“Iron Man” Richard Gill on Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary

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My previous blog was about most major hits coming from outside manufacturing companies with Hasbro’s Mike Hirtle. I thought it would be interesting to interview Richard Gill, who aside from being mistaken for Robert Downey Jr./Iron Man lately (there is a striking resemblance), was involved in both Trivial Pursuit and Pictionary.

 

Richard, what was like to be part of two of the biggest board game hits ever?

 

“Well, Mary, it was an amazing ride, being in the right place at the right time and a lot of luck! 

 

It all started back in the early 80's when the world was a bigger place and life was a little simpler. We barely had fax machines, international calling was prohibitively expensive and air travel was still a pleasure. Trivial Pursuit was my training ground, surrounded by some of the best and aggressive marketing people. We took the brand worldwide, market by market, contacting journalists via telex (yes telex!) asking if they would be interested in writing for our game as each market had personalized content. Expensive, but something the creators believed was a key point of difference and something I believed was pivotal to our success. We reached out to all featured celebrities/personalities. PR was a huge part of the budget (no twitter/facebook/myspace then) and sampling. It became easier with each new market success, but I spent 8 months of my first year on a plane to every continent but Antarctica. Exciting times for a veteran 29 year old!

 

Pictionary then became the love of my life! After working with Trivial Pursuit for 3 years, Rob Angel, the Pictionary inventor, asked me to become a partner in Pictionary and take it worldwide. I loved every minute of it. From the initial excitement of building another mega-brand with many of my existing worldwide marketing partners as well as becoming best of friends with Rob and our other partner Terry Langston. We had a trust and belief in each other that allowed us to springboard the traditional game into many other facets of business including live action TV game shows, Nintendo/computer versions, confectionery collections and even Las Vegas gambling machines! We believed in marketing, PR, sampling and most of all 3rd party tie-ins where we excelled becoming partners with McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Heineken, Sears, MasterCard/Visa, Air Canada and over 120 other key brands worldwide. I am not sure anyone had done that level of promotion previously and it is something we are proud of today. 

 

We sold our "baby" to Mattel in 2001. Rob, Terry and I are still best friends and are about to have our 25 year Pictionary celebration. I have an attic full of memories that I will enjoy to my dying day. A ride to be savored for sure, and every day as I try to help other companies expand overseas through my consultancy practice, I hope that lightening will strike again – different world, different times, different ride perhaps – but it sure would be fun!”

 

Thank you, Richard, for sharing your story and I hope lightening strikes again!

4 thoughts

  1. Congrats Arlene on a job well done in the US!
    My involvement at Trivial Pursuit was with Horn Abbot International Limited who owned the Trivial Pursuit brand outside North America. As such we ran completely separately from the North American operation and Selchow (who licensed the US rights)- Arlene would probably have worked as a licensee with Randy Gillen and John Hozack at Horn Abbot Ltd in Toronto.
    We hired our own writing teams market by market as we launched the game into over 60 markets and 35 languages in the 80’s worldwide after the initial Canadian success.

  2. I was Director of R&D at Selchow & Righter when we licensed Trivial Pursuit for the U.S. market. As such, my team and I created content for the game, rewriting some but not all of what had been introduced to the Canadian market, i.e. questions re Canadian politicians were replaced with ones re American politicians.
    I don’t recall Mr. Gill’s involvement. Was he with the ad agency? PR agency? He may be referring to his involvement in subsequent editions but that would’ve been well past the initial launch and therefore, post the sale of S&R to Coleco.
    Click on the link to see the article I wrote for Dr. Toy’s site: http://bit.ly/awf212

  3. Lightning definitely struck twice in Richard’s life making me believe that it was far more than good luck that made him successful. This was a very informative snapshot on how much of that “luck” was the direct result of innovation and lots of hardwork.
    Good things come in threes (Ok, along with bad things) so here’s hoping that Richard has at least one more lightning strike in him!

  4. Great story…but what is telex?
    Also I think it was a GREAT idea to get local writers for each different market. I’m sure it contributed to their success. I can’t tell you how often I have to explain the importance of that! I feel like a broken record saying “just because we speak English in the UK and the US doesn’t mean we have the same knowledge base for trivia.”

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