Each year, the D&AD president chooses one of his or her choose creative heroes for the President’s Award. This year, D&AD president, Steve Vranakis, chose two heroes, Colleen DeCourcy and Susan Hoffman from Wieden + Kennedy.
Hoffman had come to London for the D&AD Festival (and her award). She took me to Wieden + Kennedy London for our interview (a treat on a treat). Here is a glimpse of the ad legend, Susan Hoffman.
by Candide McDonald
The Stable: What does it mean to you to be given the D&AD President’s Award?
Susan Hoffman: It’s a hard question for me because I’ve made sure that I don’t make awards the centre of my universe. The centre of my universe is always the work. It’s not that I ignore it. I try not to think about it. But it’s amazing. I appreciate it.
Years ago, I got this little award and all these other people around me were getting bigger awards. I started bragging about my award and I got home that night and I said, “That’s it. I did not like seeing that new Susan. Stop being like that.” I’m pretty quiet about that kind of stuff.
TS: What does D&AD mean to you?
SH: There are probably three great award shows and it’s certainly one of them. I’ve always liked it because creativity is front and centre. And we need to keep that. It’s so important. And obviously at Wieden + Kennedy creativity is our middle name and when it’s not, we’re not Wieden + Kennedy. I love that about the show, and I love that it supports craftsmanship. I haven’t been able to listen to a lot of the talks but you can see that there are a lot of kids here, that are coming to learn about how they can be better and the few talks I’ve listened to are fantastic that way.
TS: When you started, gender equality wasn’t on the agenda. Did you feel pressure because you were a woman in advertising?
SH: No, but I’d had a strange situation. Maybe I can even say now that it was a bubble. I worked with Dan and David (Wieden and Kennedy) before Wieden and Kennedy. I’d worked in some other agencies before and the heads of those agencies were pretty egocentric and when I worked with Dan and David, they were so normal. They were so inspiring, and they were interested in me. It didn’t matter if we were men or women. So then, about fifteen years ago when I was interviewed about that specifically – asked what it was like to be one of the few women in the industry, I said I don’t feel the difference. But you know it’s interesting, today I do feel the difference. Not just for me personally. I think the imbalance is so obvious now. I don’t want to work in an agency that’s all men. And I don’t want to work in an agency that’s all women. “Balance” is probably going to become a cliché, but when there is a balance it just ends up better for everybody. I think there’s more clarity.
TS: What else does advertising need to fix?
SH: I don’t think that advertising is dead because you always have to advertise. I’m actually very excited about the future. About what advertising means now. It’s not like in the olden days – and I mean two years ago – when it was three things, out of home, television and print. I love that you can affect so many different areas for brands. I find that way more creative. I think that if agencies and clients can understand the importance of that. It is a redefinition of what advertising is, but it’s a much more robust way to build a brand and I think that agencies and clients both have to recognise that they can’t have everything siloed within their businesses because you get a siloed approach. Communication is now much more one big thing.
For example, if you have a brand and you have a big front door. Part of your presentation is that big front door. You need to do something with it because people will walk right in there and that’s the first thing they’ll see. I’d love to do something with somebody’s front door.
There also needs to be a lot more people responsible for helping a brand out, whether they be planning, whether they be PR, whether they be creative or design. All of those are important parts of communication.