Uwe Gutschow, INNOCEAN USA: DMN 2014 40 Under 40 Award winner

Uwe Gutschow
VP, Digital Strategy and Engagement, INNOCEAN USA

Winning ways: Gutschow is a digital deity. He launched digital agency Saatchi & Saatchi AtPlay in South Africa and pioneered digital and social integration at Saatchi & Saatchi LA. At INNOCEAN, he helped lead strategy for Hyundai’s Walking Dead Chop Shop app—a zombie apocalypse survival car builder—which resulted in a 150% traffic increase to Hyundai.com in three months.

Defining moment: “As part of trying to attract clients [to Saatchi & Saatchi South Africa], we started to develop digital pieces of communication [in the early 2000s]…. I approached the CEO and said, ‘This is an opportunity to start a company.’ He said, ‘OK maybe.’ After a while, [the managing director] didn’t think that there was anything there, so I went back to the CEO and said ‘I still think that we can make it happen; I want to start it up, and I want to run it.’ [He said], ‘The first person to give me a business plan that we can sell to the board will run it.’ So I pulled it out of my back pocket and handed it over to him because I had already done all the work.”

Words to live by: “What we do here is not as important as who we do it with.”

Head swivel: “We’re testing the brain and physiological responses to advertising…. What we’re trying to understand is what kinds of storytelling is really connecting with people emotionally.”

Good advice: “Spend more time talking to people, be humble, and learn.”

First job: “It was probably when I was 11 years old. All of the kids back then were into marbles and marble games. They’d take a shoebox, put it against the wall, and cut out different holes. Each little hole would have a different number on top of it, and you would stand a certain number of feet away. If you had a marble, you were trying to get it into the shoebox [and] into one of the holes. If you got it into the hole with a two written above it, you would get two marbles back.

“I didn’t have a lot of marbles because I was poor, so I spent some time thinking about it on my way home. I got the Styrofoam packing that you get from TVs and shaped it into a castle and painted it. I had a giant thing. I took that to school and I put that next to everyone else’s little shoebox and everyone fought for mine. I didn’t have a lot of marbles, so I couldn’t give back, so people were actually paying a premium to play something that was far harder than the other kids’, but they liked to play it.

“I think about that often because that’s guided how I approach things in business. I always look at how we’re doing and think about and challenge myself [to consider] how we can do things differently. How can we do things better? And I try to do that for clients.”

On your nightstand: The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. “The book is about war and how to prepare for war, but there’s a lot of real truths in terms of business situations and a lot of hard situations that you face in business, how to act in those situations, how to react or how not to react, when to yield [and] when to push. The balance of that is very delicate sometimes in business. That book has helped many business leaders, including myself.”

Favorite mobile app: “Right now, I’m obsessed with Whisper…. I like the app because it’s based around anonymity. We brought in someone from Whisper—one of their development guys—to come and talk to us at the agency. He had an interesting statement about how this app helps people who are lonely feel less lonely. They can share without any fear of people looking at your feeds and going, ‘Why did they post that?’ When you’re posting something on social media, [there’s] this continuous judgment. Whisper is free from any of that. It’s just about that anonymity and responding to people, helping people, and seeing how other people respond to you.”

Click or tap here to read the stories behind the successes of the other Direct Marketing News 2014 40 Under 40 winners.

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