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!