Friday, July 29, 2011

My Time Working with Wizards of the Coast (Part 2)

This is a continuation of my memories regarding my time working with Wizards of the Coast when I headed up their account at their advertising media agency back in the early 2000’s. Part 1 of the story is here, which discusses how I came to work with them, and some of the people involved. In this part, I’m going to talk a little more about the specific personalities. Later posts in the series will talk about corporate politics, ownership by Hasbro, and how/why I eventually stopped working on the account.

So, as I mentioned in Part 1, the original Marketing Director who was there when my agency was hired was pretty quickly let go by the corporate team at Hasbro after I started working on the account, so I never really got to know him all that well. His replacement, Kathryn, was the former Marketing Manager, who was promoted to Director. My team consisted of me, my second-in-command (Malinda) and two assistant media planners (Lynn and Sandy).

Kathryn’s “boss” was really the head of WotC at the time, and I have no idea who that was at the time. Peter Adkison was long gone by this point. But, unknown to both Kathryn and me, she was really being overseen by a Hasbro Corporate Marketing person back on the East Coast. I honestly have no memory of this woman’s name, but I will never forget her face. I’m going to call her ACHW for “AC Hasbro Woman.” You can make up your own adjectives for what “A” and “C” stand for, but , to me, the “A” word rhymes with “schmannoying” and the “C” word refers to her utter lack of having any idea about Wizards of the Coast’s products, consumers, or personnel.

I also had to deal with a group of people from our New York ad agency office, who worked directly for Hasbro, and although they had nothing to do with me or the other six accounts I was overseeing in Los Angeles, and also had never met my WotC client, Kathryn, they thought they knew best how we should do our media plans because they were in New York, the “center of the advertising world.” The main people on this team in New York were a woman named Cathy (or Kathy… it really doesn’t matter) and another one named Alison.

Did you notice a pattern there? Kathryn… AC Hasbro Woman… Cathy… Alison… even my team of Malinda, Lynn, and Sandy … all women. I was the only guy. Now, I’ll tell you straight up that I’ve found in the advertising world that ever since I became of the supervisory level, over the course of my career I’ve had about three guys and about 19 women on my teams. Media planning is an industry that is actually at least 50% women now, if not moreso.

I don’t want to trot out any stereotypes here, but I’ve found that I usually get along better working with women because, being a geek, there are lots of “guy topics” that I just can’t talk about – cars, poker, sports… but, I’m not expected to know those things working with women because, in general, they don’t want to talk about them. I guess it’s just a way of saying that I feel less judged working with women, because it never occurs to them that I must not be a “real guy” because I didn’t memorize who won the Super Bowl back in 1987.

Anyway, with the exception of Kathryn (my main WotC client) and my own team members, who were all younger (and hipper) than me, pretty much everybody else I had to deal with at Hasbro or at my agency in New York were at least 10 years older than me, and being that much older and also being women, chances were very slim that they had played Dungeons & Dragons as kids or were still watching animated programs, like the new “Samurai Jack” and “Justice League” programs that had just debuted on Cartoon Network around the time I started working with WotC and about which I was really excited. I also found that they did not like working with Paul at all, which is partly why he was let go. I was to find out pretty quickly that they also didn’t like working with me. I think they were just not comfortable with geeks and with the idea that a “grown man” might enjoy playing these “kids’ games.”

Kathryn was also not a geek, as I mentioned, but she was cool with it. I remember she told me a story shortly after she started at WotC wherein some of the designers invited her to play in their weekly RPG group just so that she would have a better working knowledge of the games she was trying to help market. They were playing the new Star Wars d20 game that WotC had published.

Kathryn asked the team if she could play an Ewok Jedi Knight, and the group said, “Uh… no. Ewoks can’t be Jedi. That’s kind of lame. We’ll come up with a character for you.”

That one little anecdote says so much to me:

1) The employees at WotC were actually playing the games they made. We’ve all read how, before TSR was sold to WotC, TSR employees were forbidden to play games at the office because the former owner, Lorraine Williams, didn’t like games. So, it was nice to hear Kathryn saying that there were several groups of games going on at WotC – some during lunch, some after work, and so on.
2) Even professional geeks are, when you come right down to it, still geeks. And geeks often don’t know when to put their passions aside for the greater good. Yes, I think the idea of an Ewok Jedi Knight is ridiculous, but then again, I really hate Ewoks with a passion. But, wouldn’t it have been nice if these guys could have seen that Kathryn was at least making an attempt to learn a game that she’d never played before, and in her mind, an Ewok Jedi was the best concept she could wrap her head around? Sadly, Kathryn only played the game that first time, partly because she was so intimidated by the rest of the group and how they treated her. She felt stupid having suggested her character concept.

Well, I had planned much more, but this is already a really long post, so I’ll continue on in Part 3. The good news is that I got pretty far writing when I realized the post was too long, so I cut it in two sections. That means that Part 3 is already pretty much written, so the wait won’t be as long.


  1. I played an Ewok X-Wing pilot once in the d6 Star Wars. Just saying.

  2. An Ewok jedi is no more or less ridiculous than a 900-year-old goblin jedi master. Just sayin', I am.

  3. Hey, if Ewoks are your thing, then I see no problem in playing an Ewok X-Wing pilot or jedi master. It's really no different than playing a Dwarf wizard of a halfling barbarian.

    I personally can't stand Ewoks, however. They just always seemed like little Teddy Ruxpin wanna-bes. But that's just me. Just sayin'...

  4. Oh, don't misconstrue my comment to be in defense of ewoks. The only good ewok is one that's been filleted and barbecued, if you ask me. My argument was to people who would say that an ewok jedi is a ridiculous concept. The only thing ridiculous is gamers who behave like those who told a newbie that her character concept was lame.

  5. "The only thing ridiculous is gamers who behave like those who told a newbie that her character concept was lame."

    True dat! Especially since they were all working at the same company trying to figure out ways to get more people to play their games!

  6. I, however, love ewoks, and am offended by all this casual anti-ewok bigotry. As such, I will never visit this blog again.

    Until the next time, obviously.

  7. @Kelvin - HA! You scared me for a sec! More to come... hopefully tomorrow.


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