Originally featured on Tracy Wong's blog, Creative Democracy, we thought we'd re-post Tracy's story of how WONGDOODY created a completely democratic creative process in light of his upcoming workshop, A Creative Democracy: How to Manage Creative People (and Get Their Best Work), happening June 11th.
THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE DEMOCRACY. WONGDOODY'S FIRST CREATIVE INTERNAL.
December 12, 1993. Open on a dingy, windowless 9- by 12-foot conference room belonging to a commercial real estate agent in a bland high rise in the heart of downtown Seattle. Remnant 1980s office furniture, beige walls and matching carpet, and a small, unframed photo of the Seattle skyline to remind us of what the outside world looked like.
Welcome to WONGDOODY’s first office space.
And to the glamorous world of entrepreneurship.
At that time, WONGDOODY was just over a month old. The entire staff was comprised of Pat Doody (president – the “Doody” of WONGDOODY), our first and only employee Rene Huey (AE/planner), Gwenne Wilcox (graphic designer), a part-time freelance copywriter named Craig Hoit, and myself.
A print campaign for our first client, K2 Skis, was due in three days. A traditional buy of spreads and single pages in SKI Magazine. The strategy was simple. Reconnect K2 with the true passion of skiing. This was their heritage, but in recent years, their brand had wandered alienating their key audience, the hardcore skier. In truth, we were trying to reach the shop kids at the ski stores who would evangelize the brand and push consumers to choose K2.
Time was short and I desperately needed ideas. Craig and I were the only two creative people available to work on the assignment and we were already working on multiple projects for other clients. Time was short and I really needed ideas.
So I asked Pat and Rene to contribute. Why the hell not? They understood the business, wrote the strategy and were avid skiers.
My old creative bosses would have thought this was complete lunacy. “You’re asking account people to come up with creative ideas? You’re completely nuts!”
Desperate times. Desperate measures.
On Monday, I gave the order: ideas, ideas, ideas! However and whatever came to mind. Forty-eight hours later, we sat on the floor and begin to toss scraps of paper onto the middle. (No room for a conference table.)
On those scraps of paper were scrawled headlines; garbled unformed thought; chicken scratchings of layouts; ripped out photos from ski magazines. I asked everyone to comment on the scraps and discuss what was working and what wasn’t.
We formed two piles. One: “Yes, this has merit.” Two: “Nope, not working.” It was my job as “creative director” to facilitate the discussion, keep us focused on strategy and to push ideas into the “yes” pile that weren’t quite there yet
From that internal came a pretty terrific campaign where each of us contributed concepts, visuals and/or actual copy and headlines.
Throughout my entire career to that point, I had never seen a creative internal where everyone was asked to contribute ideas and then comment on them collectively.
A “democracy,” however small, was birthed.
The thought of my past creative directors allowing this to occur was completely absurd. No fucking way.
It was not a conscious decision on my part to revolutionize the creative process, to create this so-called “Democracy.” Hey, I needed ideas and I was starting to panic.
It was about utilizing and harnessing the creative energy of the entire agency, even if it was only four of us.
So there it was, WONGDOODY’s first official creative internal. The birthplace of Creative Democracy™.
Tracy Wong is the Chairman/Executive Creative Director of WONGDOODY and an occasional instructor at SVC. You can sign up for his workshop A Creative Democracy: How to Manage Creative People (and Get Their Best Work) coming up on June 11th.