Q&A: Stewart Krull, EVP & ECD, Atmosphere Proximity

Stewart Krull, EVP and executive creative director at Atmosphere Proximity, reveals his favorite apps and explains why a CMO’s job just got harder.

Q: Why is 2012 the year of brand storytelling—or is it?

A: It’s become very trendy and brands seem to be taking every opportunity to tell their brand story this year. Certainly when the Facebook Timeline came out in March it started a lot of this talk, because Facebook itself used that word, storytelling. If in 2010 and 2011 we had a continuous news cycle, in 2012 we have a continuous story cycle. There is more interest than ever in being human and relative.

Q: How has the concept of a campaign changed from David Ogilvy’s time to today?

A: I think he would love this time in advertising because, based on everything I know about him, he was a big believer in research. We know so much about users these days and we can use that information to optimize a campaign based on what we know.

Q: What are common mistakes brands make with their digital strategies?

A: CMOs are not immune to change. There’s a lot of pressure on them right now. We’re at an inflection point in the industry where CMOs are learning that they also have to drive business. CMOs are no longer just greenlighting print ads and TV commercials. The mistake they make is not really embracing digital.

Q: What can those same brands do to avoid digital pitfalls?

A: Brands have to get over the fear of failure of what will happen when they open up the conversation. They need to learn to deliver utility, engagement, entertainment, and whatever customers need whenever they need it to build affinity. You need to give them what they’re looking for at the point of contact and then give them the tools to share that experience so they become advocates of the brand. Then they are even more valuable because they’re partners with the brand in co-creation. It’s a big leap of faith for a lot of traditional brands to do that…but this is where the world is going and it’s something brands can no longer avoid.

Q: What are some of the best apps you’ve seen recently?

A: Apps that tell a user what to do with a simple call-to-action are good, like Blurtt, which allows you to place type over images and share them on Facebook or Twitter or through email in a very simple way. I read a quote recently that everyone in Hollywood has not only a screenplay now, but an idea for an app. With app advertising, you have to take the complication out. We hammer that into our creatives everyday. David Ogilvy wrote, “The consumer isn’t a moron…she’s your wife.” And we would say, she’s also really busy.

Q: You’re a big graphic novel fan. What’s your favorite?

A: I’m dating myself here, but when I went to the School of Visual Arts, Art Spiegelman was a professor there. That was when graphic novels were born. Art Spiegelman used to share with us pages he was working on for Maus, and that was amazing.

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