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.

WPP Maestro Executive Leadership Experience

A few weeks ago, I attended WPP’s Executive Leadership course, “Maestro”. I was selected to attend Maestro late last year by the JWT Leadership Committee, made up of our COO, CCO, CFO, and our Head of Talent (that’s a lot of C’s!). I was proud to be selected and looking forward to the opportunity to grow as a leader within both the company, and the network. The experience took place in Norwalk, Connecticut at a retreat nestled back in the woods of Fairfield County in the southern part of the state down by New York City. It’s one of the last stops out of Penn Station and beautiful place. I hadn’t visited the area before so it was a treat.

I don’t wanna bore with all the sordid details of what went on, but I can confirm that there were no secret handshakes or mystic rituals. We spent several days working in small groups on different scenarios, each designed to move us further down the path to becoming a valuable contributor to the process of bringing agency value and trust to the forefront. Here’s a pretty apt description of the experience:

Maestro aims to strengthen the ability of WPP’s best client practitioners to be trusted senior advisors and partners in innovation who are able to build and lead increasingly large, complex relationships. The program enhances problem-solving, fact-based decision making, relationship and people/team leadership skills.

The team they’ve assembled is World Class and the process you go through is transformative. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been able to identify precisely the moment when you feel as though, “this is it, this is something special” and this was definitely one of those times. I’m certain everyone in the program was of sufficient caliber, but I felt like fate had put me in the presence of some of the nicest, smartest, sharpest people I’ve ever been privileged enough to work with. I met, and partnered with, some truly rock-star network advertising talent.

I’ve participated in leadership training before, most notably the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Leadership Grand Strand” Program. This was similar in content but much more focused and direct in practice. Maestro’s sole focus is on increasing value in the client relationship by demonstrating your ability to build trust and partner. As a person who is increasingly working directly with clients (and accounts!) through more visible efforts on larger projects, I’ve got a responsibility to ensure I’m successfully building that trust and strengthening that relationship and this was the perfect “boot camp” to get it done.

I don’t mean to imply that it was confrontational in its approach, but that it was an honest, professional, at times tough, process. Working through confrontation, managing expectations, establishing rapport, and being empathetic are just facts of life and the sooner you can learn to harness that, the more you’re bringing to the table. I appreciate tremendously the opportunity to get into and explore that headspace.

I could go on and on about how much personal growth you can cram into a week, but suffice to say, I can’t think of a time when I’ve been so personally and professionally challenged to push myself in new (and sometimes uncomfortable) ways. But man, do you come out the other side a better person…

Just like my experience with Leadership Grand Strand, the people I met and became friends with are going to wind up being lifelong friends. We’ve already got a standing Skype meeting every month to catch up and I find myself keenly into what all my fellow Maestros are up to.

Here it is the beginning of February and I’ve already had an experience that I think is going to be difficult to top!

JWT Digital Capabilities Reel


We just finished up a digital capabilities video that was used in some creds pieces and some digital business pitches. It was a fun experience and I appreciated being able to boast a little bit about our capabilities. I think we do amazing things here, I’m proud of the team we’ve assembled at JWT. The work is creative, fun, easy going, collaborative, and something to look back on fondly. Have a look, see what we’ve done!

USMC Mobile Website

This week, ahead of schedule and under budget, my team delivered a hugely successful mobile deployment for the United States Marine Corps. A terrific example of powerful teamwork and collaboration, this project represents a continuation of the increasingly complex work we’re doing in mobile. With a mobile display layer that accommodates a huge array of handsets and screens, this one was a nice sized effort that required tremendous oversight and a lot of planning & strategy.

One of the biggest challenges with this project was leveraging the existing CMS for content, while presenting larger, longer-form experiences in smaller, bite-sized chunks. We needed to build over an existing infrastructure, a way to take content that was originally (and optimally) designed for a desktop experience, reduce it in both size and scope, and wrap it in a mobile display layer that still reflected both the brand and a look & feel consistent with the desktop experience.

Mission accomplished. Check out some of the shots below, and make sure you take a look at the website in your mobile device.

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Strategy Hack – A Digital Strategy Hackathon

I just flew back from NYC, spending the day yesterday in the Stack Overflow offices participating in StrategyHack, a hackathon for startups and strategists. It was an amazing experience, and I’m go grateful to the organizers for selecting me and providing me an awesome, awesome opportunity. In true hackathon fashion, we met, drank coffee, brainstormed, strategized, and shipped, all in less than a day.

It had all happened pretty fast. I had applied to participate in StrategyHack around the end of October. I was quickly notified that I was accepted, and began making plans to fly up for the day. It’s a NYC advertising/marketing/startup/technology community focused effort, so everyone else was just getting up early on Saturday and heading into the offices, but the team at StratHack reassured me that I’d be fine flying in, and the only thing I’d miss would be the mixer event last Thursday. That did kinda bum me out because teams were announced, and it would’ve been a great chance to meet the startup I’d be working with and spending some time with my new teammates. But I’d be alright, so I flew in Friday afternoon and flew back Sunday morning, giving me the entire Saturday to participate. Begrudgingly I tried to get a good night’s sleep even though I was staying down in Chelsea, which I think we can both agree, is a great place to be stuck on a Friday night.

I was fortunate enough to draw both a great team and a great startup. The Startup I was paired with was CreativeWorx, makers of the Time management/tracking software “TimeTracker”. I had attended Adobe Max earlier this year, in May, and they were an attendee whose tool piqued my interest because of its integration into CreativeCloud. As a CreativeCloud “Power User”, I was intrigued. The actual person that we were partnered with was Mark Hirsch, CEO of CreativeWorx. He’s an amazingly smart guy with a passion and an idea that you can’t help but get caught up by. He could talk to you about the idea, the business, the competitive landscape, the challenges, the successes… he wasn’t afraid to try new ideas and was completely engaged in the whole process and brought so much to the table.

Joining me in a tight, smart, enthusiastic three-person team to tackle his challenge was Cindi Rosner and Hiroki Murakami. Two terrific teammates who jumped in with both feet and really hit the ground running. By lunchtime we were beginning to understand the challenges that Mark faced, and were starting to gel around a central “theme” or idea. That was right around the time the StrategyHack final presentation requirements went out and we realized we had only a couple of more hours before we had to have a C-suite level presentation ready to go and present to a tough room that wouldn’t hesitate to challenge your assumptions and make sure you were on your toes. It’s time like this that you see first hand that pressure can crush things mercilessly, but also produces diamonds.

As we were walking off after presenting our comprehensive strategic vision concisely eloquently in the supplied six minutes (it goes by fast!) and successfully fielding a few astute questions, I was able to gain further insight into what I picked up from my WALTER experience at SXSW. The “hackathon” process of high pressure, forced focus, with real deadlines and real deliverables, is an entirely appropriate framework for quickly gaining traction among multiple discipline projects. The ability to come together, focus on a problem, engage teams of thought leaders to think outside of comfort zones can really result in great things. As we’re tasked more and more with providing solutions, and those solutions are taking the form of complex ecosystems, the need to explore various iterations of tightly integrated teams becomes more and more important. It’s not enough just to have them in the building. You have to throw them together in ever-increasingly complex combinations. This ensures that you’re actively seeking to find the right combination of spark, timing, insight, inspiration, and enthusiasm. You’ve got the brains and the talent, now cook them in different soups and see what works in pleasantly surprising ways.

Speaking at Digital Hollywood, Fall 2013, Los Angeles, California

Last week, I participated in my second speaking engagement at Digital Hollywood. I had previously spoken there in May, on a panel there to discuss the USMC Youtube brand page and I suppose I must’ve done okay because they invited me back again. This time, I was on another panel, and once again the topic was Youtube. The topic of my Panel was “The Power of YouTube: Unlocking the Power of Programming, Premium Content and Advertising” and it was part of the “strategic sessions” track. I had a fantastic time and was part of an amazingly talented group of panelists. We discussed YouTube channels, business models for success, curation challenges (which I totally owned… that was my sweet-spot!), and the challenges of creating compelling branded content. I had a blast. As the only “big agency” representative on the panel, I was able to offer some unique insights that I felt were well received. The difficult task at a lot of these panel type affairs is to ensure that you’re offering up a nice balance of compelling insights and participation. You don’t want to dominate the conversation, and you certainly don’t want to be a wallflower. The conversation flowed nicely, the moderator was terrific and kept the talk moving along, and the varied expertise of the participants made for a wonderfully eclectic POV on an issue that, quite frankly, not a lot of people have really successfully wrapped their heads around. I was fortunate that I had a good story to tell and an even better case study in effective use of YouTube, and was able to ultimately tie it all back to the topic. Of course, it’s super easy when you’re repping such great work.

The Power of YouTube: Unlocking the Power of Programming, Premium Content and Advertising
The Strategic Sessions – Let’s Get Started!
Monday, October 21st
10:00 AM – 11:15 AM
Digital Hollywood – October 21 – 24th
Michael Chiang, VP of Platforms, Break Media
Jeff Small, Director of Creative Technology / JWT Atlanta
Michelle Sullivan, VP, Digital, Kids & Family, National Geographic
Evan Bregman, Director of Digital Media, Electus
Alex Jacobs, Vice President of Social, Digitas
Paul Snow, Manager, TV and Film Content Partnerships, YouTube
Sharalyn Hartwell, Executive Director, Magid Generational Strategies™, Moderator

Adweek 2013

I recently attended Adweek 2013 in NYC. I was up to support our CCO, Perry Fair, who was speaking on a panel about our SXSW effort earlier this year, WALTER. I saw tons of great panels, met a boatload of nice people, and had a great experience. I think it’s fair to say that “Data is the new Social” and by that I mean, every conversation was about data. Security, storage, analytics, mining, leveraging. You name it and there’s a “buzzverb” associated with it.

I’ve been talking for a while about what I think I like to call a “data education” among the more traditional (non-digital, or “digitally challenged”) folks, account management teams, creative teams, etc. I think there’s a real opportunity to begin to institute a broader awareness of what digital means with respect to data and why there’s never a wrong time to begin looking at strategies that take advantage and leverage data opportunities. I love the idea of “dog whistle” terms, and using them as springboards for conversation. I would even propose moving upstream and rather than focus on things like, “testing”, and “analytics”, I would latch on to phrases like, “what if?” or “how could we?” which lend themselves to talking about measurement, accountability, and proving hypotheses. Once you begin having those conversations, the world opens up!

So everyone at Adweek was jumping on that bandwagon and I think the realization was that data and advertising are all grown up. It’s no longer a conversation happening in the nerdier corners of the agency. The stuff we’re creating is helping shape our understanding of their audience’s consumption habit, channel preferences, and it helps you locate that elusive sweet spot where your context means everything.

Outside of AdvertisingWeek, the highlight for me was “Stand-Up Live” at the Gotham Comedy Club (love that name!) featuring Amy Schumer. I’m a HUGE fan of her show on Comedy Central and her recent appearances on the Comedy Central Friars Club Roasts. We were fortunate enough to get some tickets and were able to get into the show, which was a feat unto itself. The place is SMALL, I think there were barely 200 people in there, and I was about 20 feet away for one of the best stand-up shows I’ve ever seen.

I love these trips. A lot of times you genuinely learn things and anytime you can couple that with the reassurance that your head’s in the right place, and you’re having the right conversations about the right topics.

Pennzoil Fuel Calculator

How do you demonstrate the value of switching to Pennzoil? How do you take a bunch of car data, mash it up with fuel efficiency formulas and communicate (effectively and in an engaging way!) why you should switch to Pennzoil? How do you show, in a tangible way, what those savings represent?

This week, my team launched a Pennzoil Fuel Calculator on Pennzoil.com. I was once again completely blown away by the work my Creative Technology group did on such a fantastic jQuery parallax calculator experience. The Pennzoil Creative team knocked it out of the park with their design work and guidance, and we were able to pick up on their vision and make it a reality. I personally enjoyed watching what happens when you sit creative down at the desk next to developers and get out of the way. Remember, the cleanest lines of communication are the shortest. Put the guy (or gal!) building it next to the guy (or gal!) whose idea it is to build it, and you get sweet, sweet results.

Xbox Branded Destination Experience

We recently launched the United States Marine Corps Branded Destination Experience (BDE) on Xbox Live. A first of its kind experience on Xbox that utilizes the newest feature of the Xbox User Interface, built in Internet Explorer 9 capabilities. Working closely with Microsoft engineers, we were able to begin building this groundbreaking Xbox experience early enough to be able to take advantage of the new feature immediately at launch, capitalizing on the equity of the buzz around the newest features of the UI. This also allowed us to begin to capture lead information on the Xbox, putting us squarely in our audiences’ lives and putting a fantastically appropriate, contextually relevant opportunity for our primary Call to Action, putting those hand-raisers in front of recruiters.

You find your own rewards… sometimes without even looking.

The last week  has been really rewarding. It’s Friday and as I look back on the week, I realize events that were merely “to-do” items on my agenda turned out to be the highlights of my week. Not the place you expected to find yourself on a Friday afternoon, but certainly a place you’ll enjoy.

On Wednesday, I hosted a “lunch and learn” at work. I love my job and one of the best parts about it is all the great technology I’m constantly exposed to. An even better part of it is that I love sharing it within the context of actually showing people how it can make their lives easier, make their work easier, make their jobs easier, and basically help them realize that often lofty goal of technology, “to improve your life”. Too often, and I’m even guilty of it too, you think, “oh, this is just too much. There’s too much out there and I can’t ever keep up” and so I’m always on the lookout for ways that technology and software can facilitate making my day to day life a little easier. Once I find them, and I learn and use them, I become an evangelist of sorts and I’m always eager to share. Wednesday was one of those days. I sent an email out to everyone at work and basically said, “hey, I’ve discovered a bunch of great, useful tools that I’m finding myself using and getting a lot of value from and if you’re interested, I’d love to eat a sandwich in the front meeting room, get on the big screen, and share some of them because I think you’ll dig ’em too.” I wasn’t sure who would show up (if anyone) but lo, and behold, I had a nice crowd! We spent the hour eating, sharing, talking, and I walked out of the lunch thinking, “wow, that was more awesome than I anticipated, and I think everyone got something great out of it!”

Then, this morning, I had a meeting scheduled to sit down with a room full of Realtors and show them how to use their CRM software to use some email templates we had created for them to more effectively market to their customers and prospects. I wasn’t sure, walking into the room, what to expect, and knowing that my audience wasn’t as “technical” (in other words, they weren’t database nerds who actually got excited about working in a robust CRM) as I was, I have to admit, I was a little nervous about the outcome. I don’t know what it was, either I love to hear myself talk (well, we all know that’s totally the case) or they were really in tune with what I was laying down, but we all really clicked as a room and it quickly turned into a really rewarding, collaborative meeting. Lots of energy, lots of enthusiasm, and again, I walked out of there thinking, “wow, that turned out way better than I had anticipated!”.

So it was, I had two rather non-eventful events planned on my schedule that I wasn’t expecting so much out of, turn out to be some of the best work moments of the week. I wasn’t programming. I wasn’t creating anything, or hitting a deadline, or managing a project. I was just sitting with some people, sharing solutions, engaging in some back and forth, and walking away feeling as if both sides got way more out of it than they thought they’d get going into it.

That’s some pretty rewarding work… cleverly disguised as “to-do” items on a calendar.