sam dolin ogilvy

Sam Dolin is the chief creative officer of Ogilvy Health. With more than 20 years of experience in creating marketing programs for health brands at shops such as Evoke and Digitas, the New Jersey native has been back on her home turf at Ogilvy’s Morris County office for a year. Chops caught up with her for a digital download.

So, what do you do all day? 

Try to make as much magic happen as possible.

How would you describe life as a creative to someone who’s not familiar with your job?

It’s actually far more business-oriented at this level than most folks probably think. While I am still close to the work and throw ideas into the ring any chance I get, the role of a creative lead running a department requires just as much strategic, business, communication and inter-personal skills as it requires creativity. I don’t think many people realize that.

Did you ever think you’d be doing this? If not, what did you think you’d do? 

Ha! Funny thing is, I recently found an old school assignment I had to turn in for a grammar school project. We had to talk about what we thought we’d do when we grew up. I ended up telling a whole story about how I wanted to design signs. It’s crazy because it was really an early expression of the career I pursued in graphic design. I didn’t recollect running around telling people this as a kid, but there it was, clear as day. Blew me away when I found that. I still have it, by the way.

What can you point to in your past and your education that prepared you for this career?

So much. I always loved art. My grandmother watched my cousin and me every day after school. She was an art education professor and had a ton of art supplies at the house, so each day after school was a new, incredible art adventure. I continued throwing myself into art and design through high school and college.

But this job is also equal parts business acumen and people management. My folks were small business owners and I used to work for them in the summer to earn money. I learned so much about the operations of a business, and perhaps even more importantly, the responsibility that leaders have to their staff.

What’s the ideal office set up for you to do your best work? Quiet? Music, and if so, what? Open work space or closed door? Home or office? 

It really depends on what I’m doing. If it’s strategy, writing or prepping for a presentation, I prefer quiet with a closed door. If it’s a more creative exercise, I like having music. And if I really have a big undertaking, I will try to find time at home to do the work so I can have uninterrupted focus. We are a really busy shop, so there’s usually a steady stream of conversations happening at the office.

Name five things that help you do your job better.

  • Karen Kinnealy, who helps manage Ogilvy Health’s creative resources.
  • A great creative team.
  • Hot coffee. Never iced. Straight-up and un-accessorized — no flavors, no sugar, no milk-like products. Just plain coffee.
  • visible to-do list.
  • My calendar.

Signature look? 

Black, grey or navy with a piece of statement jewelry like a chunky ring or bangle, and one of the dozen of pairs of eyeglasses I’ve collected.

Which individual has had the most influence on you as a creative? 

Woah — that’s a tough one. It’s like asking to choose the greatest band of all time, or my favorite artist. I’ve had so many influences — too many to count. And honestly, both the good and the bad shape you. A creative should always be learning, growing and responding to culture, surroundings and interactions. I can’t point to just one thing — it’s truly about the culmination of life experiences and the constant and steady stream of influences that I keep myself open to. 

Do you create on your own time? If so, what do you do and why? 

Yes, but not nearly as much as I’d like, due to a lack of time. When I can, I like to paint — watercolors and mixed media. It’s a different way of looking at the world. I also like it because it allows me to get away from the computer and do something more tactile and hands on. It becomes a visceral experience that provides a very different kind of creative fulfillment.

Name a single piece of work, in any medium, that gives you the greatest pleasure. 

Found street art. I love the element of surprise that comes when you stumble across a visually stimulating piece of art on the side of a building, on the sidewalk or any other unexpected place. I’ve always had a love for great typography and strong bold visuals — both tend to be elements commonly found in these pieces. Because they’re meant for the broad public, there’s usually a social or cultural commentary that goes along with these expressions that I find fascinating.

Name a single piece of work, in any medium, that leaves you thinking, I wish I had done that. 

Anything by the artist David Salle.

Name a single work, in any medium, that leaves you wondering, How the hell did they do that?

The perceptual work of artist Michael Murphy. It’s stunning, mesmerizing and bends your brain. You truly wonder how he’s able to come up with these gorgeous sculptures that change image based on your viewing angle. Absolutely captivating and awe-inducing.

If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing? 

Great question. I’d probably be painting and creating and also doing something to rehabilitate or rescue animals.

How do you recharge? 

Yoga, visits to the dog park with my two pups, a nice dinner and great conversation with my hubby and friends.

What’s your happy place? 

My home. The beach. Paris.

What’s your favorite color right now? 

Something in the range of Pantone 318c. That light blue/green color has always been a favorite. For whatever reason, it makes me feel happy, grounded and calm. I’m always drawn to objects in that color range.

Pantone 318c

Speed round:

Pastel or oil? Watercolor.

Sound or vision? Depends on the day.

Strings or horns? Hmmm…I’m going strings on this one. I like a good deep bass line in any jam.

Clear or cluttered? CLEAR CLEAR CLEAR.

Morning or night? Both.