Friday, February 20, 2009

Northwestern View

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
I am Kris Hanson, Executive Interactive Producer at Wieden+Kennedy in Portland, Oregon. W+K is a full-service agency with offices in Portland, New York City, London, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Shanghai and New Delhi. In addition to leading the digital production group in Portland, I work closely with our other offices, helping to build a global infrastructure for producing best-in-class digital work for our clients.

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 knew from the beginning that I wanted to go into advertising in some fashion. While in college, when the first version of Netscape was released, I was hooked immediately. I began looking into ways of combining advertising and digital—and wound up at a company called Modem Media (now Publicis Modem). I was drawn by the opportunity to build a medium and figure out new ways of doing things and engaging consumers. Since then, everything I've done has been driven by the ability to innovate and push the uses of technology.

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?
Mostly from sharing things with colleagues (both past and current). I also keep up with the top blogs, news sources and Twitter. The key is cutting through the clutter and finding the best resources to keep up with things. I've stopped following a lot of people on twitter and removed blogs from my top feeds as the quality of information from them diminishes.

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?

My ideal client is one that is open-minded and considers us a partner in helping them to solve their challenges. They are genuinely interested in exploring new things and seeing how things fit within their marketing mix...not just looking for a website and banners. The best client relationships are collaborative in nature—we're all part of the same team—and don't get caught up in client/agency politics. The best work I've done is when a client has trusted that we'll do whatever it takes to make something happen.

Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?
Communication and honesty are key to managing expectations. As I said before, the best client relationships are when there is a genuine trust and you work on the same team for the greater good. In the rare case when a ball gets honest with the client and explain what you're doing to fix the issue...don't try to cover things up. The more honest you are with clients, the more trusting and understanding they will be when things inevitably come up throughout the production process.

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

Tough question...I've had the opportunity to work on a lot of great things throughout my career. One of the best things I've had a hand in recently is the work we did for the movie Coraline. It was one of the largest and most thoroughly integrated projects we've done at W+K. From the outreach program to key bloggers, interactive installations at theaters and an engaging website, everything was outside of the "normal" movie campaigns you see. Other than that, everything I did on Volkswagen while at Crispin Porter + Bogusky provided a variety of challenges and changed the way consumers interacted with an automotive brand in the online space.

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?

As the head of the department, I'm not as involved in the day-to-day production of projects anymore...though I do have a hand in everything that goes out the door. Prior to this role, the number of projects that I could handle would depend on the size/scope and timing. I've had instances where I've worked only one large-scale project for a six-month period, and other cases where I would juggle seven or eight smaller projects in various phases of production.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?

Depending on the project, you'll have a team of designers, developers, animators, usability experts, etc. The most important thing to me in my teams is open-mindedness and desire to push things. The most exciting (yet scary) moment is seeing something you're not sure how to execute...and then figuring out how to make it happen. I always tell my teams not to ask "if" something can be done...but to focus on "how" to make it happen.

Q: How do you ensure that your client's best interests are met?

Communication and strong relationships with clients are the key. I've found that from the beginning of a project, clearly outlining with the client how success will be measured is essential. I've had the benefit of working with clients who realize that the most important thing is providing the best possible experience for the user. If you put the user first, the project will be successful. Continually communicating with the clients throughout the process ensures that we're always tying back to the success measures we've all agreed to.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?

I think we'll see an increased emphasis on providing engaging experiences, no matter what medium they are in. Ideas and thinking are what set the innovators apart from the followers. We'll see less emphasis on sites, but deliver engaging experiences to users in their own installations, mobile experiences...the opportunities are endless. The most successful things will be those which provide an engaging, useful experience to users and don't just use technology for technology’s sake.

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
Never stop learning and love what you're doing...the only way to stay on top of things and continually evolve within this industry is to have a genuine love and desire to figure out new things. Even after nearly 12 years in the industry, I leave the office every day having learned something new.

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