Welcome to Views from the Hydra Tank, a collection of interviews from the very creatives and strategists that make up the globe-panning pool of HydraHeads within Giant Hydra. While a team of HydraHeads works as one solid, integrated unit, that unit is still made up of individuals of different skills sets, nationalities and of course personalities. This column aims to shed light on those personalities.
The talent pool within Giant Hydra runs wide and deep, with all sorts of skill sets ready to be unleashed on an important project. There are many art directors and copywriters to consider when putting together a team of HydraHeads, but few have the gift of being both in their professional lives.
Such is the case with David Houghton. David brings twenty years of creative experience to Giant Hydra, both as an art director and as a copywriter — a “two-headed hydra”, if you will. Over that span of time he has racked up tons of awards, from Cannes and One Show to New York Festivals and ADCC.
David also adds considerable executive heft to the Hydra Tank; most recently he served as SVP, Creative Director of Y&R Toronto, before deciding to go back to his creative roots, making cool stuff instead of just guiding cool stuff.
David is an avid cyclist and traveler, and recently went trekking by bike across India and the Himalayas. We had to interview him quickly about his thoughts on Giant Hydra.
Giant Hydra: Prior to joining the ranks of Giant Hydra, you were a creative director at Y&R Toronto. Describe what being a CD was like for you, and why you chose to step back from that role.
David Houghton: “As I moved into the CD role, I dealt more and more with things that were less and less creative. Administration. Finances. Human resources. Signing dental claim forms. Of course, that’s true of a CD at any sizable agency. All very good grown-up stuff but not the stuff that I’m passionate about. I had fantastic creative teams to work with at Y&R and the experience taught me very clearly that what I liked best was being close to the work, mentoring and collaborating with other creative minds.
Giant Hydra: What initially drew you to Giant Hydra?
David: “ I’m interested in exploring agency models and creative tools that break with convention. Giant Hydra seemed like an interesting concept, and an opportunity to connect with a diverse group of interesting people.”
Giant Hydra: Giant Hydra operates a bit differently than a traditional agency. What was the learning curve like?
David: “The learning curve was quick, because everything is spelled out explicitly in the intro videos. Once you’re on the site working on a project, the process flows smoothly from initial ideas, or Seeds, to more developed concepts that are shared by the entire group.”
“That kind of collaborative effort doesn’t require everyone to be in the same room – or even the same country. It simply requires people who are inventive, smart and open-minded.”
Giant Hydra: When you’re in a Giant Hydra project, do you ever feel the urge to put on your creative director hat and guide the process, or is it easy enough to “just” be creative?
David: “I have strong opinions about which ideas are the best, and I use my powers of persuasion to make my case. But ultimately it’s up to the CD that’s leading the project to make the final decisions, and it’s not difficult to respect that.”
Giant Hydra: What has been your favorite thing about Giant Hydra so far? What has been the greatest challenge, in terms of comparing it to a bricks and mortar agency experience?
David: “My favourite thing has been planting a Seed and seeing other creative minds seize on it, develop it and nurture it into something really great. That kind of collaborative effort doesn’t require everyone to be in the same room – or even the same country. It simply requires people who are inventive, smart and open-minded.”
“The greatest challenge has been, in some cases, the sheer volume of raw ideas. Sometimes a group will generate so many options, particularly in the early stages of a project, that it’s difficult to sort through them all with the kind of acuity they deserve.”
Giant Hydra: What advice would you give to HydraHeads being selected for their very first project?
David: “I’d remind them that the point is not only to generate your own ideas, but to build on others’ ideas. To identify and develop the potential in someone else’s idea is a valuable part of the Giant Hydra process.”
Giant Hydra: Let’s go back in time to when you were a big agency CD. Knowing what you know now about Giant Hydra as a HydraHead, would you have used Giant Hydra on an agency project?
Giant Hydra: What would you tell your friends that are still agency CDs about Giant Hydra?
David: “Giant Hydra is a very specific tool: a creative department inside your laptop. Fire it up, and you have an international group of skilled thinkers who focus intensely on your project for a short period of time. Not every project needs this kind of approach. But some, like tight-timeline projects or new business pitches, benefit from it.”
“Look at our current situation. Since the recession knocked the stuffing out of the economy, agencies are often working with the minimum number of creative staff. At the same time, some very talented people have gone to the freelance side because they enjoy the flexibility it brings. Most importantly, we’re in the creativity business, in the midst of a technological revolution. Giant Hydra brings ideation and technology together as well as any tool I’ve seen. I’m proud to be one of the heads on the monster.”
Want to see some of the magic David has worked on? Please visit his website at twoheadedcreative.com. Want people like David and other HydraHeads to work magic on your own projects? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org