This interview focuses on the Corporate Innovation strategy of a major advertising agency as it navigates the challenges of a rapidly changing consumer engagement landscape.
Sramana Mitra: As an introduction, tell us a bit about your focus, philosophy, or overall thinking at TBWA/Chiat/Day these days vis-a-vis innovation.
John Deschner: I have an interesting role that was purposely designed to be both an innovation role and a more central traditional role in the agency. I’m both the Chief Innovation Officer and Managing Director. For most large creative agencies, the focus is really on transformation. A lot of it is a struggle to stay useful, relevant, and a couple of steps ahead of our client’s needs. The best way is to utilize the platforms and media channels that have exploded over the last 10 years.
Sramana Mitra: Can you isolate the different trends that you’re seeing in the advertising industry that you need to be particularly mindful about and that you need strategies around?
John Deschner: Mostly they’re pulling in the same direction. There are some that are offsetting. The biggest trends for people who care about consumer’s attention is that consumer’s attention is much more fractured and has been getting so since 1998 or so when we all started getting dial-up lines. Then it exploded with the introduction of the iPhone. That’s the biggest trend. People seem to continually add media time to their day without necessarily subtracting platforms. What that tells us is they’re probably doing two or three things simultaneously.
The luxury of the middle of the show, which we could reliably say that 35 million people are going to watch, we got 30 seconds with you. Unless you took a bathroom break, we’re pretty sure we had some legitimate percentage of your attention. No serialized show and even very few live events pull that kind of consistent viewing. The moment that people are less interested, they have one, if not two, other screens they can turn to. Sometimes, that’s supplementing their actions. Sometimes it’s purely interruptive.
That’s something that companies who are used to making iconic, coherent, creative statements are still adjusting to. We have to pull five interactions in six-second intervals or maybe 30 in one-second intervals. That means that our strategy and our creative output has to be fundamentally different. We have to be much smarter about the media landscape. The things that we would do on Snapchat are fundamentally different than the things that we do on Instagram. That just means that we got to be better at a broader spectrum of things.
We’ve got to be better at triangulating people as opposed to just getting a chunk of their attention. Beyond that, even when I got into advertising 15 years ago, there were a bunch of big agencies, but it was a pretty reliable list. Then there were some upstarts who were pushing in. Now there are hundreds and thousands of possibilities for a brand. They’re sampling a lot of them which translates into some really interesting opportunities, but also translates into less money. We have to adjust to that. We have to be better at more things at the same time but with fewer overall client dollars pushed our way.