Carolyn BERGEN

Creative Director | 

Carolyn is a creative director/writer/idea-generator/problem-solver/content-creator/strategic thinker who’s made a career of writing provocative, conceptual ad-stuff for people who are relatively comfortable communicating in exceptionally long sentences. Inspired by early American women’s print for Nike and the show “thirtysomething”, Carolyn has been created emotionally-charged advertising at agencies like DDB, FCB, McGarry Bowen, Leo Burnett and OKRP in Chicago. She’s produced award-winning work for multiple clients, ranging from Gatorade, The American Cancer Society, Kellogg’s and Westin hotels, to Disney Parks, Crystal Light and Ace Hardware. When not writing ad copy, Carolyn can be found writing songs, reading The New Yorker, or unabashedly bribing her two children with home-baked brownies and the illusory promise of a later bedtime.


What was your very first job? 
My first job was selling hot chocolate and pickles on a stick at Bears games at soldier field in Chicago. My first ad job was selling Kraft mac and cheese at FCB.

What does it feel like to look back at it now?
Selling food and hot beverages to drunk old men sets you up to always have a challenging client who isn’t always open to reason.  It also was the first time I saw grown-ups act like they weren’t actually adults, which was really startling at the age of 15. Being a jr. copywriter was nearly as enlightening, as again men and women who were old enough to be my parents were acting in a wacky, unconventional, drunken-crazy kind of way, that pretty much foreshadowed the nature of the ad business I would soon experience.

Please describe, in your own words, what your current job is and what work it entails.
I am currently the creative director/writer on Ace Hardware. My job entails creating traditional, experiential, contextual and digital advertising for Ace retail and brand advertising. I also work on all new business pitches and new business opportunities.

How did you discover that the creative world is right for you? Was there a time in your life that you credit to this discovery? Which train of events did bring you to where you are today?
I always loved commercials. When I was a kid, I memorized all the jingles and acted them out in my basement.  My 4th grade teacher told my mother I have a God-given talent for writing so my mom though I should go into journalism, which sounded misderable to me.  I wanted to make commercials.  So started out as an intern in the On-Air promotion department of WLS-TV in Chicago making on-air promo spots for Oprah, the news and Wheel of Fortune before I realized there were ad agencies where I could write actual commercials for actual products that ran nationally. A friend of mine’s mother knew someone at FCB who recommended me for the creative training program they were starting, which is the way I got a job at a big agency right out of college with no practical experience at all.  They only did the training program that one year! From there I jumped to DDB, back to FCB, helped start Element 79 and McGarry Bowen, then freelanced for a while in order to keep my kids out of juvvy, then accepted the position At OKRP.

In your constantly growing and expanding industry, how and where do you usually find inspiration to keep your work fresh, innovative and relevant?  
Movies, TV (which is currently more innovative and fresh in its thinking and execution than movies) travel, nature, music. There’s a lot of really creative thinking and executing online too, and a handful of inluencers that I actively stalk…including game grumps!

If you had to pick one piece of work or project that you are most proud of, more for the creative work and innovation it required, rather than its recognition or industry “success,” what would it be?
It would have to be the “Who’s He Sleeping With?” campaign I did for Westin Hotels. Starwood Capital was planning to sell Westin and held a pitch asking agencies to create a campaign that would make Wall Street investors interested in purchasing it. Because they were planning to sell, they were open to anything that might garner attention and interest. We were able to produce the exact script I wrote, innuendo and all, and film it exactly how we imagined because the client wasn’t worried about the brand- they were getting rid of it! We actually made the content all about the people who stayed at a Westin, not Westin itself. We included the viewer, assumed he was “one of us” and made him privy to this private conversation. Bookings were up 35% within months of its airing. People I barely knew hugged me for “understanding them” (Software salesperson) and “Not talking down to me” (A cinematographer.) It became so profitable Starwood actually decided to keep Westin. When people say advertising  doesn’t make a difference, that story is my best quick response.

Which creative disciplines do you commission most, and are most interested in seeing more of and why? (ie photo, film, social, experiential, vr, etc) Film, social, experiential. 
Photo is coming back!  I also think sonic branding is more important than ever.


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