The Low-Profile Brilliance of Susan Hoffman
By Susan Credle on Sep 07, 2017
The stories behind the nominations for The One Club 2017 Creative Hall of Fame laureates
The One Club Creative Hall of Fame recognizes and honors innovators who represent the highest standards of creative excellence, and whose lifetime achievements have made significant contributions to visual communications. Combined with the ADC Hall of Fame, the organizations have paid tribute to more than 200 individuals over four decades. On Monday, September 18, we are proud to add five more worthy names to that list.
Before a creative legend can be inducted into the Hall of Fame, he or she must first be nominated. Ahead of the gala, we spoke to the people who championed their inductions. Our next feature Susan Credle, Global CCO of FCB, who opens up about Susan Hoffman, Co-CCO of Wieden+Kennedy and 2017 Hall of Fame laureate.
It’s early evening in Cannes. A friend and I are sitting in a couple of low chairs in the darkest corner of the bar at Le Majestic, talking about the state of the industry. As always, I’m hanging on her every word.
I glance up as someone approaches. It’s a reporter, one I know slightly. “Susan,” he says, with a smile, and instinctively I turn my head to look at my friend, with absolute certainty that the reporter is addressing her. My friend is an icon of the industry, responsible for some of the most famous work of the last thirty years.
But the reporter’s smile is meant for me. Not the Susan sitting beside me.
I remember vividly what happened next, as I introduced him to my guest: “This is Susan Hoffman.” He hesitated for a moment, as a look of recognition washed across his face, a cerebral slide show of brilliant work lighting up his brain.
Susan’s response was gracious and unentitled and down-to-earth. That’s because Susan Hoffman is the most low-profile advertising legend I’ve ever met.
Most people wouldn’t recognize Susan Hoffman if she were sitting right beside them. But every one of us would know her work.
"Most people wouldn’t recognize Susan Hoffman if she were sitting right beside them. But every one of us would know her work."
Keeping a low profile when you were “Employee #8” at one of the most revered agencies in the world is quite a feat. (In her latest publicity shot, she is hiding behind not only a rooftop but even her hair.) Staying out of the limelight when your name is attached to work like Nike’s “Revolution,” “If You Let Me Play,” and “Da Da Ding;” Levi’s “America;” Squarespaces’ Jeff Bridges video and Miller “The High Life” campaign is concrete proof of what Susan believes: It’s not about her; it’s about the work.
Google 'Susan Hoffman'. The results will surprise you. Yes, there is the big news about her recent promotion to Co-Chief Creative Officer of Wieden+Kennedy. But you will have to look hard to find much more about her.
Susan and I became acquainted when we were serving on the 2008 ANDYs jury. She told self-deprecating stories and was genuinely inquisitive about everything, including me. Long before “See it to be it” became a phrase in our industry, Susan was creating work that inspired me, other female creatives, the industry and the world.
One time, on an AICP jury, she leaned over and commented on a piece of work from her agency: “I don’t think this is as good as that other piece.” Yes, shockingly, she wasn’t fighting for her work; she was being critical of her work. She told me it was nice, but that it didn’t break new ground.
Susan has been breaking new ground for three decades with the work she has created and supported. If you have ever used an original recording of a quintessential artist — thank Susan. If you have ever thought, advertising doesn’t have to be a formulaic ad — thank Susan. If you have ever been insanely jealous of work like P&G’s “Thank You, Mom” and “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” — blame Susan. If you have ever looked at work and thought, it’s just not good enough – Susan deserves some of the credit for that challenging voice inside your head.
Wieden+Kennedy’s motto is “Walk in stupid every day.” I believe Susan walks around this world as naïve and inquisitive as the day she started in this business. And that is what makes her brilliant.
If you don’t recognize her at the Creative Hall of Fame, she’s the petite blonde dressed in a piece of fabulous art and probably wondering what the hell she is doing there.
Please, let her know she’s being most deservedly honored.
The One Club 2017 Creative Hall of Fame takes place in New York City on Monday, September 18, and will induct industry luminaries Tom Burrell, Susan Hoffman, David Lubars, Rebeca Méndez and Diane Cook-Tench.