Last week, I had the opportunity to hear from the Associate Creative Director at Spotify, Spencer Hansen. Spencer was a guest speaker for the Creative Lab class in the Dept. of Marketing. In college, you often get accustomed to boring lectures and speakers that you doze off to. Spencer not only caught my attention but kept it. His odd approach to introducing himself and his presentation was quirky and memorable. He titled his presentation, The 1988 Sheep Scramble at Ruby’s Inn.
A big part of his presentation and introduction was storytelling. This was ironic because the best ads typically tell a story. Spencer clearly knew what he was talking about, and had everyone cracking up. He went off about a Sheep Scramble, which he won, and connected it with what he does on a daily basis. By stepping back and watching everyone else run, the sheep came to him. More on that later. He also told us about his career in advertising and how he got to where he is now. The advice he gave us was truly meaningful and actually useful.
Different perspectives. As a child, Spencer would always sit under the piano to listen to his siblings play. He claims that underneath the piano is a better way of hearing the piano – I am not sure about that. Anyways, the analogy of sitting under a piano refers to looking at things in a different perspective. Sometimes taking the piano apart and reassembling it, works too. As a creative, you get a creative brief and have to solve it using creative thinking. But if you get stuck, use a different perspective.
Big picture. Throughout his presentation, I heard Spencer say a phrase similar to, “Take a step back, and look at the big picture.” As a child, Spencer attended a rodeo in Southern Utah on a family vacation. At this rodeo, one of the many events was called a “Sheep Scramble. During a Sheep Scramble, the kids in attendance are invited to chase a sheep around a rodeo arena, attempting to grab a flag from its tail. Spencer participated in one as a child and reflected on what he learned. He fondly remembers how he won, and ties in the big picture. He stopped chasing the sheep like the other kids, took a step back to look at what was going on (the big picture), and the other kids ran the sheep right into his hands.
So, take a deep breath, step back, and look at the big picture.
Keep trying to do something different, be relentless. Everyone has heard the saying, “fall 7 times, stand up 8.” Spencer started his career making banner ads and Verizon newspaper circulars, but eventually crafted a commercial that holds the title of most shares ever. No matter where you start, or what you do, make it different and don’t stop. Spencer shared a project that took him and his partner half a day, and it went viral. A simple reply on Twitter lead to the most upvoted Reddit of the day, and a story on CNN.
Programs to know for Art Directors: Spencer also shared some thoughts on what tools students interested in Art Direction should know how to use – Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, After Effects, Any 3D program, and Adobe Premiere. He also added, that nothing beats good ole Keynote and Google Slides.
Portfolio School: Portfolio School aka MBA, is that “2-3 years of experience” companies look for despite you be in school. This is also a great opportunity to develop your portfolio. There are several programs out there, ranging from 2 years or online classes over a couple months. If you want to jump into a big agency, this is strongly advised.
Spencer graduated from BYU in 2006 and took an internship with Crispin, Porter + Bogusky (CP+B). From there, he hustled out in Brooklyn before taking a job at Ogilvy & Mather as an Art Director. After the economy crashed in ’08, he was let go and ended up freelancing for a couple of years, actually making double his previous salary. In May of 2011, he got hired as a Senior Art Director at Razorfish. A little over two years later, he joined forces with Droga5, whom he called “his tribe.” After 3 years at Droga5, he wanted a new challenge and got hired as the Associate Creative Director at Spotify. In a matter of 10 years, he went from college grad to Creative Director. Hard work pays off.
Check out Spencer’s work here: http://www.spencer-hansen.com/
Overall, Spencer was a phenomenal speaker. I learned so much about what it will take to work at big agencies in NYC, and what actions to take to get there. He knew his audience very well and told some great stories. The advice he gave is perfect for creatives, whether you want to be a copywriter like myself or an art director like Spencer.
Thank you, Spencer Hansen, for coming to The Taylor Institute and giving us a great presentation.
By: Alex Siminoff