iMedia Connection: You will be participating in the iMedia Breakthrough Summit's Cutting Edge Marketing & Innovation Stories session. What do you plan to bring to the table, and why should your fellow marketers tune in?
Renny Gleeson: I'm hoping to talk about PIE [Portland Incubator Experiment], our technology and cultural disruption accelerator. It is an ongoing experiment by Wieden + Kennedy, partnering with the local technology scene (entrepreneurs, developers, coders, etc.) to create an environment for business acceleration and cultural disruption. The results can be in the form of new companies, events, experiences, you name it.
Renny Gleeson is global director of interactive strategies at Wieden + Kennedy.
[PIE is a space] where individuals with business ideas and plans that they want to build can interact with like-minded entrepreneurs. We provide them access to each other, and to Wieden + Kennedy resources and, ultimately, potential access to clients.
It's meant to do three things: Create a cultural hub for the local technology scene; be a place for developing platforms -- to come up with systems rather than individual tactical executions; and lastly, it's meant to serve as an accelerator for entrepreneurs and folks with culturally disrupting ideas.
iMedia: What are the benefits of being "incubated?"
Gleeson: I'm tired of advertising agencies using clients to self-fund their education. They say, "Hey, do this for us and we'll build this really cool thing", which they have no idea how to do, and they use clients' money to do that and then just walk away with new capabilities. I think that's not being fair. So one thing we offer is for clients to get a first look at technologies that have already been incubated and may have a market that can help them achieve their goals. So it reduces risk for clients and increases opportunity. In the changing context of digital communication, entrepreneurs will be the digital communicators.
From a Wieden + Kennedy standpoint, it's a way to recruit interesting talent and get interesting folks into our building, interacting and potentially helping to accelerate client business.
iMedia: Speaking of getting interesting people into your building, how do you identify who the best candidates are for working with clients in these emerging technology areas? When you are looking to hire someone to handle high-tech areas that your potential job candidates can't already have a built-up expertise in?
Gleeson: The only way you figure it out is when you work with them on something. Day-to-day interaction and proximity breaks the bullsh*t cloud rather quickly. Anyone who is telling you that they know exactly who to hire and how to implement them is full of sh** or is trying to sell you something.
iMedia: Circling back to our discussion on innovation, it takes a real confident, secure, and gutsy company to go out on a limb and dive into untested technologies. As an agency leader, brands look to you for advice on when to step in and when to stay away. So how do you personally get your clients excited about trying something new?
Gleeson: I look at it like this: We are in a post-internet world of communication. And we continue to deal with brands that look at interactive as a vehicle for their communication, versus as something they really need to finally grapple with from a complete business standpoint. What I tell my clients is, it's not that you need to be there because that's where you customers are. Like any consumer channel, it's important to understand that this is something that can fundamentally change your business... and they need to be thinking about it and rediscovering how they're going to change to make sense of it all.
iMedia: But most businesses don't want to change. They just want to make more money doing the same thing they've always been doing.
Gleeson: Exactly. But there are benefits to change.
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