Sea Story Podcast by America’s Navy

Sea Story Podcast by America's Navy
Sea Story is an ongoing series that brings you extraordinary tales of action, danger, and adventure—all directly told by the real Navy Sailors who’ve lived them. Sea Story is an official podcast of America’s Navy. [Click to Listen!]
For the last year or so I’ve been working as the agency lead for VML as a member of “The Navy Partnership”. A group of agencies that collectively support the United States Navy’s recruit advertising and marketing program. As part of group representing and supporting efforts across digital platforms, one of the things I’m tasked with working on is bringing innovation to one of the oldest institutions in the United States, literally pre-dating the formation of the country (October 13, 1775… if you’re interested).

One of the oldest traditions among sailors is the telling of “Sea Stories”. Those legendary tales told by sailors since the earliest days of sailing the oceans of the world. Every sailor has a sea story and if they say they don’t, they’re lying… or they’re just avoiding telling you something that they probably only share with other sailors. Bringing this time-honored tradition into the twenty-first century provided an opportunity that perfectly blended audience, content, and innovation and resulted in one of the most successful launches in recent memory… the Sea Story Podcast. 

By having real sailors tell true stories of adventure and drama, we allowed the men and women of the Navy to share what life is like aboard ship, overseas, and under the oceans in the most authentic way possible. 

The response has been overwhelming. Within the first month, Apple selected “Sea Story” for its “New and Noteworthy” promotional section within its podcast app, driving organic attention and resulting in huge audience numbers. Engagement, listens, likes and shares far exceeded expectations and everyone who listened became hooked. 

Give it a listen, subscribe, download and enjoy hearing from real sailors in the fleet what it’s like to live the life of a sailor in the world’s greatest Navy.

America’s Navy 2016 Army / Navy Game Facebook Live “Midshipmen March to the Stadium”

In an organization steeped in tradition, few resonate as deeply as the Midshipmen March to the Stadium, the annual tradition of marching United States Naval Academy Midshipmen to take their place inside the stadium for the game. It’s a spectacular sight and nothing galvanizes the worldwide Navy audience faster than the first appearance of the Midshipmen of Annapolis at the start of one of the most watched college football games of the year.

At the 2016 Army Navy Game, the 117th meeting between the Army Black Knights and the Navy Midshipmen, we deployed a team in a realtime social command center with video & photography support as well as live community management. The team embedded themselves within the atmosphere of the game, providing up to the minute activity across the Navy’s social channels. Engaging at times with over ten times the volume of social activity during the course of the day and generating high performing content.

The flexibility of the lean, agile team allowed for spontaneous content capture enabling us to respond in realtime. The US Navy’s first Facebook live broadcast of the march to the stadium generated over 280,000 views, 3,100 shares and 11,000 “reactions” over the course of its fifteen minutes.

Capital One Café

Over the late winter and spring of 2016 I was fortunate enough to work on an amazing opportunity to help Capital One reimagine their retail banking business through a combination of rich digital user experience and incredible in-store display technology. When Cap One acquired ING, they also got a handful of cafes in the deal. ING, not being a traditional banking institution, had begun using cafes for their retail banking business. When Capital One looked closely, they discovered that the cafes were doing extraordinarily well. This led to them expanding the cafe program and turning it into a National Expansion.

This is where we were brought in.

Realizing that there was a real opportunity here to create something truly groundbreaking, Huge and Capital One partnered together on the overhaul of their retail cafe customer experience. Through a combination of hardware and platform partnerships, Huge brought strategic creative and UX insight to bear along with creative technology, to design and develop a first-of-its-kind retail banking experience. High definition touch-enabled signage, synchronized messaging, day-parted content that included games and quizzes about financial topics… even the ability to call a customer service representative over for assistance on a topic. This was banking reimagined. Probably one of the most successful projects I’ve been involved with. 

Huge Cafe Atlanta

I had such a great time working on this, I can’t even begin to tell you how much I enjoyed this project. Apple Watch? Check. Anticipatory Mobile App? Check. Coffee? Double check! One of the things that I believe is (or should be) on everyone’s bucket list is a chance to create something that’s never been done before. This was my opportunity to check that off mine. Richly rewarding, amazingly collaborative… and let’s be honest, cool as hell. This is why I love doing what I do.

At the time, it was such a radical idea: An agency opening up a coffee shop. In hindsight it seems like such a no-brainer. Where else were we going to “eat our own dog-food”? If we’re going to pitch our expertise, what better way to do it than by seeing it being done in the real world? Creating an anticipatory experience using the Apple Watch was one thing, building a solid business case for the watch was the real win. By building a service layer on top of the cafe’s POS system that integrated the watch directly, we empowered baristas and enabled seamless integration with our customers’ cafe experience.

Along the way we got to eat a lot of delicious dog-food. 

Speaking at Digital Summit Denver

Digital Summit Denver
The Data Ramifications of Everything Talking to Everything – Digital Summit Denver – June, 2015

Last week I spoke in Denver at Digital Summit Denver, a three day digital marketing conference. I’ve spoken at the same conference in Atlanta last year, and had submitted a topic for this year’s Atlanta conference, but was asked if I’d like to present my topic in Denver a month or so later. Having never been to Denver, I was all about it!

My topic was, “The Data Ramifications of Everything Talking to Everything”. I’ve become increasingly interested in the data solution opportunities around ambient computing and the “Internet of Things”. The more work I do with “making things smarter”, creating “networks of things”, and designing & delivering “intelligent experiences”, the more I look forward to digging into the data and using it to inform & shape the project. So this is a really fun topic for me that I really love talking about with some enthusiasm.

Keeping in mind that the audience is mostly a marketing and advertising audience and NOT a room full of data scientist, I like to keep it technical enough to have some substance, and light enough that it’s an accessible and engaging talk. I want everyone else to enjoy it as much as I do and get excited about it the way I tend to get when I talk about it. I broke it into three large sections. In the first section I talked a bit about the background of what the Internet of Things was all about and about how broad the category can be, application-wise. Then I moved on try and give a little context about just how MUCH data we’re talking about here and what that data may potentially look like. A lot of times it’s not “data” in the sense that we’re used to and the challenge are around the Velocity, Volume, and Variety issues. I wanted to try and help frame the data discussion. I closed with wrapping it all up in a nice package of opportunities and tried to introduce the idea of “Anticipatory Experiences”. As data empowers smarter decisions and the tapestry of “what we know” becomes richer, the nuances of the perfectly crafted experience are easier and easier to envision.

The conference was terrific. I really enjoyed attending other sessions, there were a lot of great topics and a host of great speakers spread over the two days.

Happily, I got a lot of great feedback on social media and on the way out after my talk. I’ve already sort of taken my talk and stewed over it a bit and cooked up a “version 2.0” that I think addresses more of the “anticipatory experiences” up front. I feel strongly that we’re moving towards an “informed, anticipatory experience building” future (at least my side of advertising, the technology side) and the better vision we collectively have about how data “works” for these projects, the more successful we’ll all be.

Speaking on UX and Creative Technology at Digital Summit Atlanta 2014

Speaking on UX and Creative Technology at Digital Summit Atlanta 2014.
Speaking on UX and Creative Technology at Digital Summit Atlanta 2014.
This week I participated in a workshop at Digital Summit Atlanta 2014 with our Lead UX Designer on the intersection of User Experience and Creative Technology. We were thrown together in a bit of a last minute way, and immediately had this terrific idea that sprang from a conversation we were having about how many ways Creative Technology and User Experience can work together throughout a project and how impactful that working relationship can be. Chris Downs, our lead UX guy and I worked together on the United States Marine Corps YouTube Brand Channel, which was a really successful project and was really our first time working together, so we both tended to look back on it fondly, and could easily fill 50 minutes talking about all the ways User Experience and Creative Technology can work together to deliver amazing results. So the resulting presentation and session was terrific, I really enjoyed it and had a great time presenting with Chris.

We broke the relationship between user experience and innovative uses of creative technology by presenting the idea within the context of best in class examples of technology and innovation that are largely driven by the successful relationship between CT and UX. We chose Flip, Nest, Nike Fuelband, Evernote, Gmail, and Amazon. In each case we began by looking at the challenge(s) they faced, how UX & CT could work together to solve the issue, and what those processes could look like. We discussed examples of card sorting, customer experience audits, working scenarios, etc. I had a blast putting it together and enjoyed tremendously the opportunity to present it at Digital Summit Atlanta. The crowd was terrific, asked great questions, and several people came up afterward for extended conversations.

The presentation was so well received that we’re repurposing it for an internal audience and plan on giving it at an upcoming “What’s Hot” presentation on Monday mornings.

Pennzoil Mario Karting Reimagined

UPDATE: Proud of this one being chosen by AdWeek as the 2014 Media Plan of the Year.

One of the greatest things you can do as a Creative Technology force within an agency is to be able to help shape a new experience. Something nobody has done before, or attempted to do maybe on a nice scale. The opportunity to marry technology know-how with strategic, creative excellence is what you live for.

Pennzoil wanted to launch a new product and gain the attention of younger, more technically savvy audience with a new take on Motor Oil. It’s Motor Oil Reimagined, and what better way to reimagine a product launch than to take a decades old brand and place them squarely in the middle of the most innovative place on earth, SXSW. Not only that, but tell the story of their new Synthetic Motor Oil, born from gas and developed using all new technology… all the while being relevant and exciting.

The answer of course, is Mario Karting… reimagined!

The fun part for me was being a part of a great spontaneous conversation that could easily be walked from brilliant idea, to technically feasible, to fully fleshed out project that was able to be sold and put together in the most inspirationally tight timeline possible. I was able to create a technical roadmap, identify & vet technologies, and work with several different teams to help put together a solution that was an amazing experience for all involved. All this in addition to leading the team that provided a fantastic job of supporting the launch and Mario Kart experience with a tightly integrated, multi-platform, responsive website that successfully leveraged the look and feel of both Pennzoil Platinum and Nintendo’s Mario Kart 8 while living inside the current Pennzoil design. Once again, my team crushed it and I couldn’t be happier.

A trip to Seattle, a couple of days with the Marine Corps & Microsoft, and a day on Whidbey Island.

Whidbey Panorama
A panoramic view of Whidbey Island. Standing on the beach in Langley looking east. Camano Island across the water.

I’m on the plane heading back from Seattle after finally scoring an upgrade on a cross-country flight, so I’m relaxed, in a good mood, and reflecting on a pretty awesome past couple of days. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to attend a couple of days with our Marine Corps client, our media partners, and several different disciplines within Microsoft. We spent yesterday on the Microsoft Campus in Bellevue with several members of the advertising team, the Xbox team, and a few different groups within the Kinect team. Today we were lucky to get some time before we took off for the airport with the Skype team and had a really great discussion around the possibilities of their platform. Lots of great conversation, great ideas, and great technology. It’s tremendously rewarding to have chances like this to sit around a table with incredibly smart, enthusiastic, passionate people who love what they do and spend an afternoon brainstorming ways to make something better. To make an experience better. To make a process better. To work on something that’s already good, and make it great.

I know the specs are out there, and anyone can see on paper how much of an improvement the v2 Kinect (The Kinect on the Xbox One) is over the v1 (360), but witnessing a presentation and seeing some pretty compelling demonstrations of it up close, is another thing entirely. The increase in resolution and camera/microphone capability, plus the leaps in software development have enabled the former “Natal Project” to begin to realize its potential as a game changing User Interface. Microsoft is one of the leaders in Human-Computer Interaction research – Natural User Interface (NUI) is something they’ve spent a lot of time looking into – and the things they were able to demonstrate beyond gaming are amazing to see. I was completely blown away by some of the ways the technology is being used.

In addition to the time spent with Microsoft, we had a really great time with the Marines. It was a real pleasure to have a chance to spend some time with Maj General Brilakis & Lt Col Hernandez and their respective teams, and hear firsthand how the work you’re doing is impacting the challenges that go hand in hand with recruiting the best & brightest and turning them into Marines. We had an absolutely amazing dinner on Lake Union and were able to continue our conversation about technology, recruiting, advertising. We were even able to swap some stories and I learned what everyone’s first car was! I hadn’t thought about that Mustang in years!

Deception Pass Bridge
Deception Pass looking south, towards Oak Harbor and Whidbey Island.

Without a doubt, one of the highlights of the trip for me, was a chance to spend a day driving up to Oak Harbor and Deception Pass. I haven’t been back there in years, and it turned out that Sunday was the ceremonial, “first beautiful day of the year” with a 70 degree day and not a cloud in sight. My friend/co-worker Dave and I made it to Mukilteo in time to catch the 9:30 ferry over to the island and got to Langley just in time to grab an incredible breakfast at The Braeburn Restaurant before making our way up the Island. After spending some time wandering around the park at Deception Pass we headed back south to Oak Harbor. I made Dave drive the long way around so I could snake back through “downtown” and was pleased to see that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Downtown Oak Harbor still looked exactly the way I remembered it. We stopped at Seabolt’s Smokehouse, grabbed some lunch (again, with the crab) and I made sure not to leave without getting a gift box of Seabolt’s Smoked Salmon to take back to the ATL. A gift I’ll be sure and pass along to myself for a job (some job… any job) well done!

All in all, a really great trip. Both professionally, and personally, this was one that I really enjoyed and can look back on and really soak in what I was able to see, and discuss, and think about. These things cram a lot into a few days, but I have no doubt that I was sufficiently inspired to go out and make cool shit. Lots of cool, cool shit.

Adobe Marketing Summit 2014 and an Evening with Vampire Weekend

Salt Lake City
A panoramic view of Salt Lake City, Utah

I was in Salt Lake City last week for the Adobe Summit, their annual Marketing Cloud gathering. I’ve attended over a dozen Max Conferences, which cover the Creative Cloud portion of the business, but this was my first experience at the other side of the equation. I’m looking at working in Adobe Experience Manager over the next twelve months so I was looking forward to digging into some of the new features of their platforms. I wasn’t disappointed.

The theme of the conference this year was “Reinventing Marketing” and both of the General Sessions (Tuesday and Wednesday) were great platforms to demonstrate not only what reinvention looks like, but how Adobe’s suite of tools are leading the way. With a host of new features focused on customers and their various interactions all along the funnel, it’s clear that the future of CRM/Media/Social/Analytics/Marketing/Content is all becoming one “cloudy” ecosystem of interlocking tools that are allowing marketers to gain insight in ways not previously seen.

With the ability to do advanced real-time audience profiling, predictive marketing mix planning, and technology that seamlessly manages content across the Web and mobile apps, the Adobe Marketing Cloud is growing into a compelling suite of tools. Most of the sessions I sat in on were focused on Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) and it’s clear that this is the centerpiece of the collection. The latest release of AEM has a nice list of new features that will go a long way towards realizing the “reinvention of marketing”. Language Translation, Content Insight, App Authoring, Digital Asset Management, Unified Moderation, and (for me) the most interesting of the bunch, a tag language that can create HTML assets at runtime from Data pulled from the server. Really interesting stuff. As someone who was new to the platform, I was quite blown away.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an Adobe event without the “Adobe Bash” and this year didn’t disappoint. I’ll leave you with a couple of things. First, Adobe is obviously making all the right moves. They’re centralizing a realtime engine for digital marketing and it’s pretty epic. Secondly, there’s no greater band on earth than Vampire Weekend.

Walk With The Data – JWT Data Capabilities Case Study

This was great. In my role as Director of Creative Technology and Marketing Science at JWT, I oversee one of the largest data-driven advertising solutions around. The United States Marine Corps has been recruiting young men and women to serve for over 235 years and JWT has been helping them do it by building an incredibly complex and robust customer relationship management system. Combined with our Planning, Research, and Strategy disciplines, we arm the Marine Corps with insight and a deep understanding of their audience and their behaviors. In order to demonstrate this expertise and what a unique offering and skill JWT has as a result of this background, we created a sizzle reel about data.

Yeah, you heard me right, “we created a sizzle reel about data”… and it’s pretty fucking sweet.

Take a look and check out what it looks like when an advertising agency REALLY does data smartly.