More often than not, Renny Gleeson's attention is captured by content developed by people working in a proverbial basement than by brand-funded campaigns. The global director of interactive strategies at Wieden + Kennedy thinks that's a good thing, but it's also a challenge because of what it exposes. Most brands are pledging time and money to interactive because they simply think they should, whereas average social media sensations do it because they care. The motivation factor and differences between the two is exponential, he says.
iMedia connected with Gleeson at his home base in Portland, Ore., to ask what keeps his creative juices flowing, and how his passion for motorcycles and rock climbing might play into his charge to lead all things digital at W+K.
iMedia: What disruptive technologies are you most interested in?
Renny Gleeson: From a technology standpoint, I'd say that the things I focus on are mobility and the impact of it -- social media, but not from the standpoint of how I can get banners out so much as how it's changing us culturally. And then the third big bucket I'd say that I look at a lot is gaming... those are probably the three that keep me up at night.
Interestingly, there's this sort of "Revenge of the Nerds" thing where there's a belief that by playing role-playing games and video games and by using social media, which almost by definition means you couldn't get a date, that somehow those three are now the core curriculum required to have any chance of success in the medium. It just so happens that those are all qualifications I have, but it does feel a little shaudenfreuder.
iMedia: Can you give your basic elevator pitch for a good campaign? What's your most valuable pitching tip?
Gleeson: At the end of the day, it's showing how your work connects with people's hearts... If there isn't any insight that connects people's hearts to your brand, then you kind of wasted it.
iMedia: How has W+K's digital strategy changed since you came on board?
Renny Gleeson, global director of interactive strategies at Wieden + Kennedy
Gleeson: I like to flatter myself by saying I've helped focus the strategy and expand it. I think the pieces have been here. I mean, think back to what W+K was doing in the early 2000s. I don't know if you remember the whole CK1 campaign, where you could sign up for this soap opera by email. Or maybe you remember the Beta-7 campaign for Sega, where the beta tester was having epileptic fits as a result of the intensity of the action in the football game, and Sega was trying to cover it up. I think there has been some pretty interesting work that has come out of W+K. It's both a challenge and an opportunity that what people seem to remember most is some of our most iconic TV work, but that's certainly not the only thing that we do by any stretch.
To be fair, W+K was not going as fast forward into this space as it was willing to do in others. It was just a matter of focus, effort, time, staffing, discipline, and mind share -- things like that. So my job has really been three things: You need to make sure you've got the structure that can throughput the kind of work that you need as well as have people with conceptual cojones and thoughts to bring great ideas to life.
The second thing I do is work with specific clients. I have a particular group that I work with directly, and I'm helping roadmap ways to grapple with the opportunities and challenges of the space. And a third thing I do is looking forward, because the amount of work you have tends to blot out the daylight quickly. I try to keep my feelers out to ensure that we're up on what the latest technologies are, the latest capabilities.
In other words, a lot of companies in this space are doing what they're doing out of fear, not out of love. And if you've ever been in a situation where you've worked from a position of fear, you know that it shuts down most of the creative capability, and you shift to survival mode. That's when you start to just get the banners, and the buttons, and crap... This isn't a matter of a new channel being added to the mix, this is an opportunity, a cultural shift that allows me to reinvent what my brand means to you. And that doesn't just mean what you do online. It seems there's a lot of opportunity there as well, a real connective tissue that can link other things that haven't been done before.
Next page >>