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Creatives You Should Know: Patty Orlando, Heather Ryder and Darcie Burrell

Wieden & Kennedy Trio Are Often Referred to as 'PHD'

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(From l.) Heather Ryder, Patty Orlando and Darcie Burrell, creatives, Wieden & Kennedy Portland
(From l.) Heather Ryder, Patty Orlando and Darcie Burrell, creatives, Wieden & Kennedy Portland Credit: Kyle Perro/Wieden & Kennedy

At Wieden & Kennedy Portland, Art Director Patty Orlando, and Copywriters Heather Ryder and Darcie Burrell are referred to as "PHD", a nickname that stuck after the trio started working together on Nike in 2014.

While it's just an abbreviation, it's also indicative of the smart and thoughtful ideas they're known for. The three were behind the triumphant "Last" ad from fall of last year, which captures the struggles of a lone, final marathoner panting her way to the finish line as others speed ahead in the distance and the cleaning crew arrives to sweep up the detritus scattered on the race trail. They had first teamed on Nike Women's "Better for It" campaign, from which "Last" was born and which also included the funny, relatable "Inner Thoughts" spot, in which everyday women self-consciously struggle to get fit in the face of gym mirrors and models' tight rear-ends, as well as the brand's first original scripted series, "Margot vs. Lily," about a pair of competitive siblings.

Ms. Orlando is a designer and fine artist by training who has spent nearly 20 years at the agency, while Ms. Ryder and Ms. Burrell got into advertising because they both couldn't hack it as journalists. In college, Ms. Ryder realized, "I don't want to report the facts; I kind of want to make them up." In Ms. Burrell's case, "I kept getting in trouble because I kept embellishing people's quotes, so my professor dropped me off at the advertising department and said, 'If you want to lie, go here.'"

Also on Ms. Ryder's CV, a 2004-2005 "stint" with Stage III Colon Cancer, during which she achieved an "Honorary BS in Morphine, Barfing, Temporary Organ Failure, Tumor Naming ("Gerald") and for some reason, Cross Stitching."

But that one's for real. "I put it on my CV along with my other education because that's exactly what it felt like: a really horrible, terrifying, heavily medicated, but valuable education," she said. "Going through something like that is just about the best reality check you can possibly have when it's 2 a.m. and you're stressed out writing tweets about cheese."

Yet they have a very "real" sensibility when it comes to their work, which has brought a fresh, frank voice to the sports brand, more familiarly known for highlighting the more typical "winners" of the pro sports world. "Nike's voice is usually one of strength and confidence, and we don't relate to that at all," said Ms. Ryder. "We tackle fitness and sports with a very different mindset, which is usually this self-deprecating humor. We're thinking we can't do something, but are always surprised by what we can do."

"We kept joking about how weak and uncoordinated we were, and how we were the last people on Earth who should be writing for Nike, added Ms. Burrell. "We are pretty much just giving ourselves a pep talk with all the work that we've made."

{The three aren't "PHD" all the time -- Ms. Orlando worked on Nike's "Girl Effect" campaign and the push to promote Laika's "Boxtrolls" film. She's also a regular on the agency's pro-bono account for The American Indian College Fund, for which she has even created print designs for Pendleton blankets. Between them, Ms. Ryder and Ms. Burrell have created ads for Old Spice, Target, TurboTax and Coca-Cola.

As for how they come up with the ideas, "We usually go and sit down at a donut shop and talk about fitness," laughed Ms. Burrell.

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