2 Minutes With … Allison Pierce, Global CCO for Intel at VMLY&R
As global chief creative officer for Intel at VMLY&R, Allison Pierce focuses on creating ideas that make brands famous. Since joining the agency in 2010, she has been a major force, producing some of the company's most innovative and award-winning work.
Allison started her career at the Kansas City-based independent shop Barkley, working on the iconic Two Guys campaign for Sonic Drive-In. During her first two years at VMLY&R, she helped create award-winning campaigns for Gatorade, and then went on to work with brands such as Bumble, Wendy's, Kashi, Boehringer Ingelheim, Electrolux, Cobra Puma Golf and others.
Allison has a passion for creating work that is both smart and inherently newsworthy. Her long-standing work for the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development is a testament to that, having consistently been awarded both nationally and internationally for its culture-creating creativity.
Allison balances her professional life with being a mom of two young kids and enjoys showing horses and making cookies that are too pretty to eat.
We spent two minutes with Allison to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations, and recent work she's admired.
Allison, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
Pretty much the same place! I was born in Michigan, but only spent a short year there, then moved to Naperville, Illinois, for five years (My dad worked for McDonald's in Oakbrook) and moved to Overland Park, Kansas, when I was 6. I live about 10 minutes from the house I grew up in!
What you wanted to be when you grew up.
It mostly switched back and forth between a cake decorator and a horse trainer. I always loved being creative but it wasn't until college that I realized I could channel that into a career in advertising.
How you discovered you were creative.
I always liked to be creative and find creative ways to solve problems. In 5th grade I created an entire parody play to The Wizard of Oz called The Wizard of Food for my enrichment program. In college, to get out of writing a book report for my detective fiction class, I summarized the book by making it into an actual board game. I just loved doing something different, finding a unique way to bring something to life.
A person you idolized creatively growing up.
Well this isn't exactly when I was growing up per se, but the most important person to me creatively throughout my career has been John Godsey. He's my friend and mentor for the past 11 years and has taught me everything useful that I know.
I think of him as advertising's hidden gem, because he doesn't get the credit he deserves. But he is an insane storyteller and a magician in an edit suite. And no matter what craziness we've been up against, he never seems stressed by it. He just always has the answer. I wouldn't be the creative I am today if not for him.
A moment from high school or college that changed your life.
My junior year of college, my horse trainer was killed in a commercial airline crash. He was only 26 and it was one of the first tragic events I remember, aside from Sept. 11. Ever since then I try and remember to live for each day, because you never know what might happen the next. It also sparked a decade-long fear of flying, which was an interesting thing to navigate in advertising.
The first concert you saw, and your favorite band or musician today.
Well I'm a bit embarrassed to admit it, but the first concert I saw was New Kids on the Block. Elton John will always be my favorite artist, though, and I did get to see him in concert a couple of years ago, which was awesome.
A visual artist you admire.
I'd be lying if I told you I had one. Maybe this is odd for someone in advertising, but I don't really like art. I do love photography, but I'm not a follower of any single artist. My favorite photos are any that have my kids in them.
Your favorite fictional character.
Had to think about this one for a minute. I think I'd say Bugs Bunny because he is this clever out-smarter who doesn't care what other people think. So often we care too much what other people think. Especially in advertising, which seems pretty torturous for such a subjective business. He can be the smartest person in the room, but still is effortless cool—how could you not admire that kind of confidence?
A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.
I've recently been listening to the podcast A Slight Change of Plans ... it's really good. Human behavior has always fascinated me, in fact, sometimes I think I would rather be a scientist who studies why people do the things they do!
It's hosted by this cognitive scientist who explores how people respond to and navigate change. All of her guests have had different things thrown at them, so it's always fresh and interesting to hear how they reacted to the change. Advertising is all about understanding human behavior and hacking it. So the more I know about why people do what they do the better creative solutions I can come up with.
Your favorite Instagram or Twitter follow.
Oh man, I don't have many. Most of my Insta follows are cookie bakers and cake decorators. I spend more time on TikTok these days! But I don't follow anyone, I just let the algorithm take me where it may.
How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.
Maybe the better question is how has it not? I think the silver lining of Covid-19 is it forced me to reprioritize what is important in my life and what I spend time and energy on. I am less willing to trade my time with my family for anything. I think it showed us all how quickly the whole world can turn upside down, and how important it is to make time for the things and people we love.
Your favorite creative project you've ever worked on.
The Colorblind Viewer that we made for Tennessee was definitely my favorite project I've worked on. It was one of those ideas that gave you goosebumps right away. We wanted to put special lenses into viewfinders at Tennessee's best overlooks so that colorblind people could see the beauty of the state's fall colors.
A lot of times when we do work, it's met with both positive and negative feedback from the public. (Or worse, none at all!) But this one was overwhelmingly positive. It was amazing to not only see but feel the emotion these people had seeing what so many of us take for granted every day. I still tear up every time I watch it!
A recent project you're proud of.
We did this campaign for Intel that was meant to stir the pot with hardcore Apple fans that was pretty cool. The stars aligned and we were able to snag the original Mac guy, Justin Long, to help us point out some of the ways today's PCs outshine Macs.
In the spots, he is given specific points of difference about each computer and then left is to draw his own conclusions. The campaign definitely hit a nerve and had billions of impressions in a few hours. Seeing YouTuber after YouTuber breaking down every second of the spots was a pretty fun thing to watch—even when it wasn't very nice.
Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.
This is probably cliché at this point, but just as a writer, who isn't inspired by Apple's "Here's to the Crazy Ones"?
I also have always loved the Snickers campaign, "You're not you when you're hungry." It's just such a brilliant line, and anyone who knows me knows I relate to that so much. I am not very pleasant to be around when I'm hungry!
Someone else's work that you admired lately.
Oh gosh, I feel like there are a million amazing things I could choose from. But honestly, I remember the first time I saw the Progressive campaign about not becoming your parents with the Life Coach and I literally laughed out loud. It was like a few months into Covid-19 and everything was so depressing and scary and here comes this goofy, but relatable, campaign and it was just the laugh I needed at that time.
Your main strength as a creative person.
I never take no for an answer.
Your biggest weakness.
I have a hard time adjusting my expectations to reality.
One thing that always makes you happy.
Fresh baked chocolate chip cookies.
One thing that always makes you sad.
That time is fleeting.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.
I'd probably be a baker, or a horse trainer.
2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.