Simplicity Wins: Talley Hultgren, Chief Strategy Officer, Chemistry

At Chemistry curiosity rules – we have the freedom to develop hand-crafted strategic solutions.

Talley Hultgren
Chief Brand Strategy Officer Chemistry

Describe your job to us, what is your title and what do you do exactly?

I am the Chief Brand Strategy Officer at full-service advertising agency Chemistry. My fellow “Chemists” and I have the joy of exploring, dissecting and reimagining the underlying problems, passions, motivations, hopes, and dreams that fuel consumer and brand relationships. We get to study cultures (social and corporate); talk to people about what they think, feel, and believe; and hunt for diamonds of insight buried deep in data. Storytelling is our medium – mostly love stories between brands and their tribes, but occasionally it gets dark on tough subjects.  Are you jealous yet?


Tell us about working in strategy, what are the challenges?

So much data and doubt!  (said with a GIANT smile in my voice!)

At Chemistry, we think of ourselves as Maker-Strategists – we are in a constant state of evolution, co-creation and invention.  We blow shit up then put it back together with a fresh lens. We are humble, curious and dissatisfied.  There’s ALWAYS another way to examine the problem you are trying to solve.  Maker-Strategists must be comfortable with going back to the well again and again in search of the magic – that twist of an insight that flips the problem on its head and produces the best jumping off point.  Our greatest challenge is knowing when to stop.  Second greatest challenge is overcomplicating it. Simplicity wins.


What do you enjoy most about being a strategist?

No two days are the same.  No two client problems are the same.  At Chemistry curiosity rules – we have the freedom to develop hand-crafted strategic solutions.  We’re a lab for heaven’s sake – we live to do something we’ve never done before and that’s a blast!  We are anti-rinse-and-repeat.  There’s never a dull or boring moment.  I mean, I get to ask WHY for a living. That’s pretty cool.


What did you do before your current role and what led you to where you are now?

I’ve always been an ad nerd.  I started my career as an account manager working with some of the best strategic minds in the business – shout out to Sue Manber, Kate Roeske-Zummer, Joan Dufresne, Nicola Bell, Tony Wright, and Scott Hagedorn.  All crazy smart, crazy lovely people who taught me so much.  After I moved “home” to Atlanta, my account manager role morphed into that of planner over time – it was a natural progression that just made sense given my strengths, interests, and experience.  Passion, determination, incredibly hard work and a sense of humor led me to where I am now.  


If I’m entering the industry and I want to move into the strategy/planning space, what steps should I take?

Once you are in the door at an agency bring insights to the table – on consumer, culture, brand.  Help your team think in new ways or consider a different point of view. Any role can lead to planning if you are a curious, problem-solver that can passionately tell a story – verbally and visually.  Great planners are creative analysts that love to work both sides of the brain.  Once you’ve decided that planning is your passion, the Miami Ad School’s Strategic Planning Boot Camp is great program for sharpening your skills. 


Do you have a dream account or brand you’d like to work on? Which one?

Our hometown brand Coca-Cola. It’s a career-long dream.


Is there a piece of work you’re most proud of? What about it is special to you?

Unfair!  I can’t choose amongst the children!  I have a soft spot in my heart for all the brands Chemistry has the great good fortune to partner with.  Each has its own special opportunity and it feels AMAZING when we help brand teams knock it out of the park.  So, the truth is, whatever I ‘m working on right now is my favorite.  That said, all of us at Chemistry are pretty proud of the work we did to launch Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United team.


What is your favorite ad of all time? Why?

McCann NY’s Fearless Girl for State Street Global Advisors – hands down, no question.  BRILLIANT! GENIUS!  I love it so much it hurts.  It’s an unexpected, emotional piece of work that taped into a cultural moment and ignited conversation.