The 4A’s is committed to sharing the thoughts of some of the most important leaders in the ad industry. In this edition of our 5 Questions For… series, we chat with Justin Chase, Executive Vice President of Innovation at Intouch Solutions.
What is the biggest challenge or opportunity facing the ad industry right now?
Encroachment from consulting firms poses a significant near-term risk, although I believe that industry forces and business operations will correct this over time, whether or not the ad industry takes a proactive stance. The major difference between advertising and consulting is creativity. To address this, consulting is deriving creativity through acquisition. That said, a combination of operations, processes and culture will either strip the creative meat from the bone, or we will see an exodus of creative folks who feel stifled in a process-driven environment.
Something that has further exacerbated this issue is the lack of truly creative characters and personalities that graced the halls of the Mad Men era up to the dot-com boom. The Bill Bernbachs, Lee Clows and Mary Wells Lawrences of the industry seem to be all but vanished. People like this made the ad industry what it is today, and without guiding voices to ward off future usurpers, the service sets of many businesses, including clients (see Dollar Shave Club), are starting to merge with those traditionally found in our industry.
What is the single most significant change you need to make in your agency in the next 12 months?
Helping clients understand the true definition of innovation. Many clients believe the term has morphed into the broadest of catchalls and as such, the word has been rendered virtually meaningless. That’s unfortunate, because innovation should not be viewed as a throwaway buzzword. When used correctly to classify work, it can be a valuable differentiator. In my experience, innovation is invention coupled with business rationale. It must be new or novel and it must have some kind of value that will benefit the brand, business, marketplace or world.
What products/services/unique skills do ad agencies offer that guarantee the industry’s survival for another 100 years?
Understanding the marriage of data and creativity. Virtually every industry, at this point in time, uses data to fuel their business. Similarly, many industries rely on creativity to prompt new ideas and innovation. That said, it is rare to find a business or industry that seamlessly integrates data into creativity. What I mean by that is data in many ways is the antithesis to creativity. Creativity lives through a thought, feeling or emotion, while data is information and facts. Oftentimes those two things live in very separate worlds and any attempt to unite them ends up in divorce. Not so in advertising. The very basis of advertising—its foundation—is formed around the notion that data can be used to unlock insights, which are leveraged to fuel strategy, which underpins concepts exemplifying creativity. When done properly, multichannel marketing, data and creativity live in symbiosis, birthing brilliant and exciting new ideas, programs and campaigns. Or at least that’s the advertising world in which I want to live.
What attributes do you look for in your next generation of leaders and managers?
The ability to actively listen, hear and process is critical to the success of future generations. Social media, TV Everywhere, digital proliferation and the like create an environment in which everyone is bombarded with messages everywhere they turn—including the bathroom. It’s like the famous scene in Blade Runner where Harrison Ford is walking down the rain-drenched street in some future iteration of L.A. that plays as one giant neon advertisement, almost to the point of visual nausea. Growing up in that type of environment inevitably must cause one to value shouting above listening. How else is one able to rise above the noise? Difficult as it may be, the value of active listening is greater now than perhaps at any other point in history—if merely because of the scarcity of it. Watch any skilled, seasoned executive in a meeting they are not responsible for leading, and generally you will find them listening far more than they are actually talking. This is because they are ingesting all the information offered by their peers, analyzing it, generating value and formulating strategic responses that will set the course of future conversations, strategies and business direction.
If you weren’t working in advertising, what would you be doing as a career?
I’d be a director/producer in Hollywood, as I’ve always been a gifted storyteller and see feature films as being one of the most exciting ways to bring a vision to life in a controlled environment.