as we are just coming out of the festive season [at the time of this interview], I’ve been playing classic UK Christmas tunes on a loop of late. I find it weird that the US doesn't have novelty Christmas songs. You’re seriously missing out. Put down Mariah and give Slade a spin next time.

Sian> Panic set in at the airport this Christmas when I realised I’d left my kindle at home. It was serendipitous because rummaging around the small offerings of books at the airport led me to an author I hadn’t read before, Vendela Vida. The main protagonist in ‘We Run the Tides’ had such a peculiar sense of humour, she really cracked me up. I’m working my way through her other novels now, but so far I’m really missing the humour I saw in that first one. 

My TV watching habits are less than inspiring - Jane Austen adaptations and the free Baywatch channel. 

Luckily, I have a few mates with good music taste because I’m incredibly lazy when it comes to music. I just plug into whatever playlists they put together and pretend I have a personal DJ. 

Q> What’s a goal/hope/dream of yours?

Jo> To win the lottery, move to the Italian countryside and eat pasta for eternity. I guess I should start playing the lottery.

Sian> I want to re-open The Sutro Baths in San Francisco. The baths were built in the Victorian era and are situated on the edge of a pretty dramatic piece of coast. They’re just ruins right now… but anybody want to invest?