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Q&A: Mat Zucker, chief creative at OgilvyOne NY

Mat Zucker, chief creative officer at OgilvyOne New York, on creating great content-driven campaigns and managing brand reputation

Q: You have said in the past that you want to reinvent, reinvigorate and reinterpret direct for today’s digital era. How are you doing that?

A: We need to focus on the experiences that will unlock value for customers. It’s about focusing on the important key principles and figuring out what we can throw out. What’s getting in the way of really great creativity? Sometimes it’s our words; sometimes it’s the silos we create and sometimes our addictions. We’re addicted to printed mail and the way we manage our lists. 

Q: What role does content play in creating those experiences?

A: Content is such an exciting area. Customers are desperately hungry for more content than brands seem to be able to give them; we’re not giving them enough. We’ve learned that consumers are getting their own facts and that’s great, but salespeople are finding that those consumers are sometimes not getting the right facts, like a patient self-diagnosing without a doctor. 

Q: How do brands better manage their content-based messaging?

A: Some brands think their site is their only property, but sites aren’t that interesting anymore unless it’s an e-commerce or a mobile site. It’s about managing your definition on Wikipedia and branded content on YouTube, SlideShare and any other sites where content can be aggregated. 

Q: What’s a great example of a content-driven campaign you’ve seen recently?

A: TBWA did something called Gatorade Replay. They took two high school rivals that ended a basketball game in a tie 15 years ago and documented these former athletes, now in their 30s, training for a comeback with Gatorade on their way to finishing the game. 

Q: How does domestic direct marketing creative stack up to the best from abroad?

A: We may be lagging in direct, but not overall. There are plenty of creative experiences happening in the US that involve customer acquisition and engagement, but they’re being created by non-direct agencies. Direct in the US is, in some ways, stuck in a prison of the proven. A lot of the young talent coming out of schools doesn’t want to do direct, even though they’re well-equipped to be successful.

Q: What sector presents the biggest challenge in terms of creative approach?

A: Most financial services is acquisition-oriented, so unless you take a risk by targeting new audiences and you get to do something new, there’s always that proven ground to fall back on. There’s not a lot of room for error or optimizing. 

Q: The idea of an “interactive” agency may be redundant in the future, given all agencies will have digital capabilities. Should “direct” agencies worry about this as well?

A: Everyone is learning to target media more effectively and engage customers, but there will always be relationship marketing agencies that nurture customers beyond acquisition, which is a big piece of direct. 

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