Thursday, July 19, 2018
  • Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017
W+K's Susan Hoffman Reflects On Induction Into One Club's Hall of Fame
Susan Hoffman
Discusses her mentors, changes in the business, challenges facing the agency community
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Last month, Susan Hoffman, co-chief creative officer at Wieden+Kennedy, was inducted into the One Club for Creativity’s Creative Hall of Fame. Her fellow inductees were Rebeca Mendez, an artist designer and professor at UCLA, Design Media Arts, where she is director of the Counterforce Lab; David Lubars, CCO of BBDO Worldwide and chairman of BBDO North America; and Tom Burrell, founder and chairman emeritus of what is now Burrell Communications. Additionally, Diane Cook-Tench--founding director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s grad school, the BrandCenter--was named to the One Club’s Educators Hall of Fame.

Hoffman has created some of Wieden+Kennedy’s most memorable work in more than three decades at the agency, including one Nike spot that pretty much ruined the Beatles for everybody. She famously opened W+K London and W+K Amsterdam, and has intermittently served as executive creative director for W+K’s Portland, Ore., New York and Delhi offices. As co-chief creative officer (with Colleen DeCourcy), Hoffman currently oversees the entire global network.

SHOOT connected with Hoffman who provided context for her Hall of Fame induction and discussed varied other aspects of the business.

SHOOT: Reflect on what the Hall of Fame induction means to you personally and professionally.

Hoffman: To be honest it’s still a bit of a dream/whirlwind. 

I’m not one for the personal spotlight.

My Wieden upbringing was always based on the work and we were only as good as our last ad. 

So that’s where I have always put my focus. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m super grateful but it’s a new experience. 

As far as what it means professionally, if my induction can help other woman see that anything is possible, that’s what is important to me.  

SHOOT: Looking back on your career thus far, what are the most compelling changes, themes, trends you’ve witnessed and why?

Hoffman: Oh shit, the last few years have definitely been the most changes I’ve EVER witnessed. 

I can’t keep hearing “advertising is dead”.

It’s not. 

It’s just changing! 

And with all these changes from content to technology to new platforms etc, it’s a roller coaster. But I like roller coasters:)

SHOOT: Who were your mentors and what are your feelings about your responsibilities to mentor others?

Hoffman: My two mentors are David Kennedy and Dan Wieden. 

I worked with them at William Cain before W+K and when they left William Cain they couldn’t afford to take me so I worked at Chiat\Day\Livingston until they could hire me. 

I  waited and waited to work with them again because they were the most normal ad guys you could meet. 

They weren’t those “I’m the boss” bosses. They allowed us our own voice and frankly gave us all a long leash and if we failed, we learned.  

The lesson here is trust in your people, give them authority, allow fail harder, allow them their own voice and the work will end up magical.

SHOOT: What influence, if any, have your fellow inductees had on you?

Hoffman: Nothing directly but what I loved about all of them was the variety of talent, the power of their voices, and that the women out numbered the men.

SHOOT: What are the biggest challenges facing the agency community, including W+K, today and in the years ahead?

Hoffman: The biggest challenge is how communication will be consumed in the future and at W+K our job is to break the mold again and do work that challenges and provokes people in this new world--we like to say it’s lightning in a bottle!

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Erik Anderson