Thursday, December 18, 2008

An Advertising Evolutionary

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
My name is Douglas Stivers and I oversee digital strategy and operations at The Sawtooth Group. My primary responsibility is evolving Sawtooth into a fully integrated agency leveraging their strong history in traditional advertising within the creative, account services and media verticals. As such I have an active involvement overseeing digital media, creative, technology and strategy.

Q: Interactive Producers come from all walks of life, they are a hybrid of talents, tell us about your background and how you got interested in digital production?
I have always had a love for technology and advertising. My father was an ad man so I grew up in the midst of the industry in 1980s. While my father toiled away in the CPG world, I pursued my passion for television and technology, fostered by my Apple II plus and my first Atari.

The story continues in the late 90s when I started my career in technology public relations – learning how to quickly distill a complex business story into something everyone can understand, a skill I still use today. From there a made the rounds at a few PR agencies, then joined an entrepreneurial interactive design group that was looking for a “strategy and account” guy. We were small and I did lots of things – from budgeting, to writing, to client services. I became a producer without knowing what one was. After making the freelancer rounds, I found myself on the client side at Starwood Hotels and Resorts working on a host of projects in the midst of their re-brand. From there I went to Grey Worldwide’s Beyond Interactive and left as Executive Producer, Head of Digital Production until recently joining Sawtooth. The story is long – but I think it has shaped who I am and how I think about our industry. I have sat on all sides of the table and I think that gives
me an interesting viewpoint.

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?
I was an English Literature major, so I like to read and I do a lot of it. I think its key to keep your ear on the track and listen for what’s coming. Also in this networked world I think it’s pivotal to talk with leaders and innovators in the space. When not working - conferences, round tables and awards are a nice cherry on top of the knowledge sundae.

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?
I want clients that are passionate and brave. I want clients that love their business and are willing to do whatever it takes to grow their bottom line. This means looking at business challenges and customers and distilling an innovative marketing strategy that many may question. It will be a mix of traditional, digital and experimental. We will test and react, but we will succeed as this client loves what they do and realizes marketing is an on-going conversation with consumers.

Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?

Clearly define the goals and objectives at the onset of a particular campaign or engagement. Then I think it’s important to explain technical minutia in a way that maps back to higher level objectives. The goal is to take complex technical factors and explain and relate them to things that a client that may not have deep technical acumen clearly understands.

Q: What was the best project you have ever worked on?

The best projects are the ones that challenge you the most and teach you even more. While at Beyond, I managed the design and roll out of LG’s HGTV U.S. Micro-site. It was built in 4 weeks and weeks later it was customized, translated and rolled out in 5 other countries. At the same time, we designed and produced multiple supporting digital ad campaigns also in 6 countries. Trial by Fire.

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?
It all depends on the size, scope and nature of the project. I would always prefer to work on fewer projects with much greater complexity then many one dimensional projects.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?
My dream team is truly integrated working across all mediums. We have worked on mobile, print, video games, websites, TV commercials, outdoor, digital media and everything in between. We are producers, directors, art directors, designers, developers, editors, motion graphic designers and writers. We develop ideas that live and breathe across all media and take advantage of each media’s unique and distinct attributes. We create brand experiences.

Q: How do you ensure that your client's best interests are met?
Clear and consistent communication mapped back to clearly defined objectives.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?
I see the re-consolidation of agency competencies, particular in small to mid-sized agencies. Years ago – media was aggregated and removed from the traditional agency structure. Digital has shown us that media, creative and strategic collaboration is pivotal to developing successful campaigns. While it took digital to highlight this, the rise of un-traditional media and outdoor also support this collaboration. Look for the growth of full-service mid-sized agencies.

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
In advertising I have found an amalgamation of artists, writers, actors, musicians, technologists, chefs, dancers, welders, photographers and illustrators. We are passionate people. Ensure the people at your agency have the freedom to explore their external passions so they can bring that same passion to work everyday. Passionate people produce passionate work.

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