What do you think might significantly change about advertising in the next five years?
Running a business is just not the same as it has been and there have been hugely significant changes in the past five years since I relocated to Chicago. We see less and less traditional media plans; a new media platform emerges practically weekly. We need to think about how we approach our client’s marketing differently. I can’t predict exactly what things will look like, but it’s definitely not the traditional radio spot, TV spot, banner ad, or website update; that’s just “block and tackle” advertising for many clients now. For some businesses, these are still relevant, but we are now thinking very differently. What does a company want to stand for and how can they activate against it? The latest Morton Salt initiative, a collaboration with OK Go, is a great example of what brands should be doing more of that resonate.
Do you think that agency work is in danger due to the constantly changing marketing world?
Yes and no. Agencies will be in danger if they don’t change to meet the client’s needs and expectations. You need great creatives who can think differently, but — more importantly — the model needs to change so creatives can do their best work. How do we really support them so that the makers can do the making and not get stopped or blocked by internal processes? Operationally, “we” are moving too slow. Some are better than others, but it is company leaders’ jobs to evolve. We need to be more nimble and also get rid of all the barriers that cause delays: scoping, budgets, old timelines… these are some of the things that slow us down.
Established clients need to change, too. We need to set ourselves up so, when the creatives have an idea (and the client loves it), we can execute fast and well. I think that is the most important thing. Everything is on-demand and NOW. If we — both client and agency — can bend, I think we’ll be okay. That trusted partnership can generate amazing things!
Could you talk about your clients and what keeps them up at night?
The most common issue or worry I see is when they believe they don’t have anything new to talk about, nothing innovative in the pipeline to tout. They worry if they don’t have anything new that can ‘beat the competition’ they will fall to the wayside. But agencies see this as a beautiful opportunity because we are forced to communicate in a different way. We can speak on a higher, more emotional level about the brand. We love this kind of challenge and, usually, the result is better work that delivers better results in terms of brand affinity and purchase intent. It’s what we call a “happy constraint.”
What is your opinion about AI and automation and how this might affect the industry?
Initially my reaction to this is: “Oh, great. No one is going to have a job and AI will take over.” Of course, this is not true. Having tools like AI is going to make us more informed and give us more data. But what do you do with that data? At the end of the day, advertising and brand communication need to stay in the emotional space so we’re always going to need creative thinkers.
What would you recommend students pay attention to that might be useful in their future careers?
If you are going to be in marketing and advertising, it is really important to pay attention to what is going on in the world: read the paper, read books, watch TV. Know politics and what is going on in the non-profit world. People are really looking for brands that can leverage current events or the current state-of-mind; find a unique place to live and be relevant within that place.
Brands need to stand for something and, if you can marry that up with a value that is important to people, your brand is going to mean a lot more. But it should not be fake. It should be authentic. Everyone can smell a fake sentiment and that will be detrimental. What is a social zeitgeist you can push up against? We need to think more psychographically versus demographically. This is not a new concept, but an all-important one.
Interview by Victor Yakovlev, Medill IMC Class Of 2017