Creativity 50 2015

Creativity 50 2015: Douwe Bergsma

Chief Marketing Officer, Georgia-Pacific

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Douwe Bergsma
Douwe Bergsma Credit: Courtesy Geogia Pacific
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Toilet paper doesn't usually inspire edgy creative. But Koch Industries' Georgia-Pacific has been on a creative roll the past year. Take the drily hilarious "Designed to Be Forgotten" ads from Droga5 for Quilted Northern that focused on the tortured imaginary lives of bathroom figurines, or Angel Soft and Deutsch's campaign wishing single moms "Happy Father's Day." For paper towels, there was Brawny's lumberjack from Cutwater urging people to "Stay Giant" through life's small annoyances, or Sparkle's fairy princess, via the Martin Agency.

It's the fruition of G-P Chief Marketing Officer Douwe Bergsma's efforts. He came aboard more than four years ago from Procter & Gamble bent on raising the creative bar, which meant adding those four agencies, new teams at Edelman and ZenithOptimedia and new analytic approaches.

Behind the campaigns are storytelling approaches developed with consulting firm Character based on brands' fundamental truths and conflicts. Good stories require conflict, Mr. Bergsma said. "But it's very unnatural for brands to think that they need to embrace conflict rather than solving it right away."

Ad Age: What's the best advice you've received about nurturing creativity?

Douwe Bergsma: Encourage your people to act like entrepreneurs, to embrace experimentation. Some of the work you've seen; there's way more stuff you haven't seen before we arrived here. That means rewarding people even if they fail.

On Quilted Northern, we probably did 20 ads before we landed on "Designed to Be Forgotten." That was all pre-Droga. We had a lot of trial and error. We tried a different agency. We tried crowdsourcing. We tried starting with shoppers, starting with PR, until we found something that was really differentiated, really enduring and really engaging.