“Buck-toothed, ‘90s pop, loud and nerdy” is how Sarah Mould, copywriter at The Core Agency describes her childhood self. “I had absolutely zero chill and was always curious about everything.” Her never-ending ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions were the first spark that would turn her incessant curiosity into a creative career. “I had imaginary friends full of character arcs that my family could absolutely never keep track of, I scribbled short stories, I made up plays.”
“Funnily enough, not long ago Mum found some homework I’d done in primary school,” says Sarah. The question she had to answer was ‘What do you want to do in the future?’ and her three answers at ten years of age were: go to university, travel and be a writer. “I must have had a little crystal ball to look into back then because that’s exactly what I’ve done.”
Besides her curiosity about anything and everything, Sarah was also quite the artsy kid – she grew up in a very musical household where she played piano and cello, and everybody ‘sang and danced a lot.’ A self-proclaimed bookworm and art enthusiast, the copywriter also fondly remembers her deep-seethed obsession with the Spice Girls. “I was so obsessed to the point that every family member had a copy of Spice Girls: Spice World on VHS in case I came over.”
Later on, Sarah went to the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) where she did a BA in Communication (Writing and Cultural Studies) and graduated with a First Class Honours. To her, university was “a crash course in creativity,” where she got to do screenplays, experiment with feminist poetry, short fiction, creative non-fiction and that many more genres.
The exploration of the creative field, as well as the physical exploration she did through studying abroad both expanded her creative horizons and she still looks fondly back on the memories. This, and preparing her for real-life criticism are the things she’s most thankful for from her university years. There, she also wrote her Honours thesis, which consisted of five feminist science fiction short films, giving her the opportunity “to represent women in ways you don’t normally see on screen.”
After university, Sarah’s first major job was managing social media for brands. “I worked with a PR agency to write, create and post content for a variety of clients. My most memorable client was probably Cartoon Network ANZ. I was a uni student who made memes for a living, and wow my friends made fun of me for that,” she says. “Particularly when they were mercilessly mocked and shared by 10-year-olds on Facebook.” Despite the light bullying from her friends, Sarah explains that she still feels grateful for that job, as it was formative for her in terms of helping her to understand digital channels, working fast, receiving instant feedback and having fun with writing. After all, as she herself admits, “Adventure Time memes are the height of comedy.”
When it comes to her first actual steps in the industry, Sarah admits them to be a happy accident: “I had a bunch of social media experience and was approached to interview at what was called a ‘creative agency.’ It wasn’t until halfway through it that I realised, OH! This is advertising!”
Starting off as a planner, she got into the flow of the work step by step. Eventually, because of her never-ending love for writing and creativity, she was encouraged to do AWARD School and moved on to being a copywriter, where she has been happy with her job ever since.
From those early days of jumping departments and soaking up new information from all ends of the industry, Sarah remembers one important lesson that her first boss ever told her: “It’s just advertising.” That, of course, is not to say that the work isn’t important, but more to remind creatives to have fun with it. “Work is meant to be part of your life, not your entire life. I always wanted to have a laugh and let the small things go, so I can focus on the bigger picture.”
That lightness is what carried her through her hardest projects and still carries her through thick and thin in adworld. With her first ever job as a copywriter, for instance, Sarah was thrown into the deep end by having to work on an advocacy campaign focusing on reforming drug policy on Australia, to treat drug dependency as a health issue rather than a criminal one.
“Not only did we have to create the entire brand, but we had to roll it out across film, radio, digital, collateral, activations and eventually a huge event at Town Hall with Sir Richard Branson and representatives from the UN. I certainly jumped headfirst into that one!” That project is what truly showed her how lucky she is to be in the industry and connect with the incredible stories it has to offer, as well as the ability to make a real difference or contribute good to the world.
And when it comes to the project that changed her career the most, she looks back on her work for Doctors on Demand, where she got to position them as the go-to, “instant online medical service for hypochondriacs.” The awards this project won were just half of the success, because what Sarah truly loved about it is how silly she could get with the story and really make people have fun with it.
Although much has happened since Sarah was the nerdy and curious kid she talks about, things haven’t changed that much for her. “I still aspire to learn, explore and write,” she says, going back to that crystal ball. “I try to laugh and ask questions. And if I can do all that and create work that represents people in new and interesting ways, connects with them or simply puts a tiny bit of good into the world, that’s an achievement to me.”
This is also why she loves advertising, as a field that allows her to let her creativity and curiosity expand and grow out of proportion – being surprised all the time and being surrounded by people that love what they do both have a huge impact on her. “I mean, what other job do you get to learn about something completely different every day,” Sarah rightfully remarks. “One day I’m interviewing people about saving penguins, the next I’m googling ‘rare cases of elephantiasis.’”
With all the good things, of course, come some downsides – like with any other field, Sarah has some expectations for the future of advertising. She says she is extremely excited for the conversation around diversity to expand and for it to go that ‘long way’ that we hear so often that it needs to. “Our work should reflect the world around us and it should be created by people who truly understand the experience,” she says. That, and being quick to critique each other’s work is something that she thinks the industry can improve. “It’s such a strange negative headspace to work in. We all know the pressure, so let’s celebrate the good stuff and try to support each other.”
But at the end of the day, Sarah is still motivated by the huge plethora of stories she encounters on the daily. “I want to create work that I’m proud to show my family and friends. I want to be able to spend time with them and have unexpected adventures. I want to work with people where you can genuinely have a laugh every day and actually make a difference.”
At the end of the day, all of those ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions from Sarah’s childhood added up to her now as a fully rounded writer, filled with curiosity and hunger for the surprising twists and turns adworld throws her way.