“Stop squeezing the hamster to death!”


When Tracy Wong, chairman and Creative director of Wong, Doody, Crandall, Wiener, nonchalantly meandered into my Creative Strategist class Thursday afternoon, I wasn’t quite sure what was in store. From what Deb had said, I knew my fellow classmates and I would need to hold on to our hats! Dressed in sneakers, skinny jeans, a black zipped-up hoodie and thick, black-framed glasses, Wong was the spitting image of my vision of a stereotypical ad-geek/hipster (which is a compliment).

Like with every guest lecturer, Deb gives us a short introduction on the person: Where they work, work they’ve done, how amazing they are, etc. Tracy, most likely feeling like he wasn’t worthy of such praise (he’s mistaken), interrupted to say that it’s best to “under-promise and over-deliver.” His actual presentation hadn’t even started yet, but I and classmates around me grabbed our pens and scribbled down his words.

Once introductions were done, we got down to it. The hour and a half flew by! His lecture covered 6 points about creativity.


  1. Biggest Creative Barrier? Your big, fat fucking EGO.


Your ego can highjack your career and block ideas. Creatives (and anyone in the advertising business) with big egos may hold tight to their first idea, destroying the opportunity to dig deeper and possibly find something greater. Creativity is a muscle that needs to be exercised! If you stop after one repetition, you won’t get far. It’s important to learn how to let it go and that your very first idea might not be your best. Also, you aren’t your ideas! Sometimes when an idea is criticized by the client, the Creative who had the idea takes it very personally. Their idea is like their baby, and it hurts their feelings when someone says it sucks.

I doodled this while Tracy was explaining how many ideas are immediately put into the “No” pile by the higher-ups in an agency setting. Don’t get discouraged!

  1. 99% of any great idea is strategy.


There isn’t much to add to this point other than the fact that everyone is responsible for strategy. It isn’t just up to the art director and the writer. Account people play a huge role in strategizing, being the ones who work between the client and the Creatives. Account people need to hear both sides and think, “Okay, how do we make both sides happy and still solve a business problem?”


  1. Greatest creative weapon? EARS!


Open up your ears! As Tracy put it so beautifully, “Knowledge talks. Wisdom listens.” Sometimes Creatives can be guilty of shutting out what the client has to say if the client shoots down the idea. Again, this relates back to letting go. The client most likely has a reason for disliking something about the idea. When you get down to it, they need you to solve a business problem for them. You need to figure out how to make it work. Tracy compared a Creative’s idea to their pet hamster. They own it and love it and SQUEEZE it nearly to death, trying to hang on to it. Loosen your grip on your poor, suffocating hamster. Open your ears, empty your mind and listen to your client.


  1. Secret to success in advertising? Embrace compromise.


Whether you like it or not, the client is your customer and the customer is always right (even if they aren’t). This relates back to the importance of listening. If you don’t take the time to listen and find out what your client is looking for, you’re cutting yourself short by denying yourself the chance to work your creative muscle even more.


  1. What process garners the best creative work? Engage in the democracy of good ideas.


A great idea is a great idea, no matter who comes up with it. Every single person in an agency can contribute to the creative process by sharing ideas. The Wong, Doody, Crandall, Wiener website has a video on their “Career” page on the importance of the democracy of good ideas.

Again, this ties back in with big egos, letting go and strategy. Creatives need to know that they aren’t the only ones who can come up with the winning idea. It can come from an account person or even the agency’s receptionist.


  1. Love your client like you love your dog.


They are not the enemy and they basically write your paycheck. Befriending them will make working and creating a great piece of work much more pleasant and easier.

I could easily sit through 10 more of Tracy’s lectures. I felt like there was SO much to absorb and wished my brain could only take it all in faster. Along with these six points, he showed us many examples of work his agency had done. What I took away from his lecture and videos is really how important it is to listen and understand your client. He gave us so many examples of times when his team listened hard to the client’s words and then created amazing work (some which had me on the brink of tears, like their “Dear Me” anti-smoking campaign). He also really seemed to understand the importance of the mind and point of view of the consumer.

If you didn’t already know it’s ridiculous to say “Well, I’m not creative so I’m interested in planning…” from Deb’s lectures, you better know it after listening to Tracy Wong of talk for an hour and a half. He gave so much credit to the account people at his agency and really recognized them as a crucial part in the strategizing process. Account people really need to be creative in their work of understanding both the agency side and the client side. It takes a lot of work to make everyone happy.

I look forward to the day I get to learn more from Tracy Wong, but until then I’ll remember and practice these basic ideas I took away from his visit: Get down off of your high horse, empty your mind, listen to everyone and exercise the hell out of your creative muscle.


2 Comments on ““Stop squeezing the hamster to death!””

  1. Cathriona Smith says:

    Great post!

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