“Marketing Matters:” Interviews with CMOs and Brand Builders Part II

On the next WFoA broadcast on Marketing Matters, Sirius XM 111 on Business Radio Powered by Wharton, WfoA’s Executive Director Catharine Hays and guest co-host Jenny Rooney, Forbes CMO, will talk with CMOs and Brand Builders from a range of companies with diverse and interesting marketing strategies.

The Wharton Future of Advertising Project presents programs monthly on Marketing Matters, a weekly call-in show airing on Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sirius XM Channel 111, Business Radio powered by Wharton. Listeners can call in during the show at 1-844-WHARTON (1-844-842-7866). Programs will be rebroadcast throughout the month. Full channel information is available here.

“Marketing Matters” Meets R/GA to Discuss the Connected Age

Aired February 11, 2015

“R/GA recognized the significance of the intersection of design, technology, and marketing very early on,” explains Chris Stutzman, the advertising firm’s Managing Director of Business Transformation. “But today, R/GA focuses on the post-digital, providing a marketing service that fits the ‘connected age.’”

The Connected Age, which has a decidedly science fiction ring to it, is the world we live in now, a space where marketing has to move beyond the classic models of vertical and horizontal integration to what Stutzman and his R/GA colleagues call functional integration. “Companies like Apple create an entire ecosystem of

Chris Stutzman, Managing Director of Business Transformation, R/GA
Chris Stutzman, Managing Director of Business Transformation, R/GA

connected products and services where the simple strategy is: the more you use, the better it gets,” explains Stutzman. Customers buy a product because it connects them to a whole family of products, digitally, technologically, and socially. At R/GA, this model is applied to other brands, creating connected people in areas you’d least expect.

Spice, for example. “McCormick is a brand that dominates the spice category, but how can it engage in the connected age?” asks Stutzman. R/GA’s answer is FlavorPrint, a digital service that essentially works out what flavors you—and each of your family members—like. The system then suggests hundreds of recipes based on your preferences, helping a cook get out of a recipe rut, encouraging consumers to try new McCormick spices, and, of course, creating connected taste buds.

How the connected age is approached by the creatives at R/GA was addressed by Marketing Matters’ next guest Nick Law, Global Chief Creative Officer and the mind behind Nike Plus campaign. “At the highest level, R/GA is divided into two creative hemispheres: the story-telling side, and the systematic side,” Law explains. These two sides of the “R/GA brain” are not isolated: they work closely together, bringing temporal and spatial thinkers together to “create a wonderful symbiosis.”

Nick Law, Global Chief Creative Officer, R/GA

Describing the Nike+ campaign, Law explained how the team decided to think of the behavior first, and the communication after; a significant break from traditional marketing, where the narrative is key. “Traditionally, the story comes first,” he says. “But focusing solely on the story does not allow for the potential of new media. Software is connected, it enables behavior, you can transact, create, connect on it: It’s not just a place to see a message.”

Technology holds a central position at R/GA, as the show’s third guest, Will Turnage SVP of Technology explained. Working against tradition again, R/GA operates under a technology, rather than customer first, model. “We realized that whenever a new technology was announced our customers immediately asked ‘what can we do with this?’ We were constantly in a mode of reactive thinking,” Turnage explains. By setting up brainstorming sessions around the technology—short, 30 minute intensive explorations—R/GA turns the question around, asking what can a technology do for a client.

Will Turnage, SVP of Technology, R/GA
Will Turnage, SVP of Technology, R/GA

“The goal is rapid fire iteration,” Turnage adds. “You might come up with no ideas, or you might come up with some really great ideas, but you will definitely start thinking about the technology in an entirely different way.” The process could be as simple as pairing technology with unexpected adjectives: “Thinking about a ‘sad tweet’ or a ‘sarcastic car alarm’ can suddenly create a whole other understanding, one that is hugely generative,” Turnage explains. Technology it thus something to work with and manipulate innovatively—rather than just react to—at R/GA.

Through the company’s Accelerator program, start-ups benefit from R/GA’s creative approach. Finishing it’s second round, the Accelerator program provides 10 companies—this time working on the Internet of Things—with mentorship, product development guidance, and industry pitch support. “What is great is that our clients get involved too,” explains Turnage. “Someone at the head of a fledgling start-up can have the opportunity to talk to the head of Google or Amazon, and really begin to think about what they want their company to look like.” Each start-up is also allocated time from R/GA, they can seek engineering, design, or tech support—whatever they need. “This is great for our staff too,” explains Turnage. “They get a break from their daily tasks and a chance to get in really deep with a fascinating start-up.”

Barry Wacksman, Global Chief Growth Officer, R/GA

Barry Wacksman, the final guest on Marketing Matters and Global Chief Growth Officer at R/GA, is a mentor in the Accelerator program. The products being produced by the start-ups—things that are connected digitally—reflect a trend he noticed in 2011, which formed the basis for the book he and Stutzman co-authored, Connected by Design. “People don’t buy Apple products because they are beautifully designed—even though they are—or because the technology is particularly cool,people buy Apple because they connect to each other,” Wacksman explains. “The Accelerator start-ups come in with a product in mind, and that product always has a digital service component. They are asking themselves ‘what’s the next thing I can connect to my software?” And that, according to Wacksman, is the future of business: categories of connectivity, rather than objects of desire.

R/GA was recently named Ad Age A-List Agency of the Year, and continuing to grow and innovate is central to the company’s ethos. Wacksman described the company’s method of reinventing itself every nine years: what was previously the company for the digital age is now the company for the connected age. R/GA’s new approach to marketing certainly challenges the standard models of Madison Avenue and Silicon Valley, tackling twenty-first century problems—and possibilities—in interesting ways.

“Marketing Matters” Connects With R/GA to Explore Advertising in the Connected Age

On the next WFoA broadcast on Marketing Matters, Sirius XM 111 on Business Radio Powered by Wharton, we welcome four stars of advertising company R/GA, named Ad Age A-List Agency of the Year.

Hosted by WFoA’s Academic Director Jerry Wind, this week’s show will explore how communication and advertising is best executed in the connected age. Guests from R/GA include:

  • Chris Stutzman VP, Managing Director, Business Transformation;
  • Barry Wacksman, Chief Growth Officer;
  • Nick Law, Global Chief Creative Officer;
  • Will Turnage, SVP, Technology.

The Wharton Future of Advertising Project presents programs monthly on Marketing Matters, a weekly call-in show airing on Wednesdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sirius XM Channel 111, Business Radio powered by Wharton. Listeners can call in during the show at 1-844-WHARTON (1-844-842-7866). Programs will be rebroadcast throughout the month. Full channel information is available here.

Super Bowl Tweet Meet 2015 Results

tweetmeet-logo-2015-200The Wharton Future of Advertising Program held its 5th Annual Tweet Meet on Sunday, February 1. WFoA Global Advisory Board Members, advertising and media executives, students and journalists watched the advertising of Super Bowl XLIX and tweeted with the #whartonfoa hashtag, reaching a potential 894,833 Twitter users through followers and retweets.

We at WFoA used our RAVES criteria in evaluating the ads for their Relevance and Respectfulness, Actionability, Value, Exceptional Experience and Surprising Story.

Super Bowl XLIX was the most-watched broadcast in US television history, with an average audience of 111.4 million viewers. According to Bloomberg, 34% of the broadcast’s airtime consisted of ads, with 115 spots (some of which were repeats) airing in the NYC area, where Bloomberg compiled its statistics. At least 22 ads were released ahead of time on the web, often in “teaser” formats at first, or tired to a social media campaign that allowed the full ad to be “unlocked,” as Snickers’ was.

Having observed these ads and the response to the tweets about them, we have drawn the following conclusions about the successes and failures of this years Super Bowl Ads:


Fiat: Comedic misdirection involving a Viagra-esque pill paid off in a big way to the Italian automaker’s promotion of its new crossover vehicle. This ad was most frequently chosen as a favorite…

  • @i_am_liberty (Liberty White): “Nice one @FIATUSA! You get a 10! I didn’t see that coming. #whartonfoa #SB4”

…but some were put off by its juvenile sex humor:

  • @Bobosphere (Bob Garfield) “Vulgar, adolescent Fiat ad about increased, um, potency. But it stands almost alone so far in making a coherent claim.”

Clash of Clans: Liam Neeson brought his particular set of skills to bear in this ad for the online strategy game. Like Fiat’s ad, its appeal was in its surprising story and humorous tone; reactions from #whartonfoa viewers were uniformly positive:

  • @DaveBirckHead (Dave Birckhead) “Oh no! Clash of Clans ads with Liam Neeson is fantastic! Our son’s fav ad by far  #whartonfoa #brandbowl #AdBowl #vcu_brandcenter”

Always: This ad for the #likeagirl campaign was a frequently-cited favorite for its purpose-driven message and effective use of the “survey” format:

  • @BurkhardtT (Thomas Burkhardt) “#always Brilliant insight and work. Intelligent and empowering.  #whartonfoa #SuperBowlXLIX”
  • @AARLisa (Lisa Colantuono) Always: 8. Hope they’re always as distinctive as they were in that ad! #whartonfoa

Loctite: A dance, a jingle, people in fanny packs and a batch of soda bottles glued to the wall paid off for a large number of panelists, who were charmed by the offbeat spot:

  • @kellyokeefe (Kelly O’Keefe) Locktite WILL be selling a lot of glue this year. A lot of glue. #whartonfoa #VCU_Brandcenter

Snickers: This latest iteration of Snickers’ “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” pitch won the inaugural Super Clio for ads aired during the Super Bowl, and charmed a number of people…

  • @Fulgoni (Gian Fulgoni): “Snickers: The best ad so far. Hilarious and communicates the brand message clearly #whartonfoa”
  • @JustinHerrick: (Justin Herrick): “@Snickers is on a hot streak with #SuperBowl ads. #bradybunch @ckburgess #whartonfoa”

…but left others cold:

  • @Brandacity (Dr. Tracy Tuten): “That #snickers commercial is disturbing on so many levels. #nightmares #bradybunch #brandbowl #whartonfoa”

Best in-game advertising:

Skittles: Marshawn Lynch eating Skittles on the sidelines was cited by several panelists as the best ad of the night, and authentic in a way most paid content can’t be—while Lynch is currently a compensated spokesman for Skittles, his habit of munching them during games goes back to his early days playing Pop Warner games as a child—and better than Skittles’ actual broadcast ad:

  • @ZacharyAdlouni (Zachary Adlouni): “Best piece of advertising of the night will definitely be that shot of Marshawn and his skittles #WhartonFOA http://t.co/DwuXre0xHc”


Nationwide: By far, the most negative reaction went to Nationwide’s second spot , which blindsided viewers with a story about a dead child and struck a tone that seemed inappropriate, especially since Nationwide’s spot earlier in the evening featured Mindy Kaling in a humorous mode:

  • @TopherPerkins (Chris Perkins): “@Nationwide hit smart issue, with wrong note #CreditForTrying #whartonfoa #SB49”
  • @tommorton (Tom Morton) “Nationwide board meeting. Exec #1: ‘Are we more a Mindy Kalling brand or a dead kid brand?’ Exec #2: ‘Let’s try both’ #superbowl #whartonfoa”

Mercedes: While automobile ads can often be a haven for retrograde attitudes about masculinity, only Mercedes’ featured a cartoon tortoise ramping a car over the head of the hare while simultaneously stealing the hare’s girlfriend:

  • @WinstonBinch (Winston Binch): “Advertising got in the way of remarkable product @MercedesBenz #whartonfoa”
  • @tommorton (Tom Morton): “Mercedes just made an amazingly beautiful sports car look really cheap #SuperBowl #whartonfoa”

Other trends:

Many took note of the number of serious/sentimental ads featuring fathers, including two car spots, for Nissan and Toyota, that each featured a father who watches their child grow into an adult over a period of years:

  • @ekraus (Evan Kraus): “Exactly…thought it was an Army ad MT @tommorton: Ok, advertising, I’m a good dad, now what car do I buy? #SuperBowl #whartonfoa”

The somber tone of many of the ads struck some panelists as excessive:

  • @FaithPopcorn (Faith Popcorn) “Will need another martini to make it through all of these depressing ads if this trend keeps up #WhartonFoA”

And there was a football game:

Unlike the previous year’s lopsided rout of a Super Bowl, this year’s was a close contest up to the final seconds, which perhaps put things into perspective:

  • @ckburgess (Cheryl K. Burgess) “Game is more interesting than commercials #WhartonFoA #SuperBowl #SB49 #commercials #SuperBowlSunday”

A thank-you from WFoA to all our panelists, and and to everyone who chimed in during the game with the #whartonfoa hashtag. We’ll see you next year!