McCann London Creative My Creative Career

My Creative Career: Regan Warner, executive creative director at McCann London


By Amy Houston, Senior Reporter

January 19, 2024 | 9 min read

From changing institutions like Vogue to making laws with Dove, Regan Warner tells us the fascinating story of her life and career so far.

A black and whire photo of Regan Warner

McCann London's Regan Warner

There are three things you need to know about Regan Warner: one, she’s an identical twin; two, even though she has the same birthday as former US president Ronald Reagan, her name was actually inspired by the lead character in horror film The Exorcist; and three, she knew she wanted to work in advertising since she was 12 years old.

“I’ve always wanted to tell stories,” she says. “In the beginning, I wanted to work for Disney, but then I realized you had to paint cels.” Instead, after watching TV one afternoon when a Top Gun Pepsi ad came on and her stepmother told her, “People make them, you know,” she realized what she would do with her life – even if her blue-collar family, full of electricians and builders, thought she was crazy.

With Warner’s mind made up, she headed to Columbus College of Art and Design in 1994 to study visual communications. “I had a professor there who went, ‘Alright, everyone, who was the best artist in their school? Raise your hand’ and almost everybody did,” she remembers.

“I realized I was surrounded by peers on the same level as me,” she says, adding how she quickly learned she was going to have to up her game in this sea of sameness. Already feeling like an outsider – the “poor kid“ who got into the private college on a scholarship – she says this was when “the hustle really began.”

While admitting to a touch of envy towards the rich kids who could spend their evenings focusing on schoolwork rather than working to pay the rent and worrying about bills, she says her hustler mentality got her through and that the hard work paid off when, at the end of her final year, she went back home with her portfolio and tweaked it to be more advertising-focused. It worked and she landed her first post-university job as an art director at Doner.

“It was super competitive. Advertising in the late 90s was very different from what it is now. I rolled in and it was mansville.”

Having always been ”a bit of a tomboy,” she says she refused to be intimidated. In fact, she says she ”came in with an ego” – something her favorite creative director at the time told her she needed to keep in check. Those small words put her back into that art school mindset again, reminding Warner that everyone around her was just as talented and making her want to work even harder at her craft. “There are enough assholes in the world.”

Her mantra moving forward became ‘Work hard, stay humble, kick ass,’ and it has paid off. She spent six years at Doner, working on brands including Mazda, Blockbuster and Sirius Satellite Radio. A move to McCann Erickson in 2004 then saw Warner promoted to senior art director, which was followed by another six-year stint at Frontroom. “I worked super hard and I didn’t care because it’s a privilege. Advertising is a privileged occupation. I mean, someone is paying you to come up with ideas.”

A return to McCann and move to London in 2016 would see Warner work on one of her favorite campaigns. It was for L’Oréal and she seized the opportunity to try and make the beauty space more inclusive and more purposeful. The executive creative director at the time was Rob Brown and he believed that Warner could take the account somewhere new, while she also credits the client for taking a ”big, big chance” on her.

“I can do more than just sell something,” she laughs. “Obviously, I still like selling but I can solve a problem, or I can bring a problem to light, or we can change laws.”

Here, she is referring to the work she would go on to do for Dove. The brand’s research revealed that 53% of Black mothers say their daughters experienced race-based hair discrimination as early as five years old. A law called The Crown Act, which was co-founded by Dove, made natural hair discrimination illegal in schools and workplaces across the US. Wide-eyed, Warner realized that there were bigger issues that she could be part of and help progress.

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“I don’t work on someone’s business, I work in someone’s business,” she says, a quote she heard a long time ago that stuck. The more you become intertwined with a client, the more the magic can happen, she says, adding that she has clients she has worked with for over 20 years.

Describing herself as “boisterous and passionate,“ she says she is unafraid to ask questions to forge meaningful relationships and that she never wants the work to be formulaic.

Of all the work she has put out into the world, the campaign that stands out most for her is one for Vogue, the ‘Non-Issue,’ which was a response to youth-obsessed media culture alienating women over the age of 50.

Persuading L’Oréal Paris to partner with British Vogue on the May edition of the magazine in 2019, the cover showed a glorious photo of Jane Fonda with the words: “It takes a long time to become young.”

Inside, its 80 pages were dedicated to representing older women and featured Helen Mirren, Christiane Amanpour, and Jennifer Saunders.

“Getting to work with Vogue was such a pleasure and an honor. They were so collaborative from the very beginning.”

The magazine is used to quick deadlines and the team at McCann London and L’Oréal Paris had to work swiftly to get the project over the line, the publication date being something that had to be met.

Since then, there has been a lot more diversity shown on the cover of the Condé Nast publication and Warner feels proud to have had a part in ”changing institutions,” as she puts it.

15 years later, she’s still living in London and describes the creative industry there as “smart.” “I find the US more bombastic and like slapsticky. It’s probably a little funnier, but I just like a pun, whereas it is bigger and bolder. In the UK, it’s whip-smart and weird but in an awesome way.” She feels she has become even more creative since living in the English capital.

To any young creative looking to get into adland her advice is simple: don’t stop hustling and meet as many people as you can. “Keep evolving. Don’t ever stay still.”

Read our profile of Meanwhile’s creative director, Rachel Miles.

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