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5 Minutes With… Lynne Grigg



Designory’s former president / chief creative officer tells LBB’s Adam Bennett about her journey through the industry, how to make a ‘relevance engine’ and why painting is set to be her new passion

5 Minutes With… Lynne Grigg

Adobe XD is a proud supporter of LBB. Over the upcoming months, as part of the sponsorship of the ‘5 Minutes With…’ content channel, we will be spending time with some of the most innovative and creative minds in the industry. 

In this conversation we talk with Lynne Grigg, former president / chief creative officer at Designory. Following her retirement at the start of the year, Lynne is in a perfect position to take stock of her time in the industry, and reflect on the changes she’s witnessed over more than two decades at the top. In this conversation, Lynne talks us through the importance of storytelling in marketing, how technology has changed the game, and what the term ‘legacy’ means to her… 

Q > First things first, congratulations on your retirement! How are you enjoying it so far?

Lynne > Well, thank you very much! I do feel quite grateful to have the option to retire, and to do so in a place that has been very special to me for the last 30 years. I moved from Los Angeles to Sedona, Arizona at the end of 2019, and built a custom home with an artist studio for me to refocus my creative energies in this next life chapter.

Q > To dial the clock back, how did you first come to get involved at Designory? What attracted you to the company?

Lynne > After graduating UCLA with a Painting / Sculpture / Graphic Arts degree, I went to Art Centre College of Design for a few more “practical” skills, and I got my advertising book together. From there I worked at a couple of major Ad agencies where I was exposed to some very insightful and creative people. On the other hand, I also experienced agency cultures that demonstrated a lack of integrity, arrogance and/or a kind of creative complacency. I knew that I needed to be in an agency that was better aligned to my values. I had discovered ‘cars’ while working on Toyota at Saatchi & Saatchi (which back then was Dancer Fitzgerald Sample). The culture here was much more like a family, but after working on everything from brochures to National Ads and ultimately National TV spots, I wanted a change. 

I was already familiar with Designory, as they were a competitor working on Nissan. And Dave Almquist, the founder of Designory, knew about me. They had won the Nissan Collateral business a year before and were looking for a creative lead to take on the account. I was quite taken with Dave (and Steve Fuller, co-founder). They were ex-aerospace designers who had decided to follow their hearts when that industry was struggling in the late 60’s. Their passions were cars and design. They decided to open a design firm in Long Beach, central to the south bay area import manufacturers. In a Victorian House outfitted as an agency, they serviced Toyota, Nissan, Mazda, Suzuki and Honda doing below the line work. By the time I interviewed they had grown to a staff of about 15 people and had outgrown the house, so they added an apartment building next door and transformed each apartment into a client team space. There was something about the clarity and integrity of Dave’s vision. “To do great work, do it right, charge a fair price, and do it together”. That really appealed to me. Highly collaborative, Designory is a very unique Product Marketing Agency. And that shone through in the work, which was always impeccable in both design and strategic content.

Q > And would you do it all again?

Lynne > Absolutely! In fact, I did. After about six years, I left Designory. My husband, Bob Grigg, had been a successful car photographer and then a director cameraman. He was at the height of his career and had urged me to quit so we could spend more time together. I felt I had already achieved a fair amount of success, I was a creative director, and had won many global awards. So, I quit. But, four years later, Designory had gone through five different creative directors on the Nissan business. They just could not find the right 'fit' with the team and the clients. So, they asked me to come back, and by this time I was bored and doing some pro bono work of my own and wanted to get back to work! 

And I knew Designory was the right place for me, as it had been consistently growing (we must have had about 200 people at that time) and Dave Almquist was still heavily involved in the management of the company. At this time, Designory also was moving into all things digital across all accounts, so there was much to develop and grow. 

Q > In these interviews, we often talk about cutting-edge technology and the latest and greatest digital ideas. But something that jumps out about Designory is a passion for storytelling. What does ‘storytelling’ mean in the context of marketing?

Lynne > Designory was talking about storytelling before that term became so overused in the industry. Designory has a unique secret sauce to our storytelling – a team of Product Strategists whose mission is to know more about a client’s product or service than the clients do themselves! And they do! It is this product insight melded with customer insight and data that makes Designory’s storytelling extremely relevant. In fact, Designory is a 'Relevance Engine' making content more compelling and focused on driving next step shopping actions. Technology and new digital tools enable truly engaging, interactive storytelling. 

Data seems to be the buzzword of the moment - and while data is hugely important, the proper insight and interpretation of that data, along with product and consumer insights is what can drive the most relevant creative ideas. Take the Amazon approach, they offer “related items inspired by your orders”. If we know enough about you and your lifestyle to push a particular product, our deep product expertise also tells us you would appreciate a feature you may not even know exists but is related to your lifestyle. It is not about simply giving the customer what they have asked for, but also giving them content that they didn’t know to ask for but is highly relevant. This deepens the customer interest and pushes them closer to a sale. And data is especially important in informing how the digital experience can be as free from friction as possible. 

Q > It’s fair to say that we live in a media landscape of ‘moments’, where audiences’ attentions are fiercely competed for. Is it more challenging - or even impossible - for marketers to be joined-up with storytellers in such a world?

Lynne > Clearly audiences’ attention spans are short, and relevance is the key to turning their heads. That is the premise behind precision marketing. But I believe many agencies are struggling with losing creativity with purely data driven approaches. And as I said, I believe the best way to truly connect is to combine insightful analysis of the data, along with deep product and consumer insights to inspire compelling creative ideas. 

The bigger challenge in creating these moments is agility. How do we create precise customised messages and creative on the fly efficiently? This is what will drive the future. How we create and ideate must change. Art Directors of the future should be able to do it all!

What is so cool, is that creative people now have many digital tools to ideate and prototype creative ideas and experiences without tech development. Adobe has been a great partner for Designory and Omnicom, and they have worked with us for years to inspire and instruct our creatives on how to use Adobe XD to design and prototype our interactive experiences, Adobe Dimension for 3D design, and even Adobe Aero for Augmented Reality experiences. And video is getting more and more relevant for shoppers, so Adobe Rush is another easy-to-use tool for Art Directors to actually imagine and create their video content without having to invest in learning Premier or sending an idea to the video production team.

Q > And on the other side of that coin, is there a kind of storytelling which is enabled today only thanks to advances in technology over the years?

Lynne > Yes, for sure! An example of product storytelling enabled by technology is an app Designory did for Nissan Intelligent Mobility. NIM is fundamental to Nissan advertising, but it is very complex. Designory understands not only what each Nissan technology does and its benefit, but how all technologies work together to create a more exciting and secure driving experience. Much of this technology can’t actually be demonstrated on a test drive, but, through the use of Augmented Reality, and creative storytelling, we created an app that the dealers could use to demonstrate not only the various safety technologies but present the collective lifestyle benefits in an engaging cutting-edge experience. 

Q > Your career with Designory is a huge success story - from working in a Victorian house to offices across three continents! Do you think such a journey would still be achievable in today’s industry landscape?

Lynne > Yes, Designory’s growth and expansion makes me very proud. We have offices in Tokyo, Paris, Nashville, Chicago, New York, Long Beach. We have around 300 people at Designory just in the US, and our footprint is even larger in combination with eg+, our production group. I think the business has changed greatly, and unless your agency can proactively change with these accelerating times, I doubt you can succeed. 

Now, it is all about how to do more targeted work, more quickly and cheaply. I have heard clients say “we just need to get a bunch of 20 year old’s who are digitally capable to sit in a room and ideate, create and produce the work in an afternoon”. Cut out the middle men and specialists where you can. Many agencies are bringing production in-house to not only support the bottom line, but to also create a more agile responsive creative product.

Q > What does the word ‘legacy’ mean to you? And would you like to have one?

Lynne > Well, having just retired after 28 collective years, I have been thinking a lot about my legacy. It appears that I do have one! The company gave me an amazing virtual sendoff, where people have said I am “the heart and soul” of the agency. I carried and embraced our founder’s vision for all 28 years, and I am grateful people noticed. I do believe the very things that attracted me to Designory are alive and well today. I always pushed for the best and most relevant creative solution and an extremely collaborative company culture. People with big egos do not do well at Designory, we are humble but extremely sharp, and care more about truly solving our clients marketing problems than about winning awards (although we win plenty of those too). And yes, I am still saying ‘we’, and I likely always will!

In addition, I didn’t realise until recently how much being a woman president / chief creative officer matters to the other women in the company. When I came up in the business, there were very few women, especially in the car business. So, I became used to being in meetings with all levels of clients or in the agency where I was the only woman in the room. I never held myself back, and always pushed for what I believed in, and it served me well. I have shared my personal story with our female staff through a number of diversity and inclusion efforts, and so many have expressed how important it was to them to be at a company with a woman president / chief creative officer at the helm and to see it was possible.

Q > And what about ‘mentorship’? Did you have a mentor who helped to guide you through your career, and are you doing the same for the next generation?

Lynne > I had a mentor at DFS who helped me learn so many basic skills and who supported and promoted me in my early years. And, certainly Dave Almquist taught me a lot. But I think Paul Hosea, the CEO of Designory and my partner for over 20 years, was the most influential in my career. Paul and I had a remarkable partnership that blossomed from initially leading the Nissan account, to leading the entire company. We grew together to make the Designory what it is today. 

I have always tried to support and guide my people as well. And most recently I had been working with the next generation of Designory leaders to prepare them for this next chapter, without me. We put in place a new structure and more focused roles and responsibilities for my lead creatives that I am very excited about. And, I am always here if they need me!

Q > You first became CCO at Designory over 20 years ago. If you could give one piece of advice to your past self in 1998, what would it be?

Lynne > I originally joined in 1988 and rejoined at the end of 1998. I would say relax and enjoy it more. I pushed myself very hard and was a bit of a perfectionist. Not that this is a bad thing, but I wish I didn’t worry as much! But my philosophy has always been to do your best, actually give a shit, and act as if it is your company.

Q > Finally, what are your plans for retirement? Are there any passions you’re looking to tap into?

Lynne > I have already started painting again, I have a studio in my new home. And being here in Sedona, I am hiking quite a bit. I also love dogs - I plan to get one now that I can spend as much time as I want to train and work with the dog. I feel very blessed!

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Adobe, Tue, 19 Jan 2021 11:35:15 GMT