Vida Cornelious, Creative leader, Cultural Miner

Editor’s Note: “The Reel Black List” is our annual spotlight of brothers and sisters in the worlds of advertising, film, TV, music, radio and media who are making a difference through their contributions and creativity. For the next 29 days, you will be able to celebrate these various personalities with us.

She runs the creative team at Fake Love. But there is nothing fake about Vida Cornelious. She is as real as they get. And we are all the luckier for that.

Vida is a passionate, creative storyteller. She mines culture for relevant avenues to connect consumers and brands in an ever-changing, technology-influenced world. Her passion is to create “creative that moves” – igniting consumer engagement, changing opinions, and humanizing brands to make them one consumers willfully, choose to love. 

As a culturally fluent, creative leader, her purpose is to elevate a brand’s IQ. She believes in guiding brands to creative work that changes the consumer conversation, while still serving the brand’s business objectives. 

As Chief Creative Officer, she leads the creative team at FAKE LOVE – the brand experience agency of the NY Times. Fake Love is responsible for delivering immersive, tech-inspired creative ideas to give brands a more purposeful and respectful “IRL” connection to their consumers and the world.

Throughout her career she has serviced blue-chip brands spanning a wide range of consumer categories, such as Disney, McDonalds, Jeep, Chrysler, Verizon, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, Budweiser and State Farm.

Vida has created award-winning work garnering accolades from Cannes Lions, The Effies, Communication Arts, The Art Directors Club, Chicago Creative Club, London International Awards and others. She has contributed to industry publications and provided thought leadership as a featured panelist and speaker at national industry events.

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What Did You Originally Want to be When You Grow Up? When I grew up, I always saw myself as some type of creative person. I never had a specific industry or job in mind, but just that I would be using my mind to solve problems creatively.  I loved to draw and paint and “visualize” ideas. But when I was a child, I didn’t know what to do with those passions – exactly. 25 years later, I figured it out. 

How Did You Get into Advertising? I got into Advertising after a very candid conversation with a college professor, who let me know Advertising Art Directors make more money than Graphic Designers (which I was studying). So he encouraged me to go to Graduate school and supplement my design degree with and Advertising/Marketing Master’s degree. It proved to be a very good decision.

Who Were Your Mentors? Truthfully, my mentors were not related to the Advetising field. I’ve had more individuals in my circle that I would call “life mentors.” But professionally, I have been able to work with and learn from some notable names in the industry on both the agency and client side.  I would definitely tell young people, to learn from their client partners. They can make you a more strategic, business-minded creative, and those are valuable skills to have as a creative. And  especially if you have aspirations to lead a team or own your own business. 

Biggest Achievement? My biggest achievement has been staying in this business! As a person of color, it is not the easiest to stay the course in this industry. You are faced with so many obstacles, moments of doubt, challenges of your intelligence or authority that is is enough to make you want to give up. 

But knowing your worth and knowing your voice has value is what can propel you forward. I have always kept that in my mind. That my unique outlook on the world is what this industry needs. So, that is why I have pushed myself and hopefully every team and agency I have worked for, forward in some way. That is an achievement to me. More so than the awards I’ve won or articles and panels I’ve contributed to.  

Biggest Disappointment? Fortunately, I haven’t had that many disappointments in my career. But I will say that losing new business pitches when you have really given it your all is disappointing. Not being able to promote someone who is deserving, or having to perform layoffs is very disappointing.

Pet Peeves? My biggest pet peeve in this business, is egotism. 

Predictions for Advertising Over the Next Decade More in-house agencies. More creative agencies being purchased by big data companies. I think we will see more consolidation and creativity being redefined for a more experiential marketplace.  

Name a Job You Had that Would Surprise People When I was a in high school, I was a walk-around character called Sally the Seal at an amusement park in my hometown. It was a great summer, but I basically wore a 40lb neoprene suit and fought heatstroke every day for paycheck slightly above minimum wage!

Which Marvel or DC Superhero do You get to Play? If I could play any Marvel or DC Superhero, I think I would go with Harley Quinn – athletic, agile, and dangerously unpredictable in a fight.

What do You Wish You Had More Time For? I wish I had more time to travel, read books and do yoga.

What Drives You to be Extraordinary? What drives me is a desire to learn new things and to master new skills. You are never too old to reinvent yourself and change course. So that is exciting to an extent.

Congratulations! You Built a Time Machine? What do You go Back and Tell Your 15-Year-Old Self? I would tell my 15-year old self… go to Princeton and be a lawyer like your parents want you to. You just might have been Michelle Obama’s mentee. And well, the rest would be history.

Follow Vida:

Instagram: @Vida.C