Presenting US Navy Recruiting at VML’s Annual Meeting

Last week, Captain Dave Bouve and I had the immense pleasure of jointly presenting some of the amazing work that VML has produced as a partner in The Navy Partnership at this year’s VML Annual Meeting. How we’re working with our great WPP partners to reach a new audience and introduce them to the US Navy’s unique form of National Service. It was an honor to stand on stage with the Captain and show off the amazing work our collective team has done. I couldn’t have been more proud of the team we’ve assembled.

This was a really fun afternoon. This was my second Annual meeting since joining VML and it was a great experience. Yours truly walks out around 9:17 and gets a chance to humblebrag on all the great stuff we’ve been able to work on with the Partnership. Captain was great, really knocked it out of the park. I was nervous… big audience… no pressure… but it wound up going off pretty much without a hitch!

As a bonus, I was honored to be awarded the VML Spark Award for Atlanta! It was completely unexpected and I was blown away when they started reading the winner’s bio… Podcast? Comic Books? Wait a minute… Great stuff and I have tremendous gratitude for all of the opportunities the VML has provided for me and was humbled beyond belief by the award. It was the topping to an amazing day.

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!]
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.

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.

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!

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.