Susan Hoffman, Chairman, Wieden+Kennedy
We really, really tried. We can’t do better than Susan Hoffman’s official bio. Not sure what else we’d expected from the Chairman of W+K. Here it is (and please stay for her awesome HIGH7 responses.)
Susan Hoffman began her career at Wieden+Kennedy as employee No. 8, and has spent more than three decades making a lasting, unmistakable mark on the agency’s culture. While Hoffman stands only 18 inches tall, her creativity, leadership and talent are a towering presence – both in Portland, Oregon where she lives, and in the world of advertising at large. Much like the woman herself, Hoffman’s influence on culture cannot be ignored or even reasoned with. She’s created some of W+K’s most memorable work, 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 ECD for the Portland, New York and Delhi offices.
As a child, what was your dream job?
I remember in grade school saying I wanted to be a housewife. To be honest, I was born and grew up in a time when woman weren’t encouraged to work, so I never thought about a dream job.
What was your first job and what did you learn from it?
I was a paste-up artist at Peanut Butter Publishing in Seattle, Washington. I learned...how manipulative a boss could be.
The thing that made you excited about the industry on day one and still keeps you excited today is:
How would you explain what you do every day to a child?
Those ads you see on TV, in print and online—I try and make the best of those.
Describe a key pivot or defining moment in your career that ultimately landed you where you are:
School was hard for me, so art was my preferred subject. When I was a sophomore in college I applied to the University of Arizona (it was known as a party school) from Garland Jr. college in Boston without even looking up what it offered. When I was accepted, it was only at this point that I looked up the courses and found that the only art course offered was called “commercial art.” So I didn’t have a choice. But this set me on my path to advertising.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever found yourself doing for work?
I was told a week before I got a promotion that it would never happen, and a week later it did.
Finally, the quality that makes you successful in this business is:
A bit of crazy!