Creative Insights: POLY’s Ella Trengove on a seemingly serendipitous crossroad into media

POLY, oOh!media’s creative and innovation hub, art director Ella Trengove:

How did you fall into the industry? Was it deliberate or a misstep?
I had a plan that involved graduating from uni and then relocating from Newcastle to Melbourne. But then I took a misstep. Just before finalising my move, I thought I would try my luck and apply for jobs in Sydney. It was during this time I received an unexpected call-back for an interview at oOh!media. The role was for a junior graphic designer, predominantly working on regional billboard campaigns.

Despite my initial hesitations about moving to Sydney, I decided to seize the opportunity and attend the interview with an open mind. Little did I anticipate that this seemingly serendipitous crossroad would mark the start of a 12-year journey within the media industry. While my initial aspirations leaned towards brand design, my tenure at oOh! has proven to be a rewarding and transformative experience, shaping my professional trajectory in ways I could never have imagined. As a bonus I’ve met some great friends along the way!

What’s your secret sauce for commercial creativity?
As a creative leader at POLY, I try to provide guidance while still giving my team the freedom to explore their creativity. We have a diverse and talented bunch of designers that share work and ideas with each other. This not only helps to maintain creative momentum but also serves as a source of inspiration for others. Allowing experimentation with different tools and approaches is also a great way to grow and develop talent in an ever-changing industry landscape. I love to try a new app or tool to see what it can do for improved creativity and efficiency.

What’s the biggest hurdle now for creatives?
The emergence of technologies like AI initially felt like a threat for creatives. However, I’ve come to realise that these innovations are not here to take our jobs. Rather, they offer potential for enhancement and workflow efficiencies. From an operations perspective, I’ve gained enough exposure to AI to understand its significance as a key tool in supporting my team.

For instance, introducing AI for image generation has helped streamline our workflow. It’s facilitated prompt refinement, learning and development. Traditionally, as designers, we dedicated extensive hours to tasks like scouring through images or fine-tuning them in Photoshop to align with our layout and brief. AI, however, holds the promise of precisely producing the image we envision – or conjuring something purely as team amusement. Although it’s not always perfect, it occasionally spares us the arduous task of sifting through stock libraries searching for a “close enough” fit.

These tools liberate valuable time for human creativity and brainstorming, empowering us to delve deeper into the conceptual parts of our work. Part of my role is to empower the team to grow their skill sets not just from a human creativity or design perspective, but also to foster the development of future design leaders.

Do you wear the black t-shirt uniform or are you a nonconformist?
I have my black tee days when I’m struggling with the decision of what to wear, but I definitely spice it up more than some of our die hard black tee wearers, in the hope that someday they might be inspired and decide to come on board – on Wednesdays we wear pink!

Can commercial creativity only take place in a room full of people in black T-shirts?
Absolutely not. I’m a small town girl and challenging the notion that design and creativity are exclusive spaces is something we do extremely well at POLY. Creativity, at its core, is meant to be inclusive and a fun space to play in. We have a fantastic group of people who join our brainstorms, including our producers and sometimes our solutions and sales reps.

Although they may not consider themselves ‘creative’, their ideas can spark further development or steer the conversation in a new direction. In addition to this, diverse perspectives allow new conversations to emerge. It’s as much about exposing the team to valuable insights outside of their bubbles as it is about creating a space where other specialists within POLY feel safe to lean in.

What was the latest campaign that you worked on that you really enjoyed?
I thoroughly enjoyed being part of the Dove #detoxyourfeed campaign. For this project, our team transformed the TVC for dynamic display on oOh!’s iconic Bourke Street site with an interactive counter. Every time the national body image inquiry received a new signature, the “toxic” social content on the screen would be reduced, showcasing a real-time impact. Working alongside Dove on this significant issue was incredibly rewarding. I loved contributing to a campaign that I could connect with personally, and that has the potential to profoundly change how young girls perceive themselves.