My career in 5 executions: Argonaut's Hunter Hindman

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From jump scares to mechs with jump jets, Argonaut's CCO tries to spot ideas hidden everywhere

Name: Hunter Hindman
Title: Founder/CCO at Argonaut
Years in ad industry: 17
First job in ad industry: Art Director, PYRO Brand Development in Dallas, Texas

Hunter Hindman has become a mainstay of the Bay Area creative scene. Aside from a stint at Wieden+Kennedy in Amsterdam working on Nike and Coca-Cola, San Francisco has been his home, first at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, working on Doritos and Chevrolet, then at Argonaut, which he helped found four years ago.

"I’ve always believed that great ideas are hiding all around us," Hindman says. "The trick is training your mind to be open enough to spot them."

Here are the 5 executions Hindman says have meant the most to him and his career.

Client: Coca-Cola
Agency: Wieden+Kennedy, Amsterdam
Work: "Happiness Factory"
Year: 2006

In 2006, Hindman joined Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam to work on the Nike account, but he was shocked to find his first assignment was for Coca-Cola. The brand "had been stuck in the land of Polar Bears for too long and needed a new identity," he says. "We had to get people to see it again and make it feel like the first time. "

The team interviewed people about their fondest memories involving a Coke, writing and discarding enough ideas to create a stack of pages two-and-a-half feet high. "Yet, this whole time the inspiration that unlocked the centerpiece of the pitch winning campaign was actually hiding right in front of our office door every day."

The resulting spot was nominated for an Emmy and won accolades at Cannes and the Clios. But, Hindman says, "I’m probably most proud of the fact that the Coke bottle graphic and musical mnemonic from this ad would be used for almost a decade on every single Coke ad aired around the world."

Client: Frito-Lay
Brand: Doritos
Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
Work: "Hotel 626"
Year: 2008

For a Halloween campaign, Doritos brought "back from the dead" two discontinued flavors. "We were trying to find a way to really scare the shit out of people online," Hindman says, and the team was surprised to find that no one had ever created a "haunted website" before.

Hotel 626 broke many conventions in the pursuit of making the experience as frightening as possible. The site was only accessible from 6pm to 6am. It called players on their actual cellphones and took their photo when they weren’t expecting it to use as a prop in a serial killer’s lair.

It won a Gold Cyber Lion at Cannes and a Yellow Pencil from D&AD. But curious viewers hoping to spend a night in the hotel will have to settle for watching old replays online, Hindman laments. "Recently, I saw a blog that called it ‘the scariest horror game that you’ll never play.’ I wish it was still hosted on a server someplace, so more people could enjoy the scare and screams."

Client: Chevrolet
Brand: Chevy Sonic
Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
Work: "Chevy Sonic" campaign
Year: 2012

Chevrolet was just a few years out of bankruptcy and was looking to expand its appeal with younger consumers—people experiencing adult milestones for the first time. So the team put the Chevy Sonic, an affordable, subcompact hatchback, through its own set of "firsts."

"The entire campaign started as a series of stunts for online content, each designed to show the Sonic doing something few other cars ever have or ever will attempt." Besides dangerous stunts, the car drove the band Ok Go through one of their highly choreographed music videos, logging 37 million views.

A 60-second anthem spot ran during Super Bowl XLVI, set to the Fun. single "We Are Young," which had been slowly climbing up the charts. After the Super Bowl, the song rocketed in popularity, rising 26 spots on the Billboard Hot 100 and hitting No. 1 a month later.

Client: Volkswagen
Agency: Argonaut
Work: "Wings"
Year: 2014

This spot was the first commercial created by Argonaut. Hindman’s client at Chevrolet had moved to Volkswagen and called him looking for a Super Bowl spot that needed to be completed in 10 days. Besides the tight deadline, "one curve ball was the rather complicated brief, especially for a Super Bowl commercial—a claim," Hindman says.

At the time, the agency had fewer than 20 employees, but once they hit upon the "wings" line, "we knew we had it," he says. The spot ended up as the most viewed automotive ad of the game.

Client: Electronic Arts + Respawn
Brand: Titanfall 2
Agency: Argonaut
Work: "Become One"
Year: 2016

Argonaut was tasked with creating a platform for the "Titanfall" video game series that would last for several more generations of the franchise. "We zeroed in on the connection of man and machine that exists in this game," Hindman says. "We realized that this was the modern day version of a ‘Man and his steed’ and looked to celebrate it with an epic ballad about our heroes."

The resulting trailer uses no gameplay footage and is visually inspired by the spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone. "Everyone said we’d never get the Bono estate to approve all new lyrics to the ‘Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)’ classic" for the soundtrack, Hindman says, but the agency’s perseverance paid off.

"They say you are only good as the last piece of work you made," he adds. "And damn, I’m pretty proud of this one."