-After a degree in mass communication and working in creative agencies and writing about creativity, what made you want to start your own esports and gaming creative agency?
It’s a roundabout story. This isn’t something I expected or planned, which is often how the best things in my life have happened.
I was bored in college, and didn’t like school much. A friend wanted to organise a huge LAN for Halo, and try selling this complete event to Microsoft. He asked if I’d be willing to do the marketing strategy. I said okay, it seemed like a fun experiment, and we spent a year or so working on that together. Then he went off to sell it and I never followed up; I only found out, recently, that this went well, Microsoft loved it, and he’s worked on their gaming team for many years since!
After that, for years I followed the data around esports and watched it grow to massive proportions. I was surprised nobody on the outside could see it, but didn’t know what to do with this information. Years later, at Darewin, where we worked at the time, Mathieu Lacrouts and I were watching matches on Twitch and talking about how esports is so big, but also so insular, and there was just no advertising. Nobody understood who the fans were or why they mattered.
He asked if I wanted to try making something out of it. I said okay; there was a need, we were well-trained in entertainment advertising, it was worth a shot. The problems inherent to esports today were also compelling to me—issues with diversity, structuring, IP, stereotypes about who gamers are and what esports represents in the larger cultural story.
The rest unfolded in ways I could never have predicted. I am continuously surprised by what we’ve managed to carve out with Hurrah, knowing that it all started with just a few banal conversations—the kinds you have with friends all the time, over drinks.
-Are you yourself a gamer? What is your favourite game and character and why?
I’m among the few people at Hurrah that doesn’t game within esports specifically on a regular basis, even if I love the lore, culture and business. I like meditative, solo worlds: No Man’s Sky is the game most people make fun of me for playing, hahaha. And I loved Pokémon Go until I captured Pikachu, then the spell was broken and I moved on.
The games that most impacted me recently were the Monument Valley series. I like their fragmented, dreamlike nature. I like Ida, the fact that you barely know anything about her but can feel her trying to work out what’s happened to her world in this abstract journey. Solving the challenges is about perspective; you’re working against your first impressions and trying to capture a larger viewpoint that unlocks each resolution. It’s a lot like life.
I also liked the dystopic, fairy-tale quality of Transistor—Red’s journey, and her intimate, strange relationship with the narrator.
-In an interview I read you said : “Creativity is a demand for every job, not just the creative department…. Creativity belongs to all, and we should celebrate it in whatever form it takes, whatever the role.” Do you think this is often forgotten in advertising agencies and creativity is mostly associated with the creative departments?
Yeah. The economic exploitation of creativity is often mistaken for creativity itself. Because ad agencies made “creativity” a department, we forget it’s a survival mechanism that expresses itself in different ways beyond conception for pitches, and it’s critical to everyone’s roles and growth, not just “creatives”.
When you treat art directors and copywriters like they’re the only creatives in a company, you create a hierarchy where everyone is working to support them, because advertising is a “creative” industry. What this cultivates is a single entitled department, strife between “creatives” and other specialists, and the notion that fresh thinking is required only of creatives; no one else has the right. This is something we’re working to break down. Lots of people have great ideas that merit development and recognition. And great creative work thrives on a diversity of perspectives, backgrounds, knowledge bases and passions. It thrives on curiosity.
-Regarding your creative leadership, how do you think you can get the best out of a creative team? What tips or methods do you use to encourage the people that you work with?
Be a good listener. Clarify what’s required—sometimes clients don’t know what they want, so provide benchmarks or deliverables that steer them toward clarity and provide a basis on which they can measure your success. On the same note, teams work more efficiently when everyone’s role in a project is clear, as well as the expectations of them and when their deadlines are.
Deadlines and clear expectations are critical. It’s not only the client who needs to be able to measure an agency’s performance; it’s us, too. Where are our weak spots? How do we fix them for next time? Were our values respected throughout the process? Where did we shine? You can’t answer these questions in a productive way unless the rules of engagement are transparent from the outset.
One last thing we’ve discovered recently: my opinion as a leader isn’t more important than other opinions that are rarely cultivated. We present our first pitch ideas to everyone in the agency; if they don’t immediately get it, it doesn’t make sense to share with clients, or a whole community. Lastly, we’ve started requesting evaluations not only from clients but also from collaborators and suppliers. We’ve found illuminating information on how we can work better across the board. These people often see organisational failures we miss.