While some creative and agency leaders can talk a good game about being inclusive both internally and in the work that they do for clients, Danielle Trivisonno Hawley, chief creative officer of the Americas for Possible, prefers to walk that talk. Her leadership story started after graduating from creative portfolio school Creative Circus, when she found herself at a small agency in Denver by design, so that she could make an impact out of the gate.
“Small shops are where I wanted to start,” she said. “That’s not typically what people do, and I learned what it’s like to wear multiple hats and how important it is to be a leader.”
After a year in Denver, Trivisonno Hawley landed at Seattle indie Creature in 2004 as a writer before making her way to Zaaz. Zaaz became Possible, part of WPP, and eventually, Wunderman Thompson. Recently celebrating 10 years at the agency, she’s found her leadership style comes from a competitive nature, but channeled positively.
“I’ve always [been competitive] with a team,” said Trivisonno Hawley, who used to play soccer at Southern Methodist University. “I like the shared aspect of winning together and [having] learned to work with everyone’s strengths to get to something good.”
In that spirit, at Cannes last month, Trivisonno Hawley helped lead a Lion-winning campaign for Tommy Hilfiger that featured an adaptive line of clothing for people living with disabilities. Throughout the process, her team sought to make Tommy Adaptive as authentic as possible.
“[Fashion] is the most exclusive industry on the planet,” she noted. “We needed to navigate this audience and engagement so that we would have people take us seriously and not have it feel like a publicity stunt or inauthentic.”
The team accomplished the task by consulting with Christina Mallon, a member of the team living with a disability, before developing a bespoke online platform created to engage people with disabilities. The 1,500-person group provided counsel on the right ways to approach the project so that it was authentic and meaningful, essentially serving as a critical focus group. The project helped Trivisonno Hawley think about how she will approach creativity, the agency-brand relationship and her leadership moving forward, including launching an inclusivity practice at the shop.
“[Projects like this have] to change everything,” she said. “We’ll never go back to a place where we’re sitting around a conference room neglecting any part of the population.”
“The industry’s greatest mistake has been that we applaud work that’s made for other people in advertising, and I’ve indeed fallen victim to that,” said Trivisonno Hawley. “All too often, we forget that we’re hired to connect with real people in the real world—and the truth is sitting around a conference room table and expecting to understand them is total crap.”
“Diversity, inclusivity and accessibility make the work better,” Trivisonno Hawley explained. “Full stop. Also, growing up in this business as a female leader hardened me, and there were a lot of moments where I had to try to out-shout the men. There was a point in my career where I realized that I don’t need to do that anymore, because it was manifesting in a way that is the complete opposite of who I am as a person, because it looked like I was saying ‘me, me, me,’ and really what I’m about is ‘we.’”
How She Got the Gig
Trivisonno Hawley said it’s “cliché” to cite hard work and luck. “I give a lot of credit to the leaders who have placed bets on my future,” she said. “There were many years when my potential outweighed my performance by a landslide. But eventually, experience and latent talent collide, and you stop waiting around for that person to show up and save the day—because you realize that person is you.”
“Without vulnerability, there can be no bravery and therefore, no innovation,” she added. “Creatives inherently understand this because we’re continually putting ideas out there for others to critique. Bringing our clients and sometimes even our own internal organizations with us into that space is the greatest accomplishment of all.”