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.

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.

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!

The JWT Holiday House

Earlier this year I held an “Ardiuno/RaspberryPi Challenge” for my office in Dallas. I was looking to inspire engineers to activate and engage their creative sides and I did so by purchasing Raspberry Pis and Arduinos for anyone who signed up to participate. They didn’t disappoint. We wound up with several ideas, a couple of which made in front of clients (and potential clients!) and one which I cherished and latched onto the moment I heard it.

First, a little backstory. I manage Creative Technology, Database/CRM, Reporting, and Analytics disciplines. A majority of which are working out of our Dallas office. So I routinely fly back & forth between Dallas and Atlanta to manage projects, oversee the teams, etc. As you can imagine, any time you’re bridging both a cultural gap (engineers and creatives) and a literal distance gap, you face challenges. We’re always looking for little ways to make that “connection” between the two offices. With that in mind, one of my developers came up with the idea of creating an interactive “greeting card” that could connect two places in a meaningful and engaging way. The minute I heard the idea I said, “Okay, we’re making that. I don’t care how it happens, we’re making it”.

The result? The JWT Holiday House. A raspberry-pi-powered, proximity-detecting, photo-taking, wifi-enabled, Tumblr-posting “Gingerbread House”. Styled after the 8-bit world of “Minecraft”, the accessories and embellishments were fashioned from our 3-D printer, and the house itself was built by the guys and gals in the Dallas office as a holiday season labor of love. Beginning after Thanksgiving, and concluding a week before Christmas, the team threw themselves into cutting, nailing, glueing, soldering, painting, and printing after hours and on the weekends. Once the mayhem was complete, what we had in our possession were two identical holiday houses, one for Atlanta, and a surprise second house that we sent to New York. They were created to be completely turnkey. You unboxed the house, plugged it in, and it powered up, got on the network, and began looking for people to walk in front of it.

When you approached the house, the proximity detector noticed you and played a random, prerecorded Holiday Greeting from someone in Dallas, then once it had your attention, it snapped a quick picture of you, uploaded it to Tumblr, and connected you (your photo) with the person in Dallas who wished you holiday greetings.

It was a tremendous success, the participation and engagement was off the charts. So many people loved the idea and spent a lot of time coming up with hilarious ways to play in front of the camera.

Best of all? It was a truly creative idea that originated and was produced entirely within the “engineering department” of the agency. Agency nerds, normally tasked with banging out code rolled up their sleeves and got in touch with their creative sides. I couldn’t have been more proud.

Media Mentions:
Celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas, Ad-Agency Style (Ad Age)

More of 2013’s Best Agency Holiday Cards (Digiday)