In Clear Focus: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: How advertising agencies are attracting new employees and approaching retention, diversity, and gender equality. Reema Elghossain, VP of Talent, Equity & Inclusion at the 4A’s Foundation, shares her observations about how generational differences and attitudes towards gender and identity are changing how agencies engage with their staff. We also hear from Bigeye’s Digital Marketing Specialist, Maegan Trinidad, who is an alumna of the 4A’s Multicultural Advertising Internship Program (MAIP) and learn how it helped her enter the industry. 

In Clear Focus: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

In Clear Focus this week: how advertising agencies are attracting new employees and approaching retention, diversity, and gender equality. Reema Elghossain, VP of Talent, Equity & Inclusion at the 4A’s Foundation, shares her observations about how generational differences and attitudes towards gender and identity are changing how agencies engage with their staff.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at the Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative- driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us today. The most recent data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that unemployment is at 3.5%, the lowest rate since 1969. Filling vacant positions or newly created positions is a significant challenge for many employers – especially those seeking to grow – and competition for workers is fierce. Candidates with creative and media skills have many options when it comes to potential employers. Design, marketing and writing skills are sought by companies beyond advertising and media agencies. Consider tech companies and the growth of direct-to-consumer products and services, many of which have opted to develop creative and media buying capabilities in-house. The rise of digital media has also brought with it a new wave of tech savvy creatives and analytical thinkers, many of them working client side. Advertising agencies certainly compete for creative talent, but in addition, are challenged to recruit and retain workforces that reflect America’s ethnic and racial diversity. Almost half a century ago, the American Association of Advertising Agencies better known as the 4A’s recognized the lack of diversity in the industry. In 1973, the 4A’s launched its minority intern program to encourage students from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds to consider careers in advertising. And later the organization awarded scholarships to African American, Hispanic, and Asian American young professionals entering the industry. Nearly 50 years on the 4A’s continues to represent the marketing communications agency business. The organization’s stated mission is to empower agencies to thrive by advancing issues such as evolving agency models, but also talent, retention, diversity and gender equality. Joining me via phone from New York City today, Reema Elghossain is Vice President of the 4A’s Foundation and responsible for talent, equity and inclusion. Reema has 15 years of experience in education, talent development, and diversity and leads some of the industry’s most prominent diversity pipeline initiatives. These include the Multicultural Advertising Internship Program known as MAIP, which evolved from the original Minority Intern Program. Reema also oversees the 4A’s Foundation’s educational programs, scholarships and awards, as well as professional and organizational development opportunities. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Reema.

Reema Elghossain: Hello. Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: Reema, could you explain a little more about the Foundation and the part it plays within the 4A’s?

Reema Elghossain: Sure, absolutely. So the 4A’s Foundation was established in 1997, with a commitment to provide scholarships and awards for young people of color interested in getting involved in the advertising industry. In the last two years, the 4A’s made an intentional decision to move MAIP and our educational programs, which include our high school initiatives over into the 4A’s Foundation. So it really serves the industry, advertising and marketing at large, with all of their talent needs, especially when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. So we really try to support the industry from the 4A’s Foundation with finding diverse talent, with educating diverse talent, n what advertising is and the experience, and then really developing that talent once they’re into the industry.

Adrian Tennant: I mentioned during the introduction that the 4A’s had the foresight to establish an internship program focused on diversity back in the 1970s. In what kinds of ways does your work with the 4A’s Foundation today help young professionals in their careers?

Reema Elghossain: We do it a number of ways within our educational programs. We partner right now with two high schools in New York city that are predominantly students of color that actually have an advertising track within the high school programs. And so what we do for our high school students is we try to immerse them into the advertising industry. We connect to them with speakers and experts in the industry to share insight. We host events and competitions for them so that they can understand what it’s like to get briefed by a client and to do pitches. We train them on what every discipline is in the industry and really try to help slowly build a network for them while they’re in high school and show them opportunities to be able to major in advertising and have internships throughout their career. Through MAIP we do it a number of ways. We have our fellowship program and that runs annually and we do a 13-week virtual spring training for all of our fellows before they even enter their internship at their agency. And that again trains them on what each discipline is. But then also we train them on some transferable skills and then how to navigate the industry, especially from coming from a diverse place. And then we have over 3,500 alumni that have gone through our programs since 1973. And what we do is we partner with agencies and outside companies to provide any type of personal development, professional development, networking opportunities. 

Adrian Tennant: Fantastic. Now can you talk a little bit about the process for students who may be interested in applying for the 4A’s MAIP program?

Reema Elghossain: Around the end of August and into mid-October, we have applications for students to apply to be part of our program. It’s for juniors, seniors, and grad students across the country and it’s a pretty extensive application process. And we ask for essay questions, the video, letters of recommendation and really just want to understand, you know, what they’re interested in the industry. We then give them a screening process. We do coach them on interview tips and prepare them through the process. And then we have our community of volunteers in the industry that really support our initiatives, who will interview them. And once they pass through all of those stages, they then become finalists. At that same time, our agencies are applying to host fellows for the next year. And then we have a huge selection kickoff where agencies will then make offers to their favorite top finalists and they place an offer and that MAIP finalist has the opportunity to accept or decline. If they accept and it can be anywhere in the country, then they now become a fellow. Once they become a fellow, we actually support the agencies by taking care of housing and travel for all of the fellows. And then again, onboarding them with that spring training. And an orientation to get them really immersed into the program before they even enter their internship.

Adrian Tennant: Well, that sounds very thorough. And do you typically have that kickoff in New York City, or does it change according to where the students are coming from?

Reema Elghossain: Sure. So the actual live kick off is in New York City, but we live stream it, we live stream it through our Facebook page, our main page, and through Zoom. And so all of our agency partners, all of the finalists are alumni community. A lot will sign in and be able to watch it happening live. And so it’s really exciting. We invite all of the finalists that are in New York to be able to attend and they get to receive their offers live, in person.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s change gears just a little bit. So with the visibility of the #MeToo movement, there’s heightened awareness of issues around gender inequality, bias, and discrimination within the workplace. And ad agencies have certainly not been immune from scrutiny. From where you stand, has #MeToo been a kind of a wake up call for the industry?

Reema Elghossain: I think absolutely and in a lot of different ways. I think it’s something that everyone is aware of, but no one really knew what to do. And so when that movement came around I think it woke a lot of people up in the industry. And I think one, it scared a lot of agencies because they were whispers before and then now it just became something where there’s actually some accountability that’s going to be happening. And so I definitely think it shook up the industry in a major way. And I think it still is in a lot of ways and it definitely shifted the understanding and awareness, I think for the talent and employees to realize what their opportunities were and having a voice and being able to know what their rights are. So I definitely think it impacted just the industry and, and from the top down.

Adrian Tennant: Traditional gender divisions and labels, the binary choice of male or female are being replaced with the more fluid concept of gender identity. Thinking differently about gender identity also has, of course, potentially significant impacts on the work an agency does for clients. Everything from consumer insights research and brand strategy through to creative and messaging. In this context, how well are agencies addressing these long held assumptions about gender?

Reema Elghossain: That’s a great question. It’s a conversation that’s becoming louder and it’s something that’s becoming more important. And especially I think when agencies are looking at their employees and saying, “we have to be able to create a safer space and a space that’s more open for, for all.” And so looking at their people holistically, I think is allowing them to also be able to work with clients and say, “okay, our consumers also need to be looked at in a holistic way as well.” It’s a conversation that is happening to support who works in the industry, but then because I think that inevitably will impact how they support clients and their consumers.

Adrian Tennant: In addition to gender bias, discrimination, and identity, what are some of the other areas that you work with member agencies on?

Reema Elghossain: A lot of things. So talent development. We also talk to our agencies about supporting them with how to have a more diverse workplace, how to be more inclusive of what systems they can put into place that can support that. We talk a lot about retention. We talk about, “how do we move diverse talent up the corporate ladder?” And then also “what are systems and initiatives we can put into place that really can support their employees there?” Number one to bring in talent, but then also to make it a place where the talent wants to stay.

Adrian Tennant: Right. Have you codified these into a set of best practices?

Reema Elghossain: Yeah, we’d like to work with our agencies to produce those best practices. We all have a lot of ideas and I think it really depends on where that agency is. But we have maybe smaller to mid-size agencies that are really just starting their diversity initiatives. They might not even have a lead person in their diversity, equity, initiatives. And then there’s the larger agencies that might already have a DNI lead or team and they have different needs at the same time. So we do have some best practices in place and it really depends on what the agency is. And then I have my own opinion.

Adrian Tennant: Ah, let’s get to those. You referenced the fact that the 4A’s includes holding company agencies – which I’m guessing are typically in the major metros -as well as independently owned agencies, many of which – like ourselves – are in smaller markets. How then do you apply variations in how differently-sized agencies identify and approach these kinds of issues?

Reema Elghossain: I think for me it would be just doing a little bit of research and talking to each agency and finding out what their needs are and out what they’re, even, what their budget is, and where to start, right? So if they’re talking about, “we want to focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and the talent.” The first thing is how diverse is your agency? Now I don’t expect agencies to share their numbers, but what is your first goal? Is it one hiring diverse talent so that you can diverse, you know, add diversity to your pool? Or is it “we have diverse talent, we want to add more, but what can we do to be a more inclusive space?” And there’s definitely different needs when it comes to both. I definitely think every agency, whether it’s independent, small, all the way up to the to larger holding companies, all need to continue to hire more diverse talent. So that’s I think, a problem across the board. But depending on where they are and what their resources are, there are different ways that they can make a better environment.

Adrian Tennant: Specifically thinking about job candidates and young professionals, do you see any generational differences in how today’s young professionals maybe just starting out in the industry or have one or two years experience how their career decisions contrast or compare to older, more established workers?

Reema Elghossain: Absolutely. They are thinking of things that I never thought of when I was their age. They are thinking about, “what are your mental health and wellness programs that you have established at your agency?” They’re thinking about even things that might not even matter to them early on, but like, “what are your maternity and paternity leave programs? What is your work life balance?” They are thinking of things that are important to them that, I’ll be honest, at 37, I didn’t think of when I was their age and they’re holding agencies a lot more accountable. They’re looking at agencies and saying, “what can you do for me?” Not just, “what can I do for you?” I would say when they first get into the industry, there is that still that same fear and desperation of finding a job in a lot of places, especially for our MAIP, community. You know, as young people of color, there’s this fear of being able to find a job, but the questions that they’re asking are very much different. They’re not just, “what are the hours and the salary and the insurance benefits?” They’re also just asking about the experience, the environment. “Do you have any diversity inclusion initiatives? Do you even have a DNI lead? What programs do you have that can help support me? Do you have mental health? Do you have employee resource groups and do you have professional development opportunities?” These are questions that they’re asking and they’re also not afraid to be able to leave at a faster rate than, I would say, older generations. You know, they find a company and they want to stick with it for a long time. I think the young professionals now are saying, “if you’re not putting into me, I’m okay with getting up and finding a new opportunity.” And so I think it’s definitely forcing agencies to think a little bit differently about what they’re providing to their employees.

Adrian Tennant: Right. So to that point, continuing professional education, more the responsibility of the employer than the employees, is that fair?

Reema Elghossain: I think it’s a very competitive market right now. I think there’s a lot of young, amazing talent and I think the industry knows they’re losing talent really quickly. And especially because I haven’t been able to keep up with what other industries are doing from remote days to better work life balance to personal and professional development opportunities. And I think our professionals see that, I think they talk to each other and I think they know what issues there are. And so when they’re coming into interviews, they’re a lot more intentional with the questions they’re asking.

Adrian Tennant: Are you finding that younger professionals are considering freelancing right out of college?

Reema Elghossain: Yeah. I would say maybe after a couple of years, I think I’ve noticed that there are some of our alumni who have gone through the program maybe a couple years ago and they reach out to me a lot and they’re looking for freelance. I think they liked the comfort of being able to work from home, especially with industry that’s expected to work a lot more than 40 hours a week. And so if they are already planning to stay to do that, they want a little bit more freedom to be able to do that at their own time. This is definitely a non-conventional generation where it doesn’t have to be done at nine to five. It can still get done really well. And I think freelance is a really attractive option for them, especially because – and I can speak a lot more about our community -if they’re not feeling comfortable or feeling included at their agency, I think they would sometimes rather leave and leave some of that toxicity and be able to just work for themselves on their own and to be able to work on projects. And the industry is kind of set up so that it can do that. Right? You can work on a team, you can work on one project and then once that’s done, you can work on another one. And you don’t necessarily have to be, you know, um married to one agency to do that.

Adrian Tennant: Yeah. A great point. I just actually picked up some research put out by Statista. It says that there’s actually been a 78% increase in job posts mentioning workplace flexibility since 2016 and 37% of employees would switch to a job that allows them to work offsite, at least part of the time. And the trend, of course, being most pronounced among Millennial workers. That doesn’t sound too surprising based on what we’ve just been discussing.

Reema Elghossain: Yeah, not at all. I mean, I would love that too! I think there is a lot more flexibility in it. It creates a lot of space. I mean imagine you’re working until 10:00 PM at night and then to be able to come in at noon the next day. It does help prevent burnout. It helps prevent not just exhaustion but feeling overwhelmed. And I think it makes for more productivity. So I’ve seen a lot of other industries that I’ve been in that have been having more flexibility in that. And I just think it’s really beneficial and I think it’s almost necessary. I don’t know if the industry is even thinking about that just yet.

Adrian Tennant: Great discussion, Reema. Are there any resources that you’d recommend for people interested in pursuing a career within advertising?

Reema Elghossain: I read a lot of books on personal and professional development and I think that’s what I would suggest to any young professional. I read books from Eckhart Tolle or Michael Singer… 15 Steps for Conscious Leadership. Those I think are going to be great tools that are going to help set you apart in the advertising industry because I think it’s not just about your specific skill, right? I think people come into this industry with a certain craft and then they spend their entire careers perfecting that craft and you’re going to have all those opportunities to do that. And what I think is lacking sometimes as you continue to grow in that ladder but you don’t necessarily learn management skills, development skills,your communication skills and your styles, how to read and identify people. And I think what will set you apart and allow you to grow an industry is if you focus on a lot of those resources. And that’s usually the biggest advice that I do.

Adrian Tennant: Reema, that was great advice indeed. And we will include links to those resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS webpage. For now, Reema, thank you very much for joining us today. Really appreciate your time.

Reema Elghossain: Okay. Thank you so much.

Adrian Tennant: As Reema explained, the 4A’s Foundation’s Multicultural Advertising Internship Program – or MAIP, for short – helps people from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds enter the advertising industry. With some personal insights on what it’s like to go through MAIP, I’m joined now here in the studio by Bigeye’s Digital Marketing Specialist, Megan Trinidad, who is an alumna of MAIP. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Megan.

Maegan Trinidad: Hello!

Adrian Tennant: Firstly, can you briefly describe your role here at Bigeye?

Maegan Trinidad: I am a Digital Marketing Specialist and that entails doing a lot of reporting and optimizations for our client’s campaigns.

Adrian Tennant: How long have you been at the agency?

Maegan Trinidad: I actually started as an intern in the Fall of 2018 but I joined full-time in May of 2019.

Adrian Tennant: And I should mention too that Megan actually created the Airtable database that we use to track every step of the production process for these weekly podcasts. So we’re very grateful for that – thank you Maegan. So thinking back, in high school, were you more drawn to liberal arts or STEM subjects?

Maegan Trinidad: Interestingly enough, I was more STEM. I wanted to be more creative so I feel that advertising and marketing in general was a way for me to bridge those two because I got to touch the creative side at least a little bit and help with my analytical and mathematical background as well as my research background.

Adrian Tennant: Perfect. So was it high school – was that the time when you have the idea that advertising might be something you’d be interested in pursuing as a career?

Maegan Trinidad: I think so. I think I knew I wanted to do a business major and when I learned what marketing was in high school, that’s when I decided to pursue that in college.

Adrian Tennant: When did you first learn about the 4A’s Foundation’s program?

Maegan Trinidad: So one of my family members is actually also a MAIP alumna and she’s the one who told me about it before I entered in my sophomore year in college. Because she noticed that I could benefit from the program and seeing what it was like to work at an agency because I didn’t necessarily know what I wanted to do with my marketing degree. So it was something that was worth a shot – and I ended up really liking working agency-side, which is why I did MAIP two years and ended up at Bigeye.

Adrian Tennant: What was the application process for MAIP like?

Maegan Trinidad: It involved several essays, a video interview, and after those were submitted, there were two further rounds of interviews.

Adrian Tennant:  Wow. I think you said you did the program twice.

Maegan Trinidad: I did.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. What was the female-to-male ratio like? I’m curious.

Maegan Trinidad: I feel like it wasn’t a stark difference, but it was a little more female, I’d say.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. You attended the MAIP events in New York City. What were they like?

Maegan Trinidad: I feel like they’re a really good experience. We got to go to several agencies, like Weiden and Kennedy, I believe. And it was interesting to see what different types of agencies looked like in their different organization styles because obviously we could meet the different people who worked there and we got to network with them and we also got to see what their space was like and they were all very different.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. Now it sounds like there was some competition amongst agencies for interns on that MAIP program. Where did you intern?

Maegan Trinidad: The first year when I was in New York I was at MEC, which is now Wavemaker. And the second year I was in Chicago at Mindshare.

Adrian Tennant: So what did you personally feel were the most valuable lessons you learned from each of those internships?

Maegan Trinidad: To be adaptable, to be honest, when I went through MAIP, I was selected to be a media planner and media planning wasn’t my first choice. I wanted to be a strategy intern because I mentioned earlier that I have a research background and I wanted to see what that was like to apply in an agency setting. But working in media planning did allow me to see what else was out there and when I got to meet my teams at my agencies, they were very welcoming and they worked with what I felt were my strong suits. So they adapted what they had me do based on my desire to branch out and see how I could bring my skill set to the agencies.

Adrian Tennant: Right. Have you kept in touch with any of your fellow fellows?

Maegan Trinidad: My fellow fellows? Yeah, actually I’ve made really good friends during MAIP. That’s another thing I really enjoyed. Most of you guys are strangers when you show up to your host city and since you live together you get to make some really good friends. I made some of my very closest friends during mate. Unfortunately now they live across the country, but…

Adrian Tennant: Well at least you’ve got people you can go visit and possibly crash on their sofa.

Maegan Trinidad: … That’s what I say!

Adrian Tennant: So Maegan, what if anything, do you think either MAIP, or you could have done differently to enhance the experience?

Maegan Trinidad: I feel that MAIP has a really good structure already and the only thing that I would change about it would be offering more of the, um, they’re called MAIP Labs where every or most weeks you go to a different agency and they speak to a different topic. I would offer those in more cities. I understand that that’s not really a feasible option in some of the host cities but I feel that in some of the, some of the larger cities like LA, they don’t really have as many of those opportunities as they do in New York or Chicago. So I feel like I would make more of an effort to make more MAIP events for those places or make something supplementary to them. 

Adrian Tennant: Maegan, would you recommend the program to others looking to enter the advertising industry?

Maegan Trinidad: Oh, absolutely. And even interns here, if I see that they have an interest and they’re qualified to join the program and have an interest in specifically some of the disciplines that they have offered through MAIP, I talk to them about the program and tell them about the application process and what I went through. And if they’re interested, I offer to tell them more about my personal experience. And I was a MAIP Ambassador at UCF before I graduated. So I feel like I want to be a resource for other students and if they want to learn more, they can contact me.

Adrian Tennant: Perfect. Great insights, Maegan. Thank you very much for joining us.

Maegan Trinidad: Thank you!


Adrian Tennant: Thanks also to Reema Elghossain, VP of the 4A’s Foundation, responsible for talent, equity, and inclusion. You can find links to the resources we discussed on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” Please consider subscribing to the show on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. And if you like what you hear, please leave a review and a rating. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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In Clear Focus: The Business of Trends

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: consumer trends. Bigeye’s Senior Strategist, Dana Cassell, examines the business of identifying, analyzing, and predicting trends in consumer culture. We discuss Data Abundance and Ungendering – two trends identified in Rohit Bhargava’s new book, “Non-Obvious Megatrends,” and assess how marketers can benefit from successfully identifying and tapping into what’s trending.

In Clear Focus: The Business of Trends

In Clear Focus this week: consumer trends. Bigeye’s Senior Strategist, Dana Cassell, examines the business of identifying, analyzing, and predicting trends in consumer culture. We discuss Data Abundance and Ungendering – two trends identified in Rohit Bhargava’s new book, “Non-Obvious Megatrends,” and assess how marketers can benefit from successfully identifying and tapping into what’s trending.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us. It’s the first month of the new year and the new decade, the perfect time to put consumer trends IN CLEAR FOCUS. Identifying trends in consumer behavior – and more broadly, their cultural context – is a part of the work that advertising agencies, marketing-oriented management consultancies, research groups and design firms undertake regularly for clients. But there are also many standalone trend agencies with a focus on helping organizations imagine, plan for, and navigate the future. One of the first examples of this kind of forecasting was a study commissioned by president Herbert Hoover. Published in 1933, the study was entitled, “Recent Social Trends,” and Hoover wrote the foreword, which noted, “the task was to inquire into changing trends, resulting in emphasis on elements of instability rather than stability in the social structure.” Today, trends are an accepted part of consumer culture, so much so that we use the word, “trending,” to acknowledge a rapid rise in popularity and often an equally fast fade. Consumer trend forecasting as we know it got its start in the 1970s, a particularly turbulent decade in the West, which saw major political, social and economic changes including feminism, environmentalism, civil rights, war and economic instability caused in part by the energy crisis. It was in this context that futurology – the study of the future and science of forecasting – first developed and motivated various government initiatives, think tanks, and policy groups. The bestselling book, “Future Shock,” by Alvin Toffler was published in 1970 and accurately predicted the Internet, the sharing economy and telecommuting. Fast-forward to today and there are now many trend forecasting firms. For example, Sparks & Honey describes itself as a “cultural consultancy.” Four days a week, its consultants livestream video of a 60-minute discussion on the latest trends from its New York studios. Other companies in this space include PSFK, Trend Watching and Cool Hunting. The Canadian Trendhunter.com uses a crowdsourced model leveraging a global network of almost 250,000 trend spotters, artificial intelligence, and its own team of researchers and futurists. It scores trends across multiple dimensions including popularity and “freshness.” And the largest research groups including Nielsen and Euromonitor also regularly offer commentaries on consumer trends. To talk about trend analysis and its practical application to marketing communication and brand strategy, I’m joined here in the studio today by Dana Cassell, Bigeye’s Senior Strategist. Welcome back to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Dana.

Dana Cassell: Thanks Adrian. Let’s talk about strategy.

Adrian Tennant: So what’s your definition of a consumer trend?

Dana Cassell: I think a consumer trend is the direction of change or development and when we talk about it in marketing we mean change or development in consumer behavior, preferences or attitudes. Do you have a different take on that?

Adrian Tennant: There’s a couple that I found that I do like. So one – which is a bit wordy – is: “a trend collapses the distance between the past, present and future, by showcasing how the world of tomorrow exists today.”

Dana Cassell: Do you have that stitched on a pillow at home?

Adrian Tennant: Sounds like it could be something we could put on a wall.

Dana Cassell: Christmas gift!

Adrian Tennant: Hmmm. Or as William Gibson may or may not have written, “the future is already here, it is just unevenly distributed.”

Dana Cassell: Hmm.

Adrian Tennant: So what’s the difference between a consumer trend and a fad?

Dana Cassell: I’ve spent some time on this one and I think it comes down to lifespan. I think a fad is in and out and has a less long-term influence. And I think trends are generally longer-standing behaviors or changes and have a higher potential to influence culture in the long-term.

Adrian Tennant: Now, to what extent have you identified and labeled cultural dynamics in your work with clients?

Dana Cassell: Well, cultural dynamics are always at play, whether it’s why a client has approached us or not. So they’re always around and I think, two different questions: to what extent have I identified them and labeled them. Identifying them? Always. This always is happening, as the foundational elements of understanding a brand or a client. So omnipresent, always should be understood. To what extent are they labeled, I think, is a more nuanced question. I don’t think cultural dynamics are always a top three priority in campaigns. Sometimes they are though and sometimes they’re the root of the reason a client has come to an agency. There might be some divergence of opinion on how important a cultural trend is for that organization internally. And we’re here to find some data to settle that score. So I would say always identified, sometimes labeled.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. Well, identifying trends can reveal of course, deeper insights about how future scenarios might impact consumer culture and of course consumption. In your view, are brands maximizing the potential of consumer trends?

Dana Cassell: Yeah, some of them. Some of them do, some of them don’t. But also some trends are easier to maximize. Like for instance, we’re in the middle of a shift to a consumer-centric model of customization and delivery, like all of our monthly subscriptions and our boxes and try on the clothes, send back the pieces you don’t want, and get your very unique box of crafted local produce delivered to your doorstep. This kind of very consumer-centric customization and delivery trend is easier to maximize for lots of brands than some other trends that are happening. Like the shift away from terrestrial shopping is much harder for some industries to maximize. Small boutiques have had a much harder time moving online into an e-commerce model. So some trends are nearly impossible to maximize for certain types of industry. Others seem more ubiquitous in their possibility.

Adrian Tennant:  In what kinds of ways might a client translate a newly emerging trend into a market opportunity?

Dana Cassell: I was thinking about the banking industry and video. So if the trend is brands using beautifully-told, compelling video to tell their brand story and then slicing that video into various parts of a content library. So some for TV, some for over-the-top, some digital, some in app, maybe some email, account-based strategy. So the trend being using beautiful video to create a generous video content library. How can a client maximize this trend? I think of our banking clients and our work in the financial industry, that’s not an industry that has typically spent a ton of money in high-produced, quality video. And we’re seeing some of our brands who are more interested in moving forward into a more modern phase of banking, adopt that and find ways of telling their brand story well through video and not just using maybe some old tropes that have been used in TV advertising for a long time in that industry, but really thinking about high production value in storytelling through video.

Adrian Tennant:  Mmm. I think that’s a great example. Also, I know I often mention the UK, but there are some parallels in the industry. Over there, a direct-to-consumer bank brand has launched a campaign that’s really built around the insight that one of the main stressors for young people is their financial health.

Dana Cassell: Sure.

Adrian Tennant: So the advertising campaign plays on that idea of health and wellness and particularly mental health, with some quite thought-provoking creative. So there’s a trend towards health and wellness with a particular demographic applied to finance.

Dana Cassell: Brilliant. So they’re bringing financial health into the health and wellness trend we’re seeing?

Adrian Tennant: Absolutely.

Dana Cassell: That’s great.

Adrian Tennant: Yeah. So that’s an example of how it can work.

Dana Cassell: I love that one.

Adrian Tennant: Have you found a framework or an approach that has helped you become more attuned to trends?

Dana Cassell: I think this is a really interesting question and I was trying to figure out what it is. I know I have a framework and approach for identifying them because I have a pattern of being able to look back and see trends and how we use them in strategy. So I know that we have found ways to identify them well, but I didn’t know exactly how so I appreciate that you asked this question. The only solid answer I can come up with, it seems to be real over time is when something becomes disruptive enough that I have to sort of put something aside and go figure out what this thing is. Like one example I’ve thought of is when filters started becoming really popular for people to use on photos and I was seeing enough weird cat ears, bunny noses, whiskers on people like, “okay, what is happening?” I need to, I’m seeing this enough that I need to go figure it out. I feel behind in something. And then I can go and absorb what’s going on and where it started and how it’s impacting people. And then extrapolating that from the just the consumer piece up into our brands, which I think is how I see trends happening a lot. I start to understand them as a consumer, and then as a strategist I start to think, “okay, if this is how people are relating one-on-one to this trend, what does that mean for the brands that serve those people?”

Adrian Tennant: Dana, in your world, what’s trending right now?

Dana Cassell: So my world… I think it’s important to define my world a little bit for people who might not know me. So I am 38, I am a mother of two young girls. I’m married, I travel quite a bit, and in my world what’s trending right now, health tracking is all over the place. So this could be a middle life thing. Age stage and trend is a fascinating question. What is related to stage versus what is it a broader trend? I think they also might be the same thing, but anyway, health tracking is a big deal. The watches. I’m getting reports from some people in my life about how many minutes of REM sleep they’re getting at night. I care. I don’t know how much I care. I care. He’ll listen. I care. The concept of a gender reveal as people are having babies, this is a thing that’s happened in the world. It’s a new, a trend. It’s not so much new anymore. It’s not a fad anymore. I think it’s a trend. The concept of screen time as a parent, as a human, that health as you’re talking about a holistic approach at house screen time and related to that cutting cable,moving from a cable-oriented environment to a very consumer-customized streaming approach. There’s also a trend in tiny home downsizing, a shift from thinking about “what can we amass?” to, “what exactly are we amassing in our home?” I’m seeing that happen a lot. Clean eating. I’m also seeing a trend in the podcast catch-up, whether you are an early adopter or not. Podcasting – it’s disruptive enough that I think if you haven’t been a podcast listener at this point, you’re probably like, “okay, what does this whole podcast thing about?” So I’m enjoying being able to help people onboard into podcasts and find their little custom feed that’s a great fit for their lifestyle. So I think the trend of podcast catch-up and then the last thing I think – this is bigger than my life stage for sure – is the trend of product food, kind of household everything, having a focus on craft or maker local, locally-sourced. So that trend of local craft artisan lifestyle, I see as a pretty substantial trend at this point. 

Adrian Tennant: Okay, so full disclosure, Dana and I received a pre-publication copy of a new book authored by Rohit Bhargava, entitled, “Non-Obvious Mega Trends: How to See What Others Miss and Predict the Future.” This is the tenth edition in an annual series and has already reached bestseller status on Amazon.com. There are 10 mega trends identified in the book, which in a tradition of trend consulting have suitably catchy labels applied including Amplified Identity, Ungendering, Attention Wealth, Purposeful Profit, and Data Abundance. So for our inaugural IN CLEAR FOCUS book club, let’s dive into a couple of the trends that the book identifies. Data is very much in the news these days, usually for the wrong reasons. Uh, we know from our own research that there’s growing anxiety among consumers about potential misuses of personal data. What then is data abundance?

Dana Cassell: Data abundance is – I think it’s the age we’re in, like the information age – I think we’re in the age of data abundance. The book notes that 90% of the data in the world has been collected in the last two years. 90% of the data in the world in the last two years. We’re just living in a time where we’re collecting data on everything all the time. And that’s a new idea. It’s only been about the last 15 years that collecting and using data has become important. So there are a few questions that come out of the age of data abundance, which is what’s the meaning of this data? How do we use it? Who owns it? And who’s entitled to profit from it?

Adrian Tennant:  So Dana, in what ways does this perspective offer fresh insights into data environments?

Dana Cassell: Yeah, in the age of data abundance, we have to understand that more is not always better. When we began collecting data in marketing, it was just lovely to have data and to be able to use it. But now we have all of it. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s better. However, everybody can and should be understanding the data that they are collecting and how we can maximize it. For our brands. We do have a responsibility with data in many different ways and transparency to our clients and our consumers. And also balancing the integrity of using data with profit. So just that general understanding that profit is never worth sacrificing and brand’s integrity and the data abundant environment calls that line to question often.

Adrian Tennant: And how does Bhargava differentiate good data from bad data?

Dana Cassell:  Yeah, he talks about data pollution, and that being the point of differentiation between good and bad. And there are a few ways that data gets polluted. We can have an overflow of data, data manipulation, data sabotage, data contamination and data exploration. I feel with our clients, we see kind of two pieces of data pollution happening regularly and that in marketing we see more of these issues. Data overflow, which is really when too much data gets captured and our clients just don’t know what to focus on or data expiration: so when data is not updated as frequently as necessary and then loses its value because it’s not current.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. How practical were the book’s suggestions around making meaning out of data?

Dana Cassell: Again, it kind of depends on what kind of data you have about how practical his suggestions were. He told a case study about a car insurance company in China that uses images of damage to cars and images of car parts to analyze an accident and then analyze the price to have that fixed in order to make an estimate for repair. And obviously that’s a really meaningful way to use data. And they have a ton of data that’s informed that and so it’s saved the industry an insane amount of money. It has created an efficiency for clients as well. So I think that example is a great example of how to make meaning out of data. I’m always interested in how our clients can make meaning out of data. And I think that’s part of our role as strategists is to help our clients understand what is the most meaningful data that they’re collecting and how can we use that in a way that there’s high integrity and responsibility to consumers, but also interest for the brand.

Adrian Tennant: Dana, did this trend feel mega or non-obvious to you?

Dana Cassell: Mega! Data’s never non-obvious, come on!

Adrian Tennant: [Laughing].

Dana Cassell: So Adrian, for our chat today, you focused on the Ungendering trend and chapter in the book. What’s that all about?

Adrian Tennant: Bhargava makes the case that traditional gender divisions and labels are kind of getting replaced now with more fluid understandings around gender identity. That in itself is forcing a reevaluation of how we see employees, employers, customers, brands, and of course one another.

Dana Cassell: So does the trend change the way we need to think about gender-based roles?

Adrian Tennant: So in the 1970s, he talks about the fact that the ideal of femininity was a woman who kind of has it all, in other words, a job and a family and a household to take care of. Then women were celebrated for being the jugglers in chief and expected to uphold kind of impossible standards – right? – in the workplace and at home. And then this facade he talks about is also breaking apart at breakneck speed. And you have a much fiercer model of femininity now where women can be strong and serious at the same time, you can still be a mother or you can have this thing that he calls “otherhood” which describes women who by choice or circumstantial infertility don’t have children.

Dana Cassell: Uh-huh. So what is the book’s take on Gender X – and what is Gender X?

Adrian Tennant:  More than 10 US States have passed legislation allowing individuals to select a gender-neutral choice of X rather than the letter M or F when they apply for a driver’s license or an ID card. Um, and this has actually already been a thing for about a decade. Australia, Germany, Canada and India have also allowed for this third option on passports. So nonbinary gender identity is definitely gaining mainstream attention. So it’s a trend, not a fad.

Dana Cassell:  And what does being ungendered mean for consumer behavior?

Adrian Tennant:   Growing up, I knew what toys were designed for me because they would be blue.

Dana Cassell:  Uh-huh

Adrian Tennant:  And you probably grew up at a time when your toys were pink.

Dana Cassell: And purple. Yeah.

Adrian Tennant:  A lot of parents are questioning that, that whole idea. So toy makers in particular are deliberately designing much more inclusive packaging and avoiding attachment of a gender to the product itself.

Dana Cassell: Mmm.

Adrian Tennant: A great example that I found, not mentioned in this book, but you may recall, towards the tail end of last year, Mattel…

Dana Cassell: Uh-huh.

Adrian Tennant: …brought out a range of gender-neutral dolls for boys, girls and as they said in the press release, “children in between.” So super interesting. I really liked Mattel‘s summation of this – they said, “in our world dolls are as limitless as the kids who play with them. Introducing Creatable World, a doll line designed to keep labels out and invite everyone in.”

Dana Cassell: Brilliant line. Great line.

Adrian Tennant: I love that. I love that.

Dana Cassell: Does this trend of ungendering feel mega or non-obvious to you, Adrian?

Adrian Tennant: Mega? Yes. When Reema Elghossain, who’s the VP of Talent, Equity, and Inclusion at the 4A’s Foundation joined us on IN CLEAR FOCUS recently, we actually talked about this very topic in the context of the changing workplace. Bhargava makes the point that biases take time, sometimes generations, to change. And I think we’ve seen that to some extent with LGBTQ issues, but gender identity feels like a whole new frontier. As for non-obvious, maybe not so much but that’s because I have the privilege of working in the city of Orlando. Last year the city received a perfect 100 out of 100 score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index, which assesses discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation – and gender identity.

Dana Cassell: Hmmm!

Adrian Tennant: Dana, thank you very much for joining us again today.

Dana Cassell: Thanks for having me. Anytime you want to talk about strategy and research, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant: So of course, my thanks to Dana Cassell, Senior Strategist at Bigeye. You can find links to the resources we discussed on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” And please consider subscribing to the show on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you again for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

In Clear Focus: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

IN CLEAR FOCUS this week: How advertising agencies are attracting new employees and approaching retention, diversity, and gender equality. Reema Elghossain, VP of Talent, Equity & Inclusion at the 4A’s Foundation, shares her observations about how generational differences and attitudes towards gender and identity are changing how agencies engage with their staff. We also hear from Bigeye’s Digital Marketing Specialist, Maegan Trinidad, who is an alumna of the 4A’s Multicultural Advertising Internship Program (MAIP) and learn how it helped her enter the industry. 

In Clear Focus: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

In Clear Focus this week: how advertising agencies are attracting new employees and approaching retention, diversity, and gender equality. Reema Elghossain, VP of Talent, Equity & Inclusion at the 4A’s Foundation, shares her observations about how generational differences and attitudes towards gender and identity are changing how agencies engage with their staff.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at the Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative- driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us today. The most recent data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that unemployment is at 3.5%, the lowest rate since 1969. Filling vacant positions or newly created positions is a significant challenge for many employers – especially those seeking to grow – and competition for workers is fierce. Candidates with creative and media skills have many options when it comes to potential employers. Design, marketing and writing skills are sought by companies beyond advertising and media agencies. Consider tech companies and the growth of direct-to-consumer products and services, many of which have opted to develop creative and media buying capabilities in-house. The rise of digital media has also brought with it a new wave of tech savvy creatives and analytical thinkers, many of them working client side. Advertising agencies certainly compete for creative talent, but in addition, are challenged to recruit and retain workforces that reflect America’s ethnic and racial diversity. Almost half a century ago, the American Association of Advertising Agencies better known as the 4A’s recognized the lack of diversity in the industry. In 1973, the 4A’s launched its minority intern program to encourage students from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds to consider careers in advertising. And later the organization awarded scholarships to African American, Hispanic, and Asian American young professionals entering the industry. Nearly 50 years on the 4A’s continues to represent the marketing communications agency business. The organization’s stated mission is to empower agencies to thrive by advancing issues such as evolving agency models, but also talent, retention, diversity and gender equality. Joining me via phone from New York City today, Reema Elghossain is Vice President of the 4A’s Foundation and responsible for talent, equity and inclusion. Reema has 15 years of experience in education, talent development, and diversity and leads some of the industry’s most prominent diversity pipeline initiatives. These include the Multicultural Advertising Internship Program known as MAIP, which evolved from the original Minority Intern Program. Reema also oversees the 4A’s Foundation’s educational programs, scholarships and awards, as well as professional and organizational development opportunities. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Reema.

Reema Elghossain: Hello. Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: Reema, could you explain a little more about the Foundation and the part it plays within the 4A’s?

Reema Elghossain: Sure, absolutely. So the 4A’s Foundation was established in 1997, with a commitment to provide scholarships and awards for young people of color interested in getting involved in the advertising industry. In the last two years, the 4A’s made an intentional decision to move MAIP and our educational programs, which include our high school initiatives over into the 4A’s Foundation. So it really serves the industry, advertising and marketing at large, with all of their talent needs, especially when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion. So we really try to support the industry from the 4A’s Foundation with finding diverse talent, with educating diverse talent, n what advertising is and the experience, and then really developing that talent once they’re into the industry.

Adrian Tennant: I mentioned during the introduction that the 4A’s had the foresight to establish an internship program focused on diversity back in the 1970s. In what kinds of ways does your work with the 4A’s Foundation today help young professionals in their careers?

Reema Elghossain: We do it a number of ways within our educational programs. We partner right now with two high schools in New York city that are predominantly students of color that actually have an advertising track within the high school programs. And so what we do for our high school students is we try to immerse them into the advertising industry. We connect to them with speakers and experts in the industry to share insight. We host events and competitions for them so that they can understand what it’s like to get briefed by a client and to do pitches. We train them on what every discipline is in the industry and really try to help slowly build a network for them while they’re in high school and show them opportunities to be able to major in advertising and have internships throughout their career. Through MAIP we do it a number of ways. We have our fellowship program and that runs annually and we do a 13-week virtual spring training for all of our fellows before they even enter their internship at their agency. And that again trains them on what each discipline is. But then also we train them on some transferable skills and then how to navigate the industry, especially from coming from a diverse place. And then we have over 3,500 alumni that have gone through our programs since 1973. And what we do is we partner with agencies and outside companies to provide any type of personal development, professional development, networking opportunities. 

Adrian Tennant: Fantastic. Now can you talk a little bit about the process for students who may be interested in applying for the 4A’s MAIP program?

Reema Elghossain: Around the end of August and into mid-October, we have applications for students to apply to be part of our program. It’s for juniors, seniors, and grad students across the country and it’s a pretty extensive application process. And we ask for essay questions, the video, letters of recommendation and really just want to understand, you know, what they’re interested in the industry. We then give them a screening process. We do coach them on interview tips and prepare them through the process. And then we have our community of volunteers in the industry that really support our initiatives, who will interview them. And once they pass through all of those stages, they then become finalists. At that same time, our agencies are applying to host fellows for the next year. And then we have a huge selection kickoff where agencies will then make offers to their favorite top finalists and they place an offer and that MAIP finalist has the opportunity to accept or decline. If they accept and it can be anywhere in the country, then they now become a fellow. Once they become a fellow, we actually support the agencies by taking care of housing and travel for all of the fellows. And then again, onboarding them with that spring training. And an orientation to get them really immersed into the program before they even enter their internship.

Adrian Tennant: Well, that sounds very thorough. And do you typically have that kickoff in New York City, or does it change according to where the students are coming from?

Reema Elghossain: Sure. So the actual live kick off is in New York City, but we live stream it, we live stream it through our Facebook page, our main page, and through Zoom. And so all of our agency partners, all of the finalists are alumni community. A lot will sign in and be able to watch it happening live. And so it’s really exciting. We invite all of the finalists that are in New York to be able to attend and they get to receive their offers live, in person.

Adrian Tennant: Let’s change gears just a little bit. So with the visibility of the #MeToo movement, there’s heightened awareness of issues around gender inequality, bias, and discrimination within the workplace. And ad agencies have certainly not been immune from scrutiny. From where you stand, has #MeToo been a kind of a wake up call for the industry?

Reema Elghossain: I think absolutely and in a lot of different ways. I think it’s something that everyone is aware of, but no one really knew what to do. And so when that movement came around I think it woke a lot of people up in the industry. And I think one, it scared a lot of agencies because they were whispers before and then now it just became something where there’s actually some accountability that’s going to be happening. And so I definitely think it shook up the industry in a major way. And I think it still is in a lot of ways and it definitely shifted the understanding and awareness, I think for the talent and employees to realize what their opportunities were and having a voice and being able to know what their rights are. So I definitely think it impacted just the industry and, and from the top down.

Adrian Tennant: Traditional gender divisions and labels, the binary choice of male or female are being replaced with the more fluid concept of gender identity. Thinking differently about gender identity also has, of course, potentially significant impacts on the work an agency does for clients. Everything from consumer insights research and brand strategy through to creative and messaging. In this context, how well are agencies addressing these long held assumptions about gender?

Reema Elghossain: That’s a great question. It’s a conversation that’s becoming louder and it’s something that’s becoming more important. And especially I think when agencies are looking at their employees and saying, “we have to be able to create a safer space and a space that’s more open for, for all.” And so looking at their people holistically, I think is allowing them to also be able to work with clients and say, “okay, our consumers also need to be looked at in a holistic way as well.” It’s a conversation that is happening to support who works in the industry, but then because I think that inevitably will impact how they support clients and their consumers.

Adrian Tennant: In addition to gender bias, discrimination, and identity, what are some of the other areas that you work with member agencies on?

Reema Elghossain: A lot of things. So talent development. We also talk to our agencies about supporting them with how to have a more diverse workplace, how to be more inclusive of what systems they can put into place that can support that. We talk a lot about retention. We talk about, “how do we move diverse talent up the corporate ladder?” And then also “what are systems and initiatives we can put into place that really can support their employees there?” Number one to bring in talent, but then also to make it a place where the talent wants to stay.

Adrian Tennant: Right. Have you codified these into a set of best practices?

Reema Elghossain: Yeah, we’d like to work with our agencies to produce those best practices. We all have a lot of ideas and I think it really depends on where that agency is. But we have maybe smaller to mid-size agencies that are really just starting their diversity initiatives. They might not even have a lead person in their diversity, equity, initiatives. And then there’s the larger agencies that might already have a DNI lead or team and they have different needs at the same time. So we do have some best practices in place and it really depends on what the agency is. And then I have my own opinion.

Adrian Tennant: Ah, let’s get to those. You referenced the fact that the 4A’s includes holding company agencies – which I’m guessing are typically in the major metros -as well as independently owned agencies, many of which – like ourselves – are in smaller markets. How then do you apply variations in how differently-sized agencies identify and approach these kinds of issues?

Reema Elghossain: I think for me it would be just doing a little bit of research and talking to each agency and finding out what their needs are and out what they’re, even, what their budget is, and where to start, right? So if they’re talking about, “we want to focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and the talent.” The first thing is how diverse is your agency? Now I don’t expect agencies to share their numbers, but what is your first goal? Is it one hiring diverse talent so that you can diverse, you know, add diversity to your pool? Or is it “we have diverse talent, we want to add more, but what can we do to be a more inclusive space?” And there’s definitely different needs when it comes to both. I definitely think every agency, whether it’s independent, small, all the way up to the to larger holding companies, all need to continue to hire more diverse talent. So that’s I think, a problem across the board. But depending on where they are and what their resources are, there are different ways that they can make a better environment.

Adrian Tennant: Specifically thinking about job candidates and young professionals, do you see any generational differences in how today’s young professionals maybe just starting out in the industry or have one or two years experience how their career decisions contrast or compare to older, more established workers?

Reema Elghossain: Absolutely. They are thinking of things that I never thought of when I was their age. They are thinking about, “what are your mental health and wellness programs that you have established at your agency?” They’re thinking about even things that might not even matter to them early on, but like, “what are your maternity and paternity leave programs? What is your work life balance?” They are thinking of things that are important to them that, I’ll be honest, at 37, I didn’t think of when I was their age and they’re holding agencies a lot more accountable. They’re looking at agencies and saying, “what can you do for me?” Not just, “what can I do for you?” I would say when they first get into the industry, there is that still that same fear and desperation of finding a job in a lot of places, especially for our MAIP, community. You know, as young people of color, there’s this fear of being able to find a job, but the questions that they’re asking are very much different. They’re not just, “what are the hours and the salary and the insurance benefits?” They’re also just asking about the experience, the environment. “Do you have any diversity inclusion initiatives? Do you even have a DNI lead? What programs do you have that can help support me? Do you have mental health? Do you have employee resource groups and do you have professional development opportunities?” These are questions that they’re asking and they’re also not afraid to be able to leave at a faster rate than, I would say, older generations. You know, they find a company and they want to stick with it for a long time. I think the young professionals now are saying, “if you’re not putting into me, I’m okay with getting up and finding a new opportunity.” And so I think it’s definitely forcing agencies to think a little bit differently about what they’re providing to their employees.

Adrian Tennant: Right. So to that point, continuing professional education, more the responsibility of the employer than the employees, is that fair?

Reema Elghossain: I think it’s a very competitive market right now. I think there’s a lot of young, amazing talent and I think the industry knows they’re losing talent really quickly. And especially because I haven’t been able to keep up with what other industries are doing from remote days to better work life balance to personal and professional development opportunities. And I think our professionals see that, I think they talk to each other and I think they know what issues there are. And so when they’re coming into interviews, they’re a lot more intentional with the questions they’re asking.

Adrian Tennant: Are you finding that younger professionals are considering freelancing right out of college?

Reema Elghossain: Yeah. I would say maybe after a couple of years, I think I’ve noticed that there are some of our alumni who have gone through the program maybe a couple years ago and they reach out to me a lot and they’re looking for freelance. I think they liked the comfort of being able to work from home, especially with industry that’s expected to work a lot more than 40 hours a week. And so if they are already planning to stay to do that, they want a little bit more freedom to be able to do that at their own time. This is definitely a non-conventional generation where it doesn’t have to be done at nine to five. It can still get done really well. And I think freelance is a really attractive option for them, especially because – and I can speak a lot more about our community -if they’re not feeling comfortable or feeling included at their agency, I think they would sometimes rather leave and leave some of that toxicity and be able to just work for themselves on their own and to be able to work on projects. And the industry is kind of set up so that it can do that. Right? You can work on a team, you can work on one project and then once that’s done, you can work on another one. And you don’t necessarily have to be, you know, um married to one agency to do that.

Adrian Tennant: Yeah. A great point. I just actually picked up some research put out by Statista. It says that there’s actually been a 78% increase in job posts mentioning workplace flexibility since 2016 and 37% of employees would switch to a job that allows them to work offsite, at least part of the time. And the trend, of course, being most pronounced among Millennial workers. That doesn’t sound too surprising based on what we’ve just been discussing.

Reema Elghossain: Yeah, not at all. I mean, I would love that too! I think there is a lot more flexibility in it. It creates a lot of space. I mean imagine you’re working until 10:00 PM at night and then to be able to come in at noon the next day. It does help prevent burnout. It helps prevent not just exhaustion but feeling overwhelmed. And I think it makes for more productivity. So I’ve seen a lot of other industries that I’ve been in that have been having more flexibility in that. And I just think it’s really beneficial and I think it’s almost necessary. I don’t know if the industry is even thinking about that just yet.

Adrian Tennant: Great discussion, Reema. Are there any resources that you’d recommend for people interested in pursuing a career within advertising?

Reema Elghossain: I read a lot of books on personal and professional development and I think that’s what I would suggest to any young professional. I read books from Eckhart Tolle or Michael Singer… 15 Steps for Conscious Leadership. Those I think are going to be great tools that are going to help set you apart in the advertising industry because I think it’s not just about your specific skill, right? I think people come into this industry with a certain craft and then they spend their entire careers perfecting that craft and you’re going to have all those opportunities to do that. And what I think is lacking sometimes as you continue to grow in that ladder but you don’t necessarily learn management skills, development skills,your communication skills and your styles, how to read and identify people. And I think what will set you apart and allow you to grow an industry is if you focus on a lot of those resources. And that’s usually the biggest advice that I do.

Adrian Tennant: Reema, that was great advice indeed. And we will include links to those resources on the IN CLEAR FOCUS webpage. For now, Reema, thank you very much for joining us today. Really appreciate your time.

Reema Elghossain: Okay. Thank you so much.

Adrian Tennant: As Reema explained, the 4A’s Foundation’s Multicultural Advertising Internship Program – or MAIP, for short – helps people from diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds enter the advertising industry. With some personal insights on what it’s like to go through MAIP, I’m joined now here in the studio by Bigeye’s Digital Marketing Specialist, Megan Trinidad, who is an alumna of MAIP. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Megan.

Maegan Trinidad: Hello!

Adrian Tennant: Firstly, can you briefly describe your role here at Bigeye?

Maegan Trinidad: I am a Digital Marketing Specialist and that entails doing a lot of reporting and optimizations for our client’s campaigns.

Adrian Tennant: How long have you been at the agency?

Maegan Trinidad: I actually started as an intern in the Fall of 2018 but I joined full-time in May of 2019.

Adrian Tennant: And I should mention too that Megan actually created the Airtable database that we use to track every step of the production process for these weekly podcasts. So we’re very grateful for that – thank you Maegan. So thinking back, in high school, were you more drawn to liberal arts or STEM subjects?

Maegan Trinidad: Interestingly enough, I was more STEM. I wanted to be more creative so I feel that advertising and marketing in general was a way for me to bridge those two because I got to touch the creative side at least a little bit and help with my analytical and mathematical background as well as my research background.

Adrian Tennant: Perfect. So was it high school – was that the time when you have the idea that advertising might be something you’d be interested in pursuing as a career?

Maegan Trinidad: I think so. I think I knew I wanted to do a business major and when I learned what marketing was in high school, that’s when I decided to pursue that in college.

Adrian Tennant: When did you first learn about the 4A’s Foundation’s program?

Maegan Trinidad: So one of my family members is actually also a MAIP alumna and she’s the one who told me about it before I entered in my sophomore year in college. Because she noticed that I could benefit from the program and seeing what it was like to work at an agency because I didn’t necessarily know what I wanted to do with my marketing degree. So it was something that was worth a shot – and I ended up really liking working agency-side, which is why I did MAIP two years and ended up at Bigeye.

Adrian Tennant: What was the application process for MAIP like?

Maegan Trinidad: It involved several essays, a video interview, and after those were submitted, there were two further rounds of interviews.

Adrian Tennant:  Wow. I think you said you did the program twice.

Maegan Trinidad: I did.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. What was the female-to-male ratio like? I’m curious.

Maegan Trinidad: I feel like it wasn’t a stark difference, but it was a little more female, I’d say.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. You attended the MAIP events in New York City. What were they like?

Maegan Trinidad: I feel like they’re a really good experience. We got to go to several agencies, like Weiden and Kennedy, I believe. And it was interesting to see what different types of agencies looked like in their different organization styles because obviously we could meet the different people who worked there and we got to network with them and we also got to see what their space was like and they were all very different.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. Now it sounds like there was some competition amongst agencies for interns on that MAIP program. Where did you intern?

Maegan Trinidad: The first year when I was in New York I was at MEC, which is now Wavemaker. And the second year I was in Chicago at Mindshare.

Adrian Tennant: So what did you personally feel were the most valuable lessons you learned from each of those internships?

Maegan Trinidad: To be adaptable, to be honest, when I went through MAIP, I was selected to be a media planner and media planning wasn’t my first choice. I wanted to be a strategy intern because I mentioned earlier that I have a research background and I wanted to see what that was like to apply in an agency setting. But working in media planning did allow me to see what else was out there and when I got to meet my teams at my agencies, they were very welcoming and they worked with what I felt were my strong suits. So they adapted what they had me do based on my desire to branch out and see how I could bring my skill set to the agencies.

Adrian Tennant: Right. Have you kept in touch with any of your fellow fellows?

Maegan Trinidad: My fellow fellows? Yeah, actually I’ve made really good friends during MAIP. That’s another thing I really enjoyed. Most of you guys are strangers when you show up to your host city and since you live together you get to make some really good friends. I made some of my very closest friends during mate. Unfortunately now they live across the country, but…

Adrian Tennant: Well at least you’ve got people you can go visit and possibly crash on their sofa.

Maegan Trinidad: … That’s what I say!

Adrian Tennant: So Maegan, what if anything, do you think either MAIP, or you could have done differently to enhance the experience?

Maegan Trinidad: I feel that MAIP has a really good structure already and the only thing that I would change about it would be offering more of the, um, they’re called MAIP Labs where every or most weeks you go to a different agency and they speak to a different topic. I would offer those in more cities. I understand that that’s not really a feasible option in some of the host cities but I feel that in some of the, some of the larger cities like LA, they don’t really have as many of those opportunities as they do in New York or Chicago. So I feel like I would make more of an effort to make more MAIP events for those places or make something supplementary to them. 

Adrian Tennant: Maegan, would you recommend the program to others looking to enter the advertising industry?

Maegan Trinidad: Oh, absolutely. And even interns here, if I see that they have an interest and they’re qualified to join the program and have an interest in specifically some of the disciplines that they have offered through MAIP, I talk to them about the program and tell them about the application process and what I went through. And if they’re interested, I offer to tell them more about my personal experience. And I was a MAIP Ambassador at UCF before I graduated. So I feel like I want to be a resource for other students and if they want to learn more, they can contact me.

Adrian Tennant: Perfect. Great insights, Maegan. Thank you very much for joining us.

Maegan Trinidad: Thank you!


Adrian Tennant: Thanks also to Reema Elghossain, VP of the 4A’s Foundation, responsible for talent, equity, and inclusion. You can find links to the resources we discussed on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” Please consider subscribing to the show on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. And if you like what you hear, please leave a review and a rating. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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In Clear Focus: Creating a Culture of Innovation

In Clear Focus this week: how to successfully create innovation competency and culture. Michael Schmidt, Managing Director of Strategic Innovations at Orlando Health, shares a practical framework for transforming ideas into startup businesses and commercial products. Michael speaks to the challenges of creating a culture of innovation across a complex healthcare system as well as the tangible benefits experienced by internal and external innovators, healthcare professionals, and patient communities.

In Clear Focus: Creating a Culture of Innovation

In Clear Focus this week: how to successfully create innovation competency and culture. Michael Schmidt, Managing Director of Strategic Innovations at Orlando Health, shares a practical framework for transforming ideas into startup businesses and commercial products.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant:     You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye, an audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency. We’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us today. Over the past several decades, thanks to improved diagnostic and therapeutic options, healthcare has done much to improve life expectancy and quality of life. And the development of new diagnostic procedures , therapies, drugs and medical devices is something the US has traditionally excelled at. But within the next five years, the cost of healthcare here is predicted to reach 20% of GDP, so technological solutions and new approaches to delivery are of interest to many health systems. Managing systemic change is hard, especially when it comes to creating a culture of innovation. Joining me here in the studio today is someone with hands-on experience of managing just this kind of challenge. Michael Schmidt is the Managing Director of Strategic Innovations at Orlando Health, a network of community and specialty hospitals. Orlando Health is Central Florida’s fifth-largest employer with more than 20,000 employees and more than 3,000 affiliated physicians. Michael has built the Orlando Health Foundry, which develops internal ideas and concepts into startup businesses, or commercialized products, and helps to launch them across Orlando Health and the broader healthcare industry. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Mike.

Michael Schmidt:    Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant:     Mike, your title is Managing Director of Strategic Innovations. How do you define innovation?

Michael Schmidt:    People define innovation and specifically in healthcare a lot of different ways. The definition that has become my favorite. It’s actually from a partner of ours, Healthbox, based in Chicago. And I love it because it’s so simple. It’s “invention adopted.”

Adrian Tennant:    And why is innovation needed within an organization like Orlando Health?

Michael Schmidt:    So we’re at a really interesting time. 2018 was actually our 100th birthday as an organization so kind of at the same time celebrating the past and everything that we’ve accomplished and what it means to the Central Florida community, but also really looking to the future in the next 100 years. And how do we set ourselves up as a hospital system, caring for a broader community to make sure that we’re meeting the needs that the community has, but also making sure that in the increasingly competitive healthcare landscape, we are well prepared to serve those that you know, that we’ve set out to, to serve.

Adrian Tennant:     So Mike, how did you first arrive at the idea that has now become Orlando Health Foundry?

Michael Schmidt:    So we’ve had some fits and starts in terms of a formal innovation program. And so for a healthcare system of our size, that was really a gap. So not quite five years ago, David Strong became our CEO and he brought with him from his previous organization, a number of other senior leaders that now they formed the senior leadership team for Orlando Health. And I think pretty quickly realized that an innovation program is an excellent way to engage the workforce, especially the frontline clinicians and physicians who are directly caring for patients. So to not only make sure that we are tapping into the workforce to get the best insights and feedback on where change needs to happen, where product evolution needs to happen, where we need to to change our approach. But also to make sure that the workforce feels they have an outlet for those ideas when they come up with something, whether it’s a new product, purchase recommendation, or a completely new idea that someone’s come up with that solves some problems. And so we collectively surveyed a number of senior folks across the organization and asked the questions, “what would a, a good innovation program look like?” and “how should we include people from across the healthcare system to help us drive this forward?”

Adrian Tennant:     Excellent. So in establishing Orlando Health Foundry, what challenges did you face?

Michael Schmidt:    So I think one of the biggest challenges for me was initially I was a one person team. And with such a large organization that’s spread out so much it, it has been a bit of a challenge to get the word out to make sure that people know that we have the Foundry program. And then kind of taking it a step beyond that. What is this program? How does it work? How can people participate, engage with it? What types of ideas are we looking for? Things like that. So it’s been a bit of a learning process. One of the best things we do each Fall is we hold workshops at each of the hospitals. And so anybody’s able to come there. They’re a few hours long so it gives people a chance to kind of settle in, ask me questions, get an overview of what the program looks like, but then get real-time feedback on any ideas that they might be working on. And so I always take a step back and say, “how did you guys hear about this first and are there better ways that we can communicate to make sure that we’re reaching everybody who needs to hear about this program that has ideas?” And so I’ve gotten lots of great insights and feedback over time.

Adrian Tennant:     Is the program open only to Orlando Health employees and partner physicians, or is it open to everybody?

Michael Schmidt:    That’s a great question. So the way we’ve decided to set up our program is to focus both on the internal and external environment. So the Foundry specifically serves our internal constituents, so employees, which we call team members and our physicians. And so the Foundry is where they can bring ideas for new products or services that Orlando Health can develop and then commercialize and spin out after using them across our system. For our external focus, we actually have a dedicated investment fund, which many large healthcare systems do now. And so we do direct investing into healthcare startups whose products and services we like to use.

Adrian Tennant:     Right. So how do people with new product or service ideas generally engage with the Foundry? What does the process look like?

Michael Schmidt:    It usually starts at the workshops. And so the program does run on an annual cycle. And so we’ll do an internal kind of marketing campaign around the program invite people to attend the workshops. And so that’s the first chance for them to dip their toes in the water. And oftentimes people sign up but they’re not really sure what to expect. And initially they’re a little hesitant to share the idea. But I think once they understand that, you know, my team is here just to support them, they are, you know, they are my customers. My job is to help them succeed and help them take the next right step with their ideas. It’s always really encouraging to see how the conversation kind of unfolds.

Adrian Tennant:     So what can you tell us about the framework that you’ve developed to help innovators either define or refine those initial concepts that they bring to you?

Michael Schmidt:    Yeah, so the Foundry program itself, the actual accelerator portion it’s about a two month sprint. So most of the ideas that are brought to us are very early stage. It’s kind of a sketch on a piece of paper or a PowerPoint presentation as to “here’s how this thing could work if we were to build it.” So we realized that people were pretty early in the process in terms of developing a concept. And so what we’ve established in this is kind of Healthbox’s framework is a series of four modules. So we build an internal team. If we’re building a medical device, we’ll bring someone from clinical engineering, we’ll get a frontline clinician who’s actually gonna use the device. We’ll get someone from our IT team just to make sure that we have a well-rounded perspective as we’re developing this project, just to make sure that we’re not missing anything. And so that group stays together throughout the process. And so the first thing we do is kind of take a step back from the product or the idea and we really start to diagnose and take apart the problem that they’re trying to solve. We say, “you have to fall in love with the problem first.” That’s the first big step. And so oftentimes the innovator that’s brought the idea forward hasn’t fully thought through what exactly their idea or their product is fixing. And so we start to pull it apart piece by piece and say, “look at who exactly is this problem affecting what is, what else is happening further down the line, if we don’t fix it today, what happens? How urgent is it? What is it costing Orlando Health? Or what is it doing potentially to patient outcomes if we’re not solving this problem?” And so most of the time, once we’ve gotten that part kind of on paper and thought through fully, we realized that at least some aspects of the new idea don’t address part of that problem. So it’s a good opportunity for us to kind of reframe, make sure that the idea addresses the problem that we’ve diagnosed. And so once we get past that, then start to get into product design, start to look at the market landscape, where would this fit? Just to make sure that we’re carving out a niche for ourselves where we feel we could have some success.

Adrian Tennant:     Got it. So moving to market fit. How do you typically determine a concept’s commercial viability and validate the market opportunity beyond just Orlando Health’s needs?

Michael Schmidt:    Yeah, so the, the review process for the ideas that are brought to us is, is actually a bit of a lengthy process. So of all the ideas that are submitted, we review those internally. And I have a group of about 30 frontline clinicians, physicians, leaders that review all the ideas. And so what we look for collectively is which of the ideas really is something unique that’s not on the market? Or if it’s similar to something on the market, do we think that we could build this in a different way or approach it differently that could impact, you know, first and foremost, how we deliver healthcare at Orlando Health and then would that appeal to the broader market. So we have a lot of discussion around the merits of pursuing each of these things. Some really interesting ideas aren’t pursued because of what the market landscape looks like. Medical devices specifically have a very long runway for development. Going through the FDA is not easy. It’s very costly so we pick and choose the opportunities to pursue those types of projects based on how successful we think we could be. And then I always make sure that we’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves if we develop an idea that at the end of the day really just impacts how we do things at Orlando Health and helps us either improve our outcomes, decrease costs, reduce length of stay – the important metrics for a hospital. That’s fine. If it ends up getting to the market and is successful, that’s, that’s kind of a bonus. Just to make sure that we’re not getting too far ahead of ourselves. The average amount of time from the start of the program to when we anticipate something hitting the market – it’s probably between two to four years depending on what type of idea it is. So we just make sure to pace ourselves appropriately.

Adrian Tennant:     Okay. So talking about hitting the market, does Orlando Health automatically become a shareholder in any of the new ventures that have been nurtured through the Foundry framework?

Michael Schmidt:    Yeah, that’s a, that’s a great question. Different hospital systems approach that differently. For us, the Foundry program is designed to identify and build Orlando Health’s intellectual property. And so it’s one of the first discussions we have with innovators is helping them understand why Orlando Health needs to assume ownership of, of the IP. And it’s really just how easy it is for me to put resources and structure behind something. And you know, it’s not really about control. We leave the innovator really in the driver’s seat for the project. So it’s, it’s really to, to build up our IP portfolio and then what we do once something is commercialized. So we have a very generous royalty sharing approach with the innovators. So they basically get to benefit in the profits after Orlando Health has, has helped them get to that point.

Adrian Tennant:     Got it. Bigeye is a healthcare marketing agency, as you know. How do you approach developing those plans for growth? Particularly go-to-market strategies and those potential external funding requirements.

Michael Schmidt:    So it’s different for each project. You know, we really tried to, to start with a templated approach, but when we get to certain points, make sure that we are, you know, kind of designing and building and moving each idea along the right way. So medical devices, you know, we have some good you know, biomedical engineering partners that we work with that that’s their niche. They know how to, you know, illustrate these ideas. Rapid prototype them with three D printing, you know, run a pilot program and then get them through the FDA. So a lot of times those processes are already defined based on the partner. So we feel it’s, it’s really important early in the process to identify who those partners are going to be and then do our best to just kind of follow the process that they’ve used. It’s proven to be successful.

Adrian Tennant:     Okay. You mentioned earlier that you typically work in sprints. So have you fully adopted an agile project management methodology? 

Michael Schmidt:    Yes, we have in some instances. We don’t have a set approach really just because the projects are so different. So the four projects that went through the Foundry in 2019 that are in development right now: we have an iPad app to help patients who’ve lost their ability to speak in the hospital so it can speak for them based on inputs. We have a program that will, through some, some software connected to our electronic health record, will help pediatric patients transition into adult care. We have one that is, it’s really a pilot study to test how, how much we can reduce the risk of infection spreading in certain units by replacing the privacy curtains that are kind of standard fabric curtains with antimicrobial disposable curtains, just to see what the difference is there. And then the fourth one is a medical device which is built to irrigate wounds and the emergency department cuts and lacerations and stuff like that. So wildly different projects, completely different work teams, different partners that are helping us build or design all those things. And so again, it’s back to making sure we have the right team assembled and the right partners, helping us do these things and then figuring out which approach makes the most sense for that project and that team.

Adrian Tennant:     Right. And I feel you’re ideally positioned to help them with those go to market strategies, because I know that earlier in your career with Orlando Health, you directed digital media.

Michael Schmidt:    Yes.

Adrian Tennant:     Does your experience with digital marketing influence or has it influenced how you approach the development of the Foundry?

Michael Schmidt:    Yeah, it does. And you know, I think a lot of people that I talked to say, gosh, your career path has been so strange. But I really feel like it has prepared me for this, this role, this job. One of the benefits is I always have kind of the branding product, marketing hat or lens that I’m looking through. You know, which isn’t always obvious to someone who runs in an innovation program, but just kind of having that lens to look through as we’re developing, knowing how we should position and market these things once they do get to market to help them be successful. Even to the point of being able to help with website design and development, video production, to make sure that we are most effectively communicating how these things work. The other thing that’s been really integral to our approach is just how much we combine storytelling, and effective communication into the innovation process. I think one of the aspects of the Foundry that surprises our innovators is how much we focus on their pitch and how they communicate. Their idea, the problem it’s solving, things like that. I think they feel like it’s kind of ancillary. They’re ready to get into actually building the product and “let’s go test this thing.” One of the things we helped them understand is, “you’re going to have dozens, at least or probably hundreds of conversations about this product from now until it gets to market and you’re going to have to talk to all kinds of people about all kinds of things. The more effective you can be at that, the more successful your idea’s going to be.” And I’ve seen how infusing storytelling, really powerful storytelling, into that process just helps everything else be that much more impactful and meaningful. And by the time we get to the end of developing pitches and actually having people practice, you can see the dots start to connect in their head and they can see that they’ve become really effective at sharing what their idea can do and what they hope to accomplish.

Adrian Tennant:     Staying with your digital media background for a second, and Bigeye’s experience in medical device marketing. As you know, consumers are increasingly concerned about the potential misuse of their personal data, in part because of the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal. Yet, at the same time, it seems as consumers we’re quite happy to share data via our Fitbits and Apple watches if we think that data will support our health and wellness. So working in a healthcare organization under HIPAA, which sets strict rules around the use of patient information, how do you balance HIPAA regulations with innovations in digital? And I’m thinking primarily about data-driven technologies.

Michael Schmidt:    It’s a great question and it’s something we talk about frequently and it’s something we take very seriously. I feel like every week I see some headline about another hospital system that’s sharing data or doing something and they end up getting into hot water because of how they managed it or because of how their, their patients or the public kind of perceives what they’re doing. That’s another aspect to it too. So kind of on a case-by-case basis, depending on what the project is, we think through what are the inputs that the patient may have here or what is it going to need to access. And then we make sure that we are talking to everybody internally who needs to have a say in how that’s managed, how it’s stored, how things are connected to one another. We’ve got a review process internally for software applications that need to talk to one another, things like that. And in general, I try to steer clear of getting into too much stuff that’s HIPAA-protected unless we absolutely need to. If there’s a way to test something without gathering and storing all those different identifiers, that’s the path that we try to pursue. But it is kind of a moving target and you know, people worry about some things too much and don’t worry about other things. Like you said, they don’t worry about ’em enough. And so consumers and patients aren’t always thinking about every bit of data that they’re sharing and where it’s going, but it’s, it’s kind of an ongoing conversation for us.

Adrian Tennant:     How do you create and nurture that culture of innovation within such a large organization?

Michael Schmidt:    Yeah, it’s, it’s a challenge. You know, I think my goal selfishly is that this program and our team grows continuously over the next few years just to make sure that we’re kind of meeting the demand that our team members have brought forward in terms of ideas that they have. For now, we’ve had to balance the volume of projects and the type of projects that we take on to make sure that we’re doing justice to the ideas that we’ve taken on to make sure that they have the budget and support that they need. But over time, I would love to have some kind of parallel work streams that can simultaneously tackle different types of projects. So software has its software and apps have their own work stream to kind of get the attention and support they need; medical devices; and so on. And that each of those would kind of have a dedicated team that’s continuously reviewing ideas that are brought forward. At some point too, we would love to have a physical space where people can come either just to start white boarding and thinking about ideas, you know, bring a team that’s working through something, really print a prototype or just get feedback as they’re working on stuff. I think that would really help bring the right kind of traction that we’re looking for across the organization. And then as we grow, it’s important that myself and my team continue to just make sure we have a presence at the other hospitals and not be so focused on the main campus. That’s one of the reasons that we do workshops at the hospitals, just to make sure that at least a few times a year people have an opportunity where they work to come sit and talk with us.

Adrian Tennant:     And just remind me – how many hospitals are there now in the system?

Michael Schmidt:    We have 10 hospitals and then a number of freestanding emergency departments. You know, a number of outpatient facilities, primary care practices, things like that.

Adrian Tennant:     Right. And I’ve seen, down by ChampionsGate, I’ve seen the sign, there’s something coming there as well.

Michael Schmidt:    Lots of new stuff popping up. We’ve been very busy on that front, so that’s exciting.

Adrian Tennant:     Alright, so working with startups in the Orlando Health Foundry, what has been the most rewarding experience for you so far?

Michael Schmidt:    For me it’s, it’s, it’s sitting down with someone who has an idea and the most consistent sentence I hear from people is, “I just don’t know what to do next.” They’ve had this idea sometimes for years talk to a number of people and just are kind of paralyzed because they’re not sure what to do beyond kind of sketching out what that idea looks like. So being able to help them take a step back and then give them a roadmap to follow step-by-step and just seeing the progress happen. You know, the first time someone gets ahold of, of their idea or see the, you know, the, the first rendering of what an app is going to look like, that joy and fulfillment that you can see on their face and you can hear in their voice, it is really rewarding. And for them just to know that they’re continuing to drive this thing forward and, and that’s what’s going to make it successful that they kind of stay in the driver’s seat. That’s really encouraging for me too.

Adrian Tennant:     Now, I think for me it would be a challenge to be seeing these other people making their ideas manifest. Do you have a little book somewhere of ideas?

Michael Schmidt:    No. And my wife is a pharmacist. She actually has several ideas that she’s talked to me about. So at some point we would love to make those happen. Yeah, I don’t know. I feel like just helping everybody else work on their ideas scratches the creative itch that I have. I’d like to do a lot of different stuff. And so working on the variety of projects that we do and helping people in so many different ways I feel is so fulfilling. I have yet to really come up with something completely unique on my own, but at some point…

Adrian Tennant:     Okay,

Michael Schmidt:    Well, we’ll see.

Adrian Tennant:     Well, we talked a little bit about how sometimes a career doesn’t appear to be a linear progression necessarily and yet each previous experience in some way contributes to the next and perhaps in retrospect you see an arc of some kind. 

Michael Schmidt:    I don’t know. It’s been a fun journey so far. I’m anxious to see where it leads.

Adrian Tennant:     Great discussion, Mike. Thank you. If our listeners want to learn more about the Orlando Health Foundry, where can they find information?

Michael Schmidt:    Orlando health.com/foundry is our Foundry website and Orlandohealth.com/innovation is kind of our landing page for the formal innovation program as a whole.

Adrian Tennant:     Got it. Mike, thanks very much indeed for joining us on IN CLEAR FOCUS today; really appreciate your time.

Michael Schmidt:    My pleasure. Thank you.

Adrian Tennant:     Thank you. What stood out to me from today’s discussion with Mike: innovation has really gone from being a nice-to-have to a necessity in an increasingly complex healthcare landscape. But creating a culture of innovation within Orlando Health has really helped attract and retain talent within the organization. And while concepts may differ wildly, it is possible to develop a framework to ensure efficient, successful exploitation of really life-changing innovation in healthcare. My thanks to Michael Schmidt, Managing Director of Strategic Innovations at Orlando Health. You can find links to the resources we discussed on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” Please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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In Clear Focus: Creative Roundtable

In Clear Focus this week: future directions for creative in 2020 and the decade ahead. Research firm Nielsen has reported that for CPG brands, 49 percent of sales lift from advertising was attributable to the creative. Bigeye team members Dominic Wilson, Erik McGrew, and Nick Hammond discuss what the new decade might mean for visual design and consider the challenges of crafting effective advertising campaigns in a fragmented media landscape.

In Clear Focus: Creative in 2020

In Clear Focus this week: future directions for creative in 2020 and the decade ahead. Research firm Nielsen has reported that for CPG brands, 49 percent of sales lift from advertising was attributable to the creative.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant:     You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye – an audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency. We’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us for our first episode of 2020. So this week we’re going to be talking to some of the creative team here at Bigeye about what a new year and a new decade might mean for design in marketing communications. A couple of years ago, the research from Nielsen analyzed over 500 consumer packaged goods brand campaigns that ran on all major media platforms, linear and addressable television, online, digital and video, mobile, magazines, and radio. Nielsen reported that almost half 49% of sales lift from CPG advertising was attributable to the creative. That is ad quality, messaging, and the context of the placement. And in a separate study conducted by the research firm Ipsos for Facebook, creative quality was found to determine 75% of advertising’s impact as measured by brand and ad recall. Joining me here in the studio today are senior multimedia designer, Dominic Wilson; designer, Eric McGrew; and designer Nick Hammond. So guys, let’s kick things off by considering how visual design has changed over the last decade. What are some of the greatest influences on visual design today, say compared to 2010. Erik?

Erik McGrew:        I think mobile has been a really big game-changer. I think kind of at the start of the decade it was sort of like an afterthought, you know, the main focus would be on the website and mobile would be great if you had it. I can’t think of a single website that doesn’t have a mobile version or an adaptive or responsive version of it.

Adrian Tennant:     Nick?

Nick Hammond:       It felt like recently we got into this gradient color gradient thing that everyone’s been doing, which is kind of the next adaptation of flat icons. I also think social had a huge role to play in a lot of it because now anyone can get on and start creating different things and put it out there and someone can see it and iterate on it. And so it feels like the design or art world in general fractured into these multiple different pieces of people putting different aesthetics together and mixing and mashing and it’s moving so quickly because you can see it instantly, and put it up instantly, and iterate on it instantly. Like as a tool that affected what design is.

Adrian Tennant:     Right. That’s interesting. So we have Instagram, we have Pinterest accounts. You referenced the availability of online tools – often free. Are we all in some way creatives now?

Nick Hammond:       I think everyone’s creative to a degree. And I think as a designer I see it having changed mostly in how I get direction from people. So it feels like you’re kind of getting more direction as a designer.

Adrian Tennant:     Erik, have you found that too?

Erik McGrew:        You know, everyone’s a creator and that’s great because it’s just more wells of inspiration to draw from. I always find myself going back and forth on how I feel about social because I think that’s great. And on the other hand, certain things can happen. Like Dribble’s a great website. I love going there, like checking out everyone’s work. But I think when you start associating likes to a piece of art, a couple of things can happen. One thing that seems sort of gets a little, I don’t know what the word is, like a little incestuous with like everyone doing the same design now because that’s what’s getting promoted to the front page. And then also just as an artist tying your own self-value to like, “Oh my gosh, this thing only got 20 likes.” I think that can be super detrimental. I find myself doing that a lot. So I think there’s really, really, really great things that social’s done. But I also think there’s kind of the tail end of that, um, is wrapping up like your own value as a creative in what other people have to say about your art.

Adrian Tennant:     So commercial photographer Chase Jarvis established CreativeLive and online creative education platform a decade ago and LinkedIn acquired the online software training company, Lynda.com a couple of years ago. Do you use any online resources for your own continuing education? Let’s start with Dom.

Dominic Wilson:     I used Lynda in the mid-two thousands but eventually moved on to demos and lectures found on YouTube and Vimeo, in addition to simply just experimenting.

Adrian Tennant:     Nick?

Nick Hammond:       The way that I think about what being a creative is, it seems like it’s continually being blurred. Where before I would’ve said, “Oh, because I have this experience, I feel like I’m labeling myself as a creative or as a designer,” and with these tools coming out now someone might, you might not see them as a designer or a creative because they’re using a tool as a first step. But you kind of also have to step back and say, “well, who’s to say that they don’t have some other form of thinking that they can bring to the table?”

Adrian Tennant:     Erik, your thoughts?

Erik McGrew:        I totally agree with that and I think for like a couple thousand dollars and buying a computer, you could teach yourself any of these skills at any of these colleges. I mean, I feel like every day I’m on YouTube or Google, like “how do I do this thing in Illustrator?” And there’s like a minute-and-a-half video that explains it. Yeah, I’m all for education and having it be free and collaborating and talking to people. I’ve worked with people who think they’ve discovered like some trick or like they some style that they kind of like act like a gatekeeper of and they don’t want to show you that how they do it. And I just, I just think that’s crap. Like I’m all about asking how someone did something.

Adrian Tennant:     All right. So every year Pantone announces its color of the year, which often influences fashion, home furnishings, and industrial design as well as product packaging and graphic design. In 2017, it was “Greenery” in 2018 “Ultra Violet” and in 2019, “Living coral.” So for 2020, Pantone has selected “Classic Blue.” The website states that, “as technology continues to race ahead of the human ability to process it all, it is easy to understand why we gravitate to colors that are honest and offer the promise of protection, non-aggressive and easily relatable. The trusted Pantone classic blue lends itself to relaxed interaction.” So first of all, what do you think about their choice, Nick?

Nick Hammond:       I don’t necessarily ever really follow the Pantone color thing and I always think it’s kinda funny cause we were talking about the design trends thing earlier in it. It feels like to me more of just a marketing thing on their part. They already have kind of a stranglehold on color. I mean the color itself makes sense.

Erik McGrew:        Yeah. I mean I think there’s a reason you have these huge companies like social companies like Twitter and Facebook using blue. It’s easy. I have a weird relationship with blue. I think it’s sometimes I struggle with color in general and blue always seems like a cop-out. I’m always like, “Hang on, I wish they would’ve done something cooler.” I always find myself gravitating towards like weird, like ochre colors or like yellows and oranges and I think they’re more interesting.

Adrian Tennant:     That’s the influencer part of the Pantone reference. Okay, if you were tasked with selecting the next Pantone color, what would it be and what would be the rationale behind it?

Nick Hammond:       I think you’d have to throw a curveball in there and it wouldn’t be a color, it would be multiple colors. I’m not sure if Pantone has done that yet or not. I’m sure they probably have. But to me it’s just very earthy now, you know, and kind of muted and it’s like, that feels like where a lot of it’s going is colors that are a little more subdued and kind of have a vintage retro-y we feel to them.

Adrian Tennant:     Okay. So Erik, any advance on multicolor…?

Erik McGrew:        I that would be super interesting. I didn’t even think of that. I would love to see like, I think kind of what you said, like a weird orange or like a mustard yellow thrown in there. The psychology of color is such like a weird, interesting thing. And I would love to see if Facebook had to re redesign all their stuff with an orange-based color scheme. Like what would that look like? I’d get weird with it. I don’t know. Something, some weird color

Adrian Tennant:     Hmm, Dom?

Dominic Wilson:     If you had kind of some hideous color choice, it wouldn’t be more exciting than just some muted pastel.

Adrian Tennant:     Right.

Nick Hammond:       It’s funny cause I feel like all of our answers to these things are just continually backing up. The idea that design is just fractured into a million different things and it’s you’re breaking the fundamentals of what design is. Ugly colors, weird different type, different structures. It just feels like it’s all over the place.

Adrian Tennant:     Let’s talk a little bit about video. Published research found that viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video compared to just 10% when they read it in text. Last year, $36 billion were invested in video-based digital advertisements. Do you foresee video becoming even more dominant?

Dominic Wilson:     Definitely. Those stats you just read confirmed that there are significant opportunities for businesses that haven’t leveraged video and motion graphics, especially in regards to saturating their own social channels and in the digital ad space.

Erik McGrew:        A previous job working primarily with like social media stuff and being able to see the numbers. Yeah, there’s, it’s almost like you can’t even compete in the early days. We would throw out not even good videos and they were just outperforming everything. So yeah. And I think that’s why there’s been such a rise with like motion graphics and I think people just want to watch stuff move and you almost get, just can’t compete with it.

Adrian Tennant:     Yeah. I think I read somewhere that it’s like 80% of digital revenue ultimately use some form of video. And now we have over-the-top TV as well. Video absolutely is King. So Dom, you’re the senior multimedia designer at Bigeye and you handle most of our video and motion graphics projects. What changes or trends have you seen in motion graphics in recent years?

Dominic Wilson:     I’ve noticed that more and more shows, movies, live events, commercials contain three D design elements and a higher level of sophisticated animation. You can see various examples in title sequences, food and beverage products, consumer goods, especially in athletic footwear and automotive. I mean, you no longer have to only rely on live video capture. You showcase what it is you’re trying to promote, which is why you see a demand for highly skilled 3D artists.

Adrian Tennant:     Erik, what do you think about typography? Maybe thinking about ads but also products and packaging design.

Erik McGrew:        Typography is what I struggle with the most sometimes just because I think it’s such a, I mean it’s a whole world in and of itself. You could spend your entire life just focusing on typography and probably make a living off it. It’s kind of overwhelming and I think it goes back to, you know, everyone has these tools to make their own set of fonts now our what used to be like such a specific art form, anyone can do it now.

Adrian Tennant:     How has your own personal design style evolved over the years?

Nick Hammond:       Yeah, so my design style had kind of started via looking at more marketing material that was coming out of a lot of clothing brands at the time. So back when I was getting out of high school and into college I had, my whole background was with the apparel industry and I was doing some work for a friend. I had run a paintball apparel company for a while and I was playing competitively. So I was kind of constantly seeing these messaging, these different, I was constantly seeing different forms of messaging that were geared toward younger males. And so it was very aggressive, lots of hard lines, kind of what Dom was talking about with lots of things kind of exploding and hard edges and bright colors and stuff like that. And so I think that’s kinda how I entered what design was. And over the years it’s been more of the process of understanding how to pare it back and get more of that edginess through subtlety rather than hitting you over the face with it. So it feels just a little more of a, uh, kind of coming of age, like putting that into the work and understanding how do you pare back to the thing that makes it feel the most true to what you’re trying to get at instead of just adding, adding, adding. So I think balance, I guess would be what the process has been.

Erik McGrew:        If there’s been any change, it’s kind of a stripping away of certain things. I’m trying to be more refined. I struggle with sometimes I get anxiety that I feel like my work is too all over the place. Like again, kind of like coming out of school, you know, you want this nice clean portfolio that looks like everything fits and I don’t have that with my body of work. And I kind of in the past couple of years have like leaned into that and sort of realized that I think that that it’s actually like a strength and it’s been exhausting. But I think I would like, I think I equate it to like I’ve spent the past 10 years collecting all these weird tools that don’t necessarily fit together, but now I have this toolbox of weird tools that I can make things that I personally like, I really enjoy. So it’s been good. So yeah, I think just realizing that maybe having a weird array of different versions of your style can kind of be a string.

Adrian Tennant:     So excluding the work you’ve done since you’ve been at Bigeye, what is the most rewarding design project you’ve ever worked on and what made it so?

Erik McGrew:        I think mine was, and it wasn’t a big project, I got to design a beer can. Which was kind of like a fun, like a personal goal. Like I’ve always wanted to do that, but we got to work with a brewery out of North Carolina and it was daunting because one thing that made it really great was I got to work with my buddy Michael Forrest who is like next level, but he’s just, he’s incredible. Like I almost want to use the word savant. It’s just he’s such a good person to just talk design with and he’ll say things that I think are like so prolific. And I’m like, “Oh my God, I never would have had that thought.” But working with him was great and we got to design this can for King Canary Brewing. And I said yes to the project and then they sent the style guide over and I realize that this brewery had been branded by these two guys that I’ve looked up to forever. Like, and so then I’m like, “Okay, cool. No pressure. Like I just have to do something that at least is this good.” But it was fun. I think we came up with a really cool canned design and it was just a fun month-long project to work on and it was also just really weirdly rewarding. I think the lesson there is like sometimes it’s those small projects that feel you as a person and the ones that you think are going to be cool and bigger, like where you into the ground and it’s really difficult to get through them.

Adrian Tennant:     Nick, have you got a favorite?

Nick Hammond:       Yeah, so I did a project with one of my old employers that I was at. They’re called Backcountry.com. They’re kind of like a smaller REI. And when I got in there, we were building out our own in-house private brands team. And so we were responsible for creating a brand, basically, start to finish and kind of working through some of the brands that they had already created and the separations between the two and how you were working to market them toward different demographics. And it was cool because I was able to kind of weave in my background with apparel and help create apparel from start to finish, but also all the marketing around it. And so to me it was incredible to be able to touch pretty much every single endpoint from start to finish of what not only one brand was, but what multiple brands were and watch that go through different segmentation processes and how that was being received and iterate on it. And we were pulling everything in from, you know, social stuff at the time. This was when Instagram video or like the whatever that is, Instagram live stuff had first started coming out. So we were using a lot of that. Yeah. And then traveling across the US on scene on location to do a bunch of video stuff as well. So, yeah, to me that was incredible because it was not only moving fast but you were, you were touching everything and so if you messed up something at one point you would deal with your own difficulties later down the line. And so I think that really gives you an eyeopening perspective of what other people do and how different factors can come into effect. Any number of things in the creative process,

Adrian Tennant:     Dom, have you got a favorite?

Dominic Wilson:     I had the opportunity within the past year to create and develop a 3D design and dynamics rig for a new admissions look at the Savannah college of art and design. The work was so well received that it was used in their first-ever ad placement in times square in three locations running for a week, which then led to two additional campaigns that ran thereafter. The final approved creative originated from a 3D dynamics rig I had developed three years prior and didn’t really have any use for it at the time. I also use the program called Cinema 4-D, which I was entirely self-taught in. Someone did send back a video of the ads running in the location, which was cool to see.

Adrian Tennant:     So where is visual design headed in the decade ahead?

Nick Hammond:       Absolutely no idea. It’s wild. It feels like it’s going in a million directions at once and like there are things popping up where people are doing stuff with programs that you never thought they could do. Programs are being pushed. It just feels like there are so many new doors opening and you can’t possibly keep up with all of the doors that are opening. So it’s, you’re just constantly seeing all this crazy stuff and trying to figure out is there something from that that I can pull either – whether that’s a technique or a way of thinking about a project or a solution to a project and yeah, it just feels wild. I personally am interested in when we get to the point where it turns into “Minority Report,” and we have like a full 3D-like room with gloves and all the designers are just creating 3D everything all the time. But I don’t think that’s going to happen for a while.

Erik McGrew:        It does feel fractured, like in, you know, what works in print doesn’t necessarily work on social media, which doesn’t necessarily work in the video space. And then even inside social itself, like what works on Facebook doesn’t necessarily is a different tone than what works on Twitter than what works on Instagram. So yeah, I have no idea where it’s heading. I’m excited about where it’s heading. I think I’ve seen illustration really play a huge part in design over the past couple of years and I would love to continue to see it. I think we will probably continue to see illustration grow. Sure, motion graphics are just going to get bigger videos is going to get bigger.

Adrian Tennant:     Great discussion guys. Thank you. So design in the decade ahead is going to be a wild ride but we’re happy to go along with it. Okay. Thank you. Thank you to Dominic Wilson.

Dominic Wilson:     Yeah, no problem. It was great.

Adrian Tennant:     Erik McGrew

Erik McGrew:        Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant:     Nick Hammond

Nick Hammond:       Thanks. Hopefully, I get to come back in the future.


Adrian Tennant:     You can find links to the resources we discussed on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at Bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” Please consider subscribing to the show on Apple podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. And if you have an Amazon Echo device, you can use the IN CLEAR FOCUS skill to add the podcast to your Flash Briefing. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

References


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In Clear Focus: Bigeye’s Favorite Podcasts (Part 2)

In Clear Focus this week: more favorite podcasts from Bigeye team members to wrap up 2019. We also take a look at the state of advertising within podcasts, forecasted to generate over $1 billion annually by 2021. Plus an examination of the roles that non-advertising business models such as subscriptions, crowdfunding, and live events are increasingly playing in generating revenues for podcast producers in the US.

In Clear Focus: Bigeye’s Favorite Podcasts (Part 2)

In Clear Focus this week: more favorite podcasts from Bigeye team members to wrap up 2019. We also take a look at the state of advertising within podcasts, forecasted to generate over $1 billion annually by 2021.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant:     You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising, produced weekly by Bigeye. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, we’re based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond. Thank you for joining us for our final show of 2019. In case you missed it, in last week’s episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS, four Bigeye team members shared their favorite podcasts. This week we’re going to hear some more podcast recommendations and reflect on the current state of advertising within podcasts. Let’s meet our first guest to this week’s IN CLEAR FOCUS.

Emily Washburn:     Hi, I’m Emily Washburn. I’m an Account Specialist here at Bigeye. My role is to support our Account Managers on all the various accounts that we have. So I’m almost like the second line of defense which is really cool because I get to work with my internal team as well as be client-facing. So it’s a very unique role.

Adrian Tennant:     And Emily, how long have you been with Bigeye?

Emily Washburn:     Funny you asked. I actually interned at Bigeye a couple of years ago. I’m originally from Syracuse, New York and fell in love with the agency and after school I moved down here and I’ve been here for over a year and a half now.

Adrian Tennant:     How long have you been listening to podcasts?

Emily Washburn:     I kind of have a unique background. When I was in college, a friend of mine and I decided that we wanted to start our own podcast and obviously didn’t take off the ground because nobody knows who I am. But in school, podcasts started to become popular and we thought, “Why not try to add it to our repertoire?” So I started doing them before I started listening to them and then when I moved to Florida, I was traveling a lot going home. So I was trying to find a way to fill my time. And as much as I love music, I’m not a good reader when I travel. So the perfect supplement was podcasts, so I just started to stumble into a whole plethora of different podcasts.

Adrian Tennant:     What’s your preferred device for listening to podcasts?

Emily Washburn:     So it’s definitely my phone. I constantly have my headphones in. Just because I listen to them so much when I travel. That’s my number one. I listen to them in the car as well through my phone. I have Bluetooth, which is a blessing. I love Bluetooth. But yeah, definitely my, my cell phone.

Adrian Tennant:     And which player or app do you use most often to play podcasts?

Emily Washburn:     I love Spotify. I’m constantly, whenever I use it on my desktop, I’m looking at what everybody else is listening to because I follow people and that’s also where I find podcasts because I see what other people are listening to.

Adrian Tennant:     Now, when do you think you do most of your listening, if you had to guess?

Emily Washburn:     So most of my listening is during travel or in the car. I like to try to listen to them when I’m at my desk in the morning, but throughout the day I’m not typically a listener and just because it will distract me. I get so sucked into what they’re talking about. But for example, I’ll listen to The Daily by the New York Times in the morning if I get in early, just to just get caught up on the news.

Adrian Tennant:     So Emily, how many shows do you subscribe to?

Emily Washburn:     I like to download different ones. I’m not necessarily loyal. The only podcast I’ve been really loyal to is “The Daily,” by the New York Times. I don’t listen to every episode. I try to listen to it as frequently as I can. And then there’s one other one called, “Oysters, Clams, and Cockles,” – it was a Game of Thrones podcast. They’ve kind of adapted it since the show is over. But it was these two gentlemen who just would do a two-hour podcast about every episode and dive into every single line. And I just became absolutely addicted, never, never missed an episode. So that was like the only one I’ve really taken to completely. But otherwise I kind of jump around. The one that’s my favorite that we talked about, “Armchair Expert,” I do listen to a lot depending on who’s on the show.

Adrian Tennant:     Well let’s get to that. So you’ve actually chosen a show, as you mentioned, called, “Armchair Expert,” which is hosted by Dax Shepard. And how did you originally find this particular podcast?

Emily Washburn:     You know, I actually think it was one of my coworkers, Dana Casell. I don’t remember completely, but I love Kristen Bell. So ultimately I know who Dax Shepard is and I am pretty sure she mentioned to me, “Have you ever listened to this podcast?” Because she’s also a big podcast listener. So I checked it out before one of my flights home and this specific episode – Bill Nye – really caught my eye because growing up I saw science as my favorite, but he was such a huge part of my childhood. I was like, “Oh, this sounds interesting.” And then I just absolutely loved how Dax interacts with the people that he has on a show. I learned so much about Bill as a person. I love comedy as well. So I had really no idea how he had got into it. So it was really fascinating and really unique because I love learning about people, but I’m not necessarily the biggest book reader or autobiography person. So this is just kind of a nice supplement so I can get that information.

Adrian Tennant:     Right. And for listeners, we should just explain that Dax Shepard is married to…

Emily Washburn:     Kristen Bell. Yes. And if you don’t know who that is, she is Ana from Frozen!

Adrian Tennant:     This is really all about Bill Nye, the Science Guy. But during the course of this podcast we learn a lot about Bill’s background and also a lot of about his opinions about science and education. What made this particular podcast a favorite for you?

Emily Washburn:     I love the style of Dax’s podcasts, like this piece, and I don’t always listen to the fact checks at the end, but the fact that they are so adamant on making sure that whatever you’re listening to is factual or nobody kind of tweaks it, I just really felt like I got to know Bill Nye and also Dax, there’s a lot of parts of this episode where you learn about when Dax was over in Afghanistan. And the science piece of how the airplanes work and they really dive deep into some random things. But they’re so knowledgeable and never would I have looked it up on my own. So that’s what I loved. All the knowledge that I gained just from that one episode.

Adrian Tennant:     Right. Now typically… I think this was like a two-hour episode, is that right?

Emily Washburn:     Yeah, it’s just under two hours long.

Adrian Tennant:     Is that the typical running time for the show?

Emily Washburn:     Yeah, they’re usually pretty long, which is why I listen to them when I’m flying. I’ll download a couple episodes in and listen to them, I don’t always listen all the way through. I get through most of it and then I’ll jump to another person, which I’m very guilty of. But this one, that’s why I can’t listen to it at work. It’s just so long and I would miss so much of it. So that’s why it’s perfect for travel.

Adrian Tennant:     Why do you think our listeners should try this show out? What’s your recommendation to them?

Emily Washburn:     I think that people should try this specific show out because if you like any type of talk show, he brings in such a wide range of individuals that there’s, I feel like you’re guaranteed to find someone that you either least know or you’re interested in getting to know and that you should just kind of scroll through and give it a listen. And I hope you love it as much as I do and that you find that it fills your travels with more insight.

Adrian Tennant:     Very good. Thanks, Emily.

Emily Washburn:     Thank you.

Nick Hammond:       Hi, I’m Nick Hammond. I am a senior graphic designer here at Bigeye. And I’ve only been here for a little over a month.

Adrian Tennant:     Could you tell us a little bit about your role here at Bigeye?

Nick Hammond:       Yes. So my role here at Bigeye, while some of the other designers are more focused on specific tasks, I guess in relation to illustration and motion graphics, mine is more so on the side of branding. So I work on pulling across elements throughout different end uses such as digital and print and social and things of the like.

Adrian Tennant:     Right. How are you enjoying your time at Bigeye, so far?

Nick Hammond:       I love it. It’s great. So I was in-house at a good handful of other brands for a while. And it was just moving too slow for me. And so it’s nice to get into more of the agency setting because it’s a lot more fast paced and I can come in and out of the weeds with different projects and really get more of a broader understanding of how different businesses work. And yeah, just exciting.

Adrian Tennant:     So Nick, how long have you been listening to podcasts?

Nick Hammond:       I think I’ve been listening to podcasts for a while. It has to have been several years at this point. My intro to podcast was through, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” and kind of splintered into other smaller podcasts, just kind of listening one off here and there. So something would pop up in my feed that would be interesting and I would go look for it and then happen to stumble onto a podcast that was in relation to some topic I was interested in.

Adrian Tennant:     I know you’ve also produced podcasts, so which came first – listening to podcasts and then thinking, “Oh, I could do that” – ?

Nick Hammond:       Yes, I think that’s definitely how it worked out. I was kind of seeing a couple of other people that I had paid attention to online through my social circle, using it as kind of an excuse to get at people that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to in specific spaces. And so for me, that was in relation to the outdoor industry and how that related to sustainability. So that’s how the idea for the podcast started was I just wanted to learn more about kind of these intersections of different industries and how different, I guess “thought leaders” were thinking about different topics.

Adrian Tennant:     Where do you do most of your listening? Is it a home in the car at work?

Nick Hammond:       I typically focused more on listening during work while I was doing design stuff and so that was more of a desktop kind of experience. And then I would have like one-off listening episodes when I was on a longer trip or something in the car and now that I’m kind of moving at a faster pace and kind of having to come in and out of these different projects more quickly, I don’t necessarily have the time to do that.

Adrian Tennant:     So device-wise, are you talking about a phone now being the main source?

Nick Hammond:       Man, I think it almost fractured now because it more so just depends on what tool I have available in front of me. If my computer’s in a different room and have my phone right next to me, I’ll just pull it up and listen to my phone.

Adrian Tennant:     What app do you typically use?

Nick Hammond:       I started with Stitcher, which is funny because when I’ve talked to the other guests that you’ve had on, they had no idea what Stitcher even was. I think for them, they got into it through Apple. I never enjoyed from a design perspective, the user interface of the Apple Podcasts platform. And it felt like it was getting in the way for me of just trying to listen to a simple episode and it was constantly trying to update and change and all this stuff and I just didn’t want to deal with it.

Adrian Tennant:     And is that still the case today or have you migrated to something else?

Nick Hammond:       I do prefer, there’s something interesting to me about being able to see, uh, how people are interacting. So like a video aspect. So when I’m listening on a desktop, I like to have, if it’s on YouTube, I like to have a YouTube thing kind of playing because it’s interesting when you hear different aspects of a conversation show up to kind of pull up that window on the browser and look at how they’re interacting with each other because there’s something there that you don’t get when you’re just listening to the audio.

Adrian Tennant:     Right. You get the audio, but you don’t always get the visual context of facial expressions.

Nick Hammond:       Yeah. That kind of stuff.

Adrian Tennant:     So Nick, your selection for this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS is an episode of a show called, “Revisionist History.” Could you tell us a little bit about how you came across that podcast?

Nick Hammond:       Yeah, so I had been, not necessarily a fan, but a reader of Malcolm Gladwell in the past and there was some stuff in there that I enjoyed. I’ve always enjoyed reading more psychology or biography type stuff. And so I’d been through a couple of his books and had heard his name a while and had kinda gotten to some other authors like him. And I think there was someone that had posted one of his newer episodes from Revisionist History and I had realized that I had never heard it and I didn’t know that he’d come out with podcasts. So yeah, just dove in.

Adrian Tennant:     Okay. So this particular episode – what was it about this one that attracted you?

Nick Hammond:       Yeah, this episode in particular I as a designer and as a Gemini, which is funny, I feel like my life has kind of separated into two buckets all the time. And it’s always this push-pull thing. And so it was interesting to me because they dive into the difference between approaching a task or situation with a tortoise or a hare kind of mentality. And this, how are you thinking through tasks either more quickly or more slowly and then does that end up influencing your direction in life? They talk a lot in the episode about education and kind of higher education reform and that wasn’t what was interesting to me. It was more so the different thought processes of how people go into these situations and approach them from completely different perspectives.

Adrian Tennant:     Right. And I think if any of the listeners have friends or family in the legal profession, I think some of the results – without wanting to give too much away – might be surprising.

Nick Hammond:       Definitely. And I didn’t want to give it away, but yes, listen to the episode.

Adrian Tennant:     So Nick, what made this episode of Revisionist History a favorite?

Nick Hammond:       So without giving away the ending, that’s kind of all I’ll say is the ending is not something that I think you would see coming. And that was what was interesting to me is because I’ve always pursued different avenues of work and decisions in life of what is the best decision or the better decision to make. And I think what you end up finding at the end of this episode is different than that approach.

Adrian Tennant:     Wow. That is such a cliffhanger, you’ve got to go and listen to this episode, everybody. For now, Nick Hammond, thank you very much indeed.

Nick Hammond:       Thank you.

Adrian Tennant:     Most of the podcasts selected by the Bigeye team included some form of advertising or sponsorship message. In June of this year, the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PriceWaterhouseCoopers released their Annual Study of Podcast Ad Revenue. It reported that podcasts generated 479 million dollars from advertising in 2018, and forecasts that ad revenues will reach slightly more than a billion dollars in 2021. 

In 2018, the five most popular genres of podcasts in the US were news and politics, comedy, business, education, and arts and entertainment shows. These five genres together generated 66 percent of total advertising revenues. Generating the remaining third of revenues were the genres True Crime, Technology, Lifestyle, Scripted Fiction, Games & Hobbies, Children’s programming, Sports, and Health & Medicine.

The IAB research also indicated that two-thirds of all podcast ads last year were read by the shows’ hosts themselves, while pre-produced ads, typically read by a separate announcer, made up most of the remaining third. 

When surveyed, podcast listeners ranked host-reads as their preferred style of podcast ad. This suggests that maybe other types of ads could alienate a show’s audience.

Turning to the duration of podcast advertisements, about a third run for 60 seconds, which is the most popular spot length. 27 percent of podcast ads run for 90 seconds, and 23 percent are just 15 seconds. In 2018, a majority of ads – 51 percent – were edited into shows or “baked in”; the remaining 49 percent were inserted dynamically. 

Of 13 business categories measured, the top five represented nearly three-quarters of advertising revenues. Direct-to-consumer retail brands represented 22 percent of revenues, followed by financial services at 21 percent, business-to-business at 14 percent, arts and entertainment at 10 percent, and telecommunications with 7 percent.

About half of all podcast advertisements are direct response campaigns, while 38 percent are brand awareness, and 10 percent are considered branded content.

38 percent of brands purchase advertising in podcasts on a quarterly basis while about 25 percent make annual buys. Only one percent of podcast advertising is purchased programmatically – that is, via automated bidding systems. That’s in stark contrast to digital display, of which 80 percent is bought programmatically. And 86 percent of all podcasts sell their ad space on a cost-per-thousand or CPM pricing model.

It’s estimated that podcasts collectively represent around 40 percent of the listenership of online audio overall, but attracts a little less than 15% of the ad revenue. 

A new entrant to the world of podcast advertising and sponsorship is called Podcorn. It offers a self-service platform to podcast producers that acts like a match-making service. Producers can pitch their podcasts directly to brands and agencies who are looking for niche topics or audiences. There are no contracts, no exclusivities, and producers set their own prices for sponsorships. Podcorn handles payment processing and provides the tools for producers and brands to connect.

Of course, podcasters can monetize their shows in ways other than advertising. Some earn revenue directly from listeners by charging for subscriptions. Companies including Luminary and Stitcher Premium have adopted this model.

Another model is crowdfunding – the collection of contributions from listeners, either via standard online payment systems, or general crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

Patreon is another crowdfunding platform which allows podcast listeners to set up regular monthly contributions or pay-per-podcast-episode. It reports that the number of podcasters using Patreon has quadrupled over the past three years, with an eight-fold increase in revenue.

And according to the online ticket marketplace Vivid Seats, the number of live podcast performances is growing rapidly. While the average ticket price of all shows sold by Vivid Seats was 63 dollars, some of the larger shows averaged more than 100 dollars per ticket sold. Vivid Seats’ data shows that NPR’s popular  “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me” show charges an average $113 per ticket, while one of the podcasts we discussed earlier, “Armchair Expert,” charges $108 per ticket, on average. No wonder then, that live podcast events have generated an estimated 55 million dollars this year.

So, in summary: as podcasts become more mainstream, advertising revenues are growing, but so are non-ad based revenues from subscription, crowdfunding, and live events. 

IN CLEAR FOCUS will continue to track experimentation and innovation in podcasting in 2020 and beyond. If you have questions about how to advertise in a podcast or need assistance with ad production, please let us know.

Thanks to everyone at Bigeye who shared their favorite podcasts with us over the past couple of weeks. A quick recap:

If folklore interests you or you’re just curious about the origins of Santa Claus, you may like Associate Account Manager Karen Hidalgo’s recommendation – an episode of the podcast “Lore,” called, “A Stranger Among Us.”  And yep, it is a bit creepy.

If pop culture, sports, or nerdy stuff is more your thing, then you should definitely give the podcast, “83 Weeks with Eric Bischoff” a try. Bigeye Senior Designer, Rhett Withey, who confessed to being a World Wrestling Championship fan, recommended an episode entitled, “Fall Brawl 1998,” which introduced The Warrior to the franchise. 

Lauren Fore, who works with Bigeye’s president and leadership team, recommended National Public Radio’s podcast, “The TED Radio Hour.” The episode we discussed last week focuses on what makes humans uniquely human. With contributions from experts in the fields of neuroscience, genetics, and psychology, the episode is called, “What Makes Us … Us.”

The final recommendation last week came from Bigeye’s Senior Multimedia Designer, Dominic Wilson. The podcast is called, “Greyscale Gorilla,” and, as Dom explained, provides practical advice for getting the most out of leading computer-generated imagery software. The specific episode we discussed last week focuses on the use of a program called Houdini. 

This week, Account Coordinator Emily Washburn recommended the podcast, “Armchair Expert,” hosted by Dax Shepard. The guest on the show we discussed was Bill Nye, the Science Guy, whom we learned, briefly had a career as a stand-up comedian. Who knew?

And Senior Designer Nick Hammond recommended Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, “Revisionist History,” and in particular, an episode called, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” which provides a surprising conclusion about the law profession.

You can find all of the episodes we discussed on a Spotify playlist. You’ll find the link on the IN CLEAR FOCUS page at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” That’s also where you’ll find links to the podcast advertising data I referenced today.

My thanks to all of our guests in 2019.  We’ll be back next week with our first show of the new year. Until then, please consider subscribing to the show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or your favorite podcast player. Thank you for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.

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