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Q&A: Ken Fitzgerald, executive creative director at Catalyst

Ken Fitzgerald, executive creative director at Catalyst, talks about how to integrate across channels and the impact of digital on CRM strategies

Q: How are you using your digital background to make Catalyst’s traditional offerings more integrated?

A: I’ve been lucky to do practically everything in advertising — 15 years in traditional, 12 in direct and the past five or six in digital. It’s no longer just a copywriter and art director sitting down together.

Now there’s a designer, a developer, an account planner and media. You cannot avoid digital today — it’s impossible. It’s more a matter of determining what digital channel we drive people to, whether it’s mobile, online or SMS.You have to consider your audience and what your offer is, but most of all, you have to be channel-agnostic.

Q: On a day-to-day basis, how do you achieve that?

A: We start every meeting with “What problem are we solving?” If the solution happens to be digital, that’s fine. But if it’s a postcard, that’s fine too. It’s never going to be about one person coming up with a digital idea and someone else with a mail idea. At the end of the day, the idea is what’s going to win.

Q: Do people expect to have to think across these channels?

A: The perks of being in the business a long time are that you see the generational challenges. It’s difficult to find a hybrid, someone savvy in both traditional and digital, and who embraces technology.

Now it’s all ditigal in school, and I wonder if professors teach kids to consider other channels. In the past three to five years, the answer is no. If you can get them outside of what they do and into how they think, it’s a lot easier because all of a sudden, you see the light bulb go off when they realize there’s no need for ego or territorial land grabs in terms of everyone owning specific channels.

Q: How do you make the light bulb go off?

A: People realize quickly that when you ask them to step outside their comfort zone, you’re acknowledging them as something beyond how they’re perceived. I might know you’re a great designer. Asking you to look at a postcard and ramp up the engagement by adding text or a PURL is a compliment to your ability to think beyond your title.

Q: How has digital affected CRM?

A: Social media is doing a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of brand perception that brands themselves had to do just a few years ago. At first, it was all about finding ROI.

Now it’s more about getting customers in tune with the brand. The customer now owns the brand and you have to sit back and not disenfranchise. I follow five R’s of marketing — respect and relevance to begin with, and then hopefully the message resonates and customers respond, forming a relationship.

I remember being in a meeting a long time ago about a TV campaign that wasn’t performing well and the solution [at the time] was just to add to the media budget. It’s not about shouting louder, it’s about listening harder.

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