ONLINE ALL STARS For Creative Announced
All of our Online All Stars will be honored at a reception in New York on Sept. 24 , the first day of the OMMA Conference and Expo.
Ego-less Idea Man
Senior vice president of creative services and account planning, T3
When Jay Suhr left a prestigious position at Ogilvy & Mather in 1999, he did it because he wanted to become executive creative director at a firm with, as he put it, "massive potential." He found his place in T3, an ad agency, marketing consultancy, and idea shop based in Austin, Texas.
Since his arrival, the company has rocketed from fewer than 50 employees to nearly 250, with offices on both coasts and a client roster that includes Chase, The Wall Street Journal and UPS.
But all of these accomplishments haven't gone to his head. "He's one of the most ego-less people I've ever met in this industry," says Gay Gaddis, president and CEO of T3. "That's what he teaches his teams. He lets the idea win. It doesn't matter where it came from or who did it."
Ideas that win keep T3 working for clients as diverse as JCPenney and John Deere. A large-format ad for Universal Orlando won recognition at this year's Ad:Tech; the expandable ad unit had the highest conversion rate of any creative in the campaign. A Times Square installation for Dell in July showcased real small businesses; the following day, metrics showed that those businesses had gotten consumers' attention nationwide.
One of T3's most notable projects this year was its interactive work for The Wall Street Journal's campaign: "Every journey needs a Journal," which featured the life stories of celebrities such as chef Alice Waters, the founder of Edible Schoolyard, and economist Steven Levitt, the author of "Freakonomics."
"The New York creative team took a look at that and said, 'We can do more with this online,'" Suhr says. "They recognized that the subjects were fascinating in and of themselves, and that digital media allowed for interviews--for getting their personalities in a way that you can't really get in a print ad."
Gaddis says that part of what makes Suhr so effective is his dual background in traditional and new media. He understands both, and he puts a lot of thought into how each element can be used to reach consumers.
"You still have this leap of faith that has always existed in advertising and marketing, which says, you don't always know what's going on in people's heads," Suhr says. "But if you can speak to each as an individual rather than a consumer group, you can build a relationship there."
A Natural Curator
Executive vice president, chief creative officer, R/GA North America
Before finding his way to the interactive world, Nick Law studied graphic design. He worked for a small packaging firm, a corporate-identity titan (London's Pentagram) and traditional ad shops (notably D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles). He toiled on a range of global brands--everything from Arthur Andersen to Eastman Kodak.
But don't call the Sydney-born Law a dabbler. Rather, view him as one of the leaders of a new generation of interactive executives, a generation which views facility with multiple disciplines as a huge benefit, rather than a mere bonus.
Law's versatility has proven quite valuable as R/GA navigates the ever-broadening interactive business.
"The industry has become this big blur of different types of agencies that didn't exist five, ten years ago," he says. "Everybody used to have discrete responsibilities within the marketing niche. Now, we're coming across PR companies that do creative industrial design."
R/GA has responded to the evolving environment better than most. Never mind the awards and similar trinkets that agencies point to as cold, hard evidence of their recent success. Law hopes that R/GA's work and longstanding client relationships speak for themselves.
The firm has been Nike's top gun in the interactive space for some time, and has scored in recent months with programs for Nokia and Verizon. R/GA presented the former as an entertainment brand, devising a wildly clever campaign that allowed users to place themselves in a mini-action movie.
"The challenge is to take a brand and show how it can come alive in the broadband space," Law says. "What we did with Verizon is a good example of how we work."
R/GA started out with both creative and tech people at the table. "It's very different from the traditional model, where the tech comes charging in at the very end."
That collaborative spirit--which Law refers to as "creative intimacy"--is what he believes distinguishes R/GA from the competition. Asked about the most crucial parts of his job, he quickly cites "curating creative teams. The right mix for the right project. If we don't get that set right away, it's hard to correct it later on."
Law's peers believe his leadership skills equal his creative ones. "Certainly if you spend more than ten minutes with Nick, you'll realize he's creatively animated," says Kevin Swanepoel, president of The One Club. "He can capture and hold a large group's attention with a click of his finger. He has a natural leadership quality to him."
Law is uncertain about his professional future. "Things will have changed sufficiently so that I wouldn't recognize my current job," he ponders. "We must keep asking the question, 'What does the consumer want?' It's not about what we want or what will be fun to do or what will get us out to L.A. to do some shooting." He adds, "although that last part wouldn't be too bad."
The Time Traveler
Executive creative director, Tribal DDB, San Francisco
For over a decade, Dorian Sweet has been at the very edge of next-gen site design and brand-building online, yet he is very much a student of history and his own past media experiences.
"I have been programmed for advertising from an early age," says Tribal ddb's executive creative director. "I have been remembering jingles and tag lines since I was four."
In his award-winning destinations and ad campaigns for Discovery Networks, Motorola, Kodak, and 20th Century Fox, Sweet demonstrates this lifelong appreciation for how big brands get into our heads and become part of our experience.
This past year, at sites like the new Clorox.com and Glad Press'n Seal-1000 Uses, Sweet and his team married everyday household tools with user creativity and deft design skills.
Thousands of users dragged and dropped their own product tips onto a highly interactive 360-degree view of their environment. Sweet, who has been building corporate and branded sites for a decade, is expert at maintaining a clean, well-lit brand image online while also giving users room to explore and contribute.
The sites reflect a fundamental shift in consumer consciousness since the days Sweet himself dutifully recited corporate jingles; his designs celebrate a kind of liberated user. "Until the Internet, consumers believed advertising was psychologically imposed on you," he says. "Now they have access to everything they see--the world or a subject or a product from many dimensions.
So marketing has become more inclusive than dictatorial." And more entertaining.
Sweet's vision for more interactive brands culminated in the June launch of MealsTogether.com. Staged as an online sitcom, this bold re-imagining of a big brand Web site lets users navigate Hidden Valley, KC Masterpiece, Kingsford and Glad products through family characters, recipes and togetherness tips.
For Sweet, however, MealsTogether.com represents a return to the roots of video advertising, "when a brand sponsored TV shows. Now we have brands sponsoring story lines that incorporate their products."
MealsTogether.com gets over 21,000 visitors a week who stay on average four minutes, and it has spawned co-marketing programs with Wal-Mart and ESPN.
Married to a genealogist who has tracked Sweet back to the Pilgrims, he's become fascinated by American democracy's pre-history. For him, online video represents that new country of interactivity. In the next year, he speculates, "we'll be sorting out how video plays a role in the interactive experience."
-- Steve Smith