- What inspired you to pursue your career and/or start your company?
I’ve always been interested in mashups - in mixing different elements to create something new. I am always looking for the white space and an opportunity to create something that didn’t exist before. With my company Narrative_, and now WP Narrative_, that white space is to bring together code + culture to redefine storytelling. Where we could challenge conventional storytelling norms and reinvent the way businesses and brands reached consumers.
From a code standpoint, technology has always progressed the way we tell stories -- from radio to TV to the internet and beyond. To innovate and push forward, we need to ask ourselves, where are the edges of tech that haven’t been reached yet? So where does code and technology meet culture? I’ve always said we don’t build tech for tech’s sake. Rather, we tap into technology to help create stories that mean something to people.
On a more personal level, I didn't see a lot of people that looked like me at the top levels of advertising or technology. So I thought why not? There’s something to be said for giving different points of view, different backgrounds a seat at the table -- and to drive the conversation once you’re there. You’re not going to get the same old tired ideas. In the ad world, there are so many niche agencies - you find either a tech agency, or a creative, or an influencer / experiential agencies that lean into culture - but no one was blending all of those elements together. I believe in the possibility of everything - and starting Narrative_ was my opportunity to bring this to life.
There was no job out there that would allow me to play in all those buckets - tech, creative, entertainment, marketing, culture, innovation - all together. I had to build my own.
What was the process of starting your company or your career in your industry?
For me the first thing was identifying the opportunity -- what was the problem that needed to be solved. I realized early on that just because I saw a need for a shop like ours, doesn't mean “build it and the clients will come.” I really had to convince myself that this idea would be viable and look at it objectively. I created a mock pitch deck to hone what the value position was, once I did that, I shared it with a few people who believed I was on to something.
One of the key differentiators that we developed in that early phase was the insight that we could create and develop monetizable IP. That’s what actually interested investors when I first started talking to them. 5 years ago, when I started the company, no one was doing it. We were the first at the intersection of advertising, tech and culture.
So I built in an IP incubator to the business model, along with branding, experiential, traditional advertising and branded entertainment. I created a P&L to map out how this idea could actually work. And then came the hard part.
Scaling an agency is hard - the more business you get, the more people you have to hire. I had a great idea, and I had the funding to back it - but I needed to build a team. The hardest part of the early phase of Narrative_ was finding the talent that would flourish in the type of environment we created, a new type of agency where there’s no roadmap or blueprint.
Where do you envision your career heading in the next five years and what is your ultimate dream for your company?
My ultimate dream for Narrative_ was always to create something that would be understood as valuable to others. We wanted to really disrupt the industry - not just in a lip service way, but to truly do things differently, and be successful. In four years, we met all of those goals. We worked with big brands (like JCPenney and Under Armour) and produced broadcast TV commercials, digital executions, and experiences for thousands of consumers. We hold patents on products developed by our in-house innovation lab.
We’ve also won major awards and honors - Two Clios, Shortlisted for Cannes Lions, Webbys, ONE Show, AICP with an 11-person staff. We didn’t come into the space with a legacy in the ad world - we just did it.
With WP Narrative, my new company as part of Will Packer Media, it’s all about continuing the innovation. We conquered the ad world, how do we do the same thing in the entertainment and branded content space? We are staying true to those early roots, with a commitment to redefining what a story is, and creating a fresh way to tell and experience it.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in your career?
I would have to say that finding the right, talented people that weren’t afraid of the unknown was the biggest issue. I knew I needed a team that would embrace the mentality and approach, and execute flawlessly. I looked at creating my team like I was building my arsenal - putting together the key elements that would execute the vision and bring it to life. Anyone can put down a cool idea on paper - but how do you do it and deliver on KPIs, in an impactful way?
I always thought other ad agencies were strange in only hiring homegrown people - people whose careers have always been in the ad world. I wanted to bring in a diverse POV to infuse what we did. I hired culture creators, makers and innovators, from the worlds of fashion, gaming, etc. I didn’t hire everyone all at once - I looked at core disciplines - creative, strategy, tech and production, and hired multifaceted people. I built the teams around those core people’s competencies and where they had holes.
Additionally, I developed an advisory and consulting group we lovingly call the “Nerds, Cool Kids and Weirdos.” I didn’t have a huge budget to hire 50 people, but I knew there was some thinking I was missing. NCK&W tapped into a group outside the marketing and advertising world to stretch thinking, create unexpected connections, and make sure that we were pushing the envelope. We brought in comedians, fashion stylists, music producers, data scientists, screenwriters, artists, poets, product developers, Broadway people - to come together in different ways and really provide that diverse perspective that informs the work we create. This fuels our ability to not only create effective campaigns, but to identify what’s next, break new ground, and impact growth and brand innovation.
What would surprise people to know about you?
I live out loud and am always out and about. But if I didn’t meditate and have my spiritual practice, I would be overwhelmed in an instant. My practice fuels my ability to do what I do. I believe so much in manifestation - if I dream it, think it, it will come.
I also really believe in the power of magic - that there are ethereal energies that you can align with and that will help in the creative process. I tap into these energies via meditation, visioning and intuition.
What is your top piece of advice for those who wish to follow in your footsteps?
Identify your passion and be determined to become the formidable player in that space.
What can you offer that others can’t? Why should you be at the table - and if you’re not there, you should know why those who are there are at a loss. What is your value proposition? Identify what brings you excitement and that you have passion for - and then be good at it. Hone your skills, perfect them - gain your knowledge. It’s a process - when you have the skills, then you can expand. Ask yourself, what if my solution can be more unique? For instance, when I started in radio my job was to sell ad space and airtime. But I started to think of how I could solve problems for brands in a unique way. I began offering creative services and became known as an effective problem solver. That led to more opportunities, and quickly.
What’s the biggest sacrifice you had to make to achieve your dreams?
There’s always a struggle to find a balance. When you work like I do, there’s always something that will fall by the wayside. Building a business from scratch takes a lot more effort than a 9-5 job. I take my goals seriously and respect the clients, team, and investors that are depending on me. Therefore, elements of my personal life and starting a family took a back seat.
I do make a concerted effort to plan downtime to recharge. It can’t be all work. I do love my vacations and long weekends, and have a wonderful network of friends who support me. I’m also extremely lucky to have a twin sister -- we are so alike, so when I’m inundated with work, she’s out there and gives me the download. Even if I can’t attend a particular event she’ll be there and I still feel like I participated. That’s something most people don’t have, but I do think it’s helped!
What are your hobbies outside of work?
Cooking, DJing, travel. And my sister and I are working on a book now, that will be coming out in 2019 with Penguin Random House, which will be all about harnessing your power and achieving success on your terms!
What’s your ultimate dream?
I would love to be in a place where people can do what I did, without having to build it from scratch. Imagine if that space existed already, and people can come in and play, and create something extraordinary.
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Brooklyn-born Tricia Clarke-Stone is a twin who loves her sister but refuses to repeat in anything else. A boundary-pusher with a uniquely attuned business mind, Tricia brings her decades-long experience at the intersection of marketing, branding, tech, media and entertainment to the helm of newly [...]