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Susan Hoffman's First Time

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"Nobody starts at the top. Nobody. While some may be born with a silver spoon, no one is born with a Gold Pencil. Or Gold Lion." -- Introduction to "My First Time."

Phil Growick, managing director at recruitment agency The Howard-Sloan-Koller Group, has collaborated with some of adland's most well-known creative leaders on "My First Time," a book that collects the creatives' recollections of making their first ads. In the run up to the book's September 17 launch, we'll be featuring a few of the stories on our site. Here, Wieden + Kennedy, Portland Partner/ECD Susan Hoffman talks about her earliest work for Nike. You can also find out about her partner Mark Fitzloff's first project here.

In the coming weeks, we'll feature Del Campo Nazca/Saatchi & Saatchi's Mariano Serkin and Maxi Itzkoff's initial leaps into creating ads.


My first commercial was for Nike. It was called "The Shooter," for boys' basketball shoes. I was the art director and Jim Riswold was the writer.

I naively remember when we sent the boards out, how excited all the production companies were about the idea. Now [I'm] realizing they just wanted the work, good or bad. We were clueless if it was good or not, but it made us feel great.

So we had an approved concept, hired the director, and headed to L.A. for the shoot. But when we arrived for the pre-pro, we found out the idea had already been done. Our creative directors were Dan [Wieden] and David [Kennedy] and they said we needed to quickly re-concept the spot because the airdates couldn't change and we had to stick with the shoot schedule.

So we walled ourselves up in our depressing hotel room and called Dan/David every hour with new ideas (mind you this was back in 1985 when even fax machines weren't invented!).

And in the early years of WK we didn't stay at nice hotels. We stayed at this dump off of Franklin that was so bad, that on another shoot for Kink Radio, the client called me and said she was too scared to stay in the hotel. So it wasn't like Jim and I were sitting by the pool lapping up the sun as we merrily re-concepted.

I just emailed Jim and asked him the name of the place and I quote [him]: "I remember getting stuck in the same room of that place with Wieden. He can snore with the best of them. In fact, he can suck the paint off the walls with his snoring. I, thankfully, cannot remember the name of the place." Oh well.

Another classic Riswold story from the shoot was that he had barely stepped out of Seattle, Washington. Portland, Oregon was a big move for him; so going to L.A. was like an international city. And he brought traveler's checks!

So here we were walled up in the scary hotel sending ideas to Dan/David. The account person, Kelly Stout, had also flown down with us and later that day, when she saw how desperate we were, she started throwing in her own ideas.

She had one idea that we begrudgingly thought was OK, quickly called Dan/David, they approved it and that was the spot we produced. But you can't appreciate it until you see it. Probably the worst ad done at WK!

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