June 9, 2010

Best of Bastholm

Well, the rumours were true. Lars Bastholm, Chief Digital Creative Officer of Ogilvy North American has been appointed overall Chief Creative Officer. You can read the full story on Adweek here but essentially it’s an amazing move for an agency like Ogilvy, putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to the importance of digital.

Visual by Diego Zambrano

To mark this occasion (and to do a little hero worshipping) I am starting a series profiling some of the industry’s great digital creatives… starting with Lars.

I met Lars back in 2001 when we were both judges at the Cannes Cyber Lions. He came across as quietly spoken, intelligent and extremely likeable. Not something you could say for all the jury members. By 2001 Lars already had a number of Cannes Lions under his belt from his years at Framfab. Projects like Nike Women and Nike Freestyle really were ahead of their time in terms of production values and technical innovation.

After winning 3 Cannes Grand Prix and many other awards, in 2004 Lars left Framfab to set up the New York office of AKQA. His work included pitching for and winning accounts like Coke, Smirnoff and Motorola globally. He continued to lead projects for Nike including innovative mobile apps like Nike PhotoID.


Here is a video interview from Lars while at AKQA. His comments from 2007 showed how digital advertising/marketing would evolve in the coming years. AKQA were already doing a lot of the things many brands are only today starting to explore. This interview (also from 2007) for the FWA gives us further insight into his thinking….

Where could Lars go from here? The surprise came when it was announced that he would join Ogilvy New York. Not only were Ogilvy looking to hire a true digital leader but they were impressed with his approach to brand communication no matter what the medium. For example, here are 6 tips from Lars about mastering the art of social storytelling and inviting consumers into the conversation:

  • Look at any marketing effort as the beginning of a conversation.
  • Closely monitor the conversation and be ready to respond to consumers.
  • Provide consumers with tools that help them carry on the conversation for you.
  • Leave room for consumers to interact. Make sure your creative universe is big enough that there are unexplored areas.
  • The conversation is over when the consumers say it is, not when the media plan (or the budget) says it is.
  • Listen and learn from the feedback loop.

Asked why he chose to join Ogilvy Lars said:

“It is becoming obvious that marketing shouldn’t live in silos. Consumers don’t distinguish between what’s in which channel, when they shape their perception of a brand. Nor should they,” said Lars Bastholm. “My reason for joining Ogilvy is to get a seat at the table with clients who make the 360 degree brand decisions and to work on the campaigns that will help define what integrated, multi-channel advertising can look like in the future.”

    Not long after joining Ogilvy, Lars was the Cannes Cyber Lions jury president. In this video he explains why the Grand Prix winners deserved their awards.

    If you follow Lars on Twitter you’ll discover a few things about the man. He loves food and was recently in a BBQ coma during the SXSW conference. He’s always on the move and he can be found anywhere from Puerto Rica to Copenhagen. He’s a real film buff and has a movie review website he runs with a friend called Thursdays Without Zada.

    But above all he loves digital. Nothing is impossible, nothing ever good enough and no idea too big. Lars, I can’t wait to see what you will do at Ogilvy.

    June 7, 2010

    Tipping point?

    The unconfirmed (as of 7th June) that Lars Bastholm (chief digital creative officer of Ogilvy North America) is to be named the overall chief creative officer for the agency has many tongues wagging. The comments on AdAge have been fascinating. Here are just a few…

    By digschulman | NEW YORK, NY
    Having been on both sides of this (as an ECD on both the Traditional then Digital agency side), I think we’re making too much of the DNA experience and not enough of the truly hybrid awareness one now needs to be a catalyst for great work in today’s multiplatform creative world.

    Net net, we need to stop looking at this thru the digital native versus digital immigrant lens where we choose between:

    Group A : Big agency traditional ECDs with their massive egos, shoot budgets and director relationships, who see their digital counterparts as the geeks required to extend their big ideas and TV narratives into digital “stuff” that they insist fewer people will see, but is necessary to check all the client boxes of a modern day creative ecosystem (digital word)….errr…right…campaign (traditional word).


    Group B: Digital ECDs – steeped in User Experience/, Web Development, Direct Response, Social Applications, Flash vs HTML5 and database know-how, who see their above the line counterparts as overpaid, old school linear story-tellers (as opposed to digital ones) clinging to the holy grail of the Big Brand Idea – as if no one on the digital side could ever come up with such a thing.

    Whose line is it anyway? It’s the marketer’s line!

    The truth is, there are too few ECDs out there who are intuitively hybrids – and know it’s not just a bigger toolbox of channels to create for, but requires different narrative skillsets required to create for them.

    The ones like Lars who do, know what a big brand platform idea is and whether it has the teeth to generate cultural currency or not. They respect the craft of the :30 spot and how hard it is to write, sell and execute a memorable one or pool of them. They get that creating a great social application or twitter visualizer or print ad or radio spot or world cup widget or whatever… are all powerful tools to help expand messaging and engagement around a brand – just as a TV spot is.

    No matter the DNA, any ECD worth their salary these days recognizes that linear and non-linear storytelling skills, digital design prowess and technology are all pre-requisites for creating and executing big brand building programs in today’s multi-channel, multi-platform ad world.

    But digital native or not, it’s being a catalyst for big ideas and broader thinking that results in great work that will always win.

    By afinkelman | Boca Raton, FL
    Looking at the reality of consumer experience we see increasing integration of digital technology in daily life. Digital is no longer a channel option, but rather, has become central to how people interact with each other, and the world.

    Looking to the future, at some point putting the word digital in front of marketing will become meaningless as most marketing will have a digital component as all of our daily experience will be augmented by technology.

    Consumers have embraced their digital empowerment and this trend will only increase as Gen Y, born to the digital age, comes of age and flexes their economic muscles.

    Whether the creative hires discussed in the article are truly forward thinking attempts to evolve agency thinking, or merely a cosmetic approach to positioning the agencies as digital leaders, may not ultimately matter. These new creative leaders will have the opportunity to innovate an ensure the ongoing relevancy of their agencies. I’m looking forward to seeing the results.

    By Iga | Chicago, IL
    I enjoy reading all your comments, especially digschulman. Seems like we are all on the same page as far as our assessment of interactive impact. Digschulman however, made an interesting delineation between two groups: one led by a ‘traditional’ ECD and the other one let by a ‘digital’ guy. Here is my take on that.

    I also have background in traditional (print) media and several years ago transitioned into interactive. Over a period of a few years I freelanced at several digital shops and that gave me a unique perspective on this subject, as I could see how agencies are run. Now, I am one of the creative leaders working in e-commerce.
    First of all, it is not so much about who leads the thinking in the agency but how. Although- I want to make a point right here, that a CD who has only print, or only broadcast experience is irrelevant and obsolete. Hybrids are the most sought-after skill set right now. Now, let’s go back to the ‘how’ point.

    The basic mistake pretty much all big digital agencies make is that they adapt the old-school, traditional-shop, waterfall process and way of working. That leads to a lot of inefficiency and confusion. What works for print and broadcast doesn’t work for digital.
    The creative leader needs to understand that digital is not only different channel or medium but a different product as well. Here, you are creating an environment, a setup for content consumption, vs brand messaging interruption. It needs to carry a value for the user, not just fill the periphery of the web page with flashy stuff, or creating mini sites that are neither informative or entertaining. The digital process is much more involved and complicated, so the traditional top-down, waterfall method doesn’t work. This requires ECD’s to be involved, almost hands-on in every aspect of creation and production. Some call it agile way of working, some call it iterative – where the team consisting of several disciplines: visual design, copy, UX architects, developers, IT (backend), analytics, content creators, project management. etc – is brainstorming together.
    The traditional model (first creative, then production)is too segmented and disconnected.

    Putting digital people at the top of the ladder without overhauling the entire approach won’t change the outcome. It’s just a matter of time before the clients will see through that.
    I am on the client side now, and the trend is to do away with most of the agencies that we’ve had. Instead, we set up an internal agency to handle most of our needs, hiring top talent from best digital shops. Our competitors are doing the same.

    When the news is confirmed no doubt the opinions will be flying around like hot fat spitting from the frying pan. This kind of move has been on the cards for some time and could finally be the tipping point for many agencies that have been considering this kind of move. Watch this space…
    October 28, 2009

    Power of crowds

    A week ago Lars Bastholm (Chief Digital Creative Officer for Ogilvy North America) asked the LinkedFaceTwittersphere for help putting together a presentation at the Boards Summit about the near future of marketing. He just shared the results and I’m very happy to see my small contribution was included….