Desmond Marzette is a creative advertising executive whose professional career has been driven by the study, translation, creation and commercial use of pop culture. He has worked as a music researcher and show producer and was also one of the founding members of Def Jam Mobile. Desmond currently serves as the executive creative director at TBWA\Chiat\Day LA where he continues his mission of building positive (branded) pop propaganda to inspire audiences to be their best selves.
Given the competitive digital landscape, disruptive marketing has become one of the key strategies that help organizations drive innovation and meet fast-changing customer expectations.
In this interview, we speak to Desmond Marzette, executive creative director at Chiat/Day LA, who explained what it really means to be a full-brand experience company.
Desmond also shared the key social platforms businesses should currently consider establishing a strong brand presence and gave some marketing tips for small businesses looking to build a strong brand.
Spotlight: With the pandemic and remote work becoming the norm, what do you think has been the biggest shift in advertising and marketing since the start of the pandemic, and how has your agency responded to it?
Desmond Marzette: Remote work has created new barriers to the creative process. Talking through the screen removes the beautiful chaos of true creative ideation. There’s a musicality to it: the harmony of voices and colliding thought that yields breakthroughs and makes the room explode.
To continue the music metaphor, ideating with a team online is like listening to a band through Zoom. Possible, but not ideal. So, at Chiat LA, we are embracing the new work-from-home world through a hybrid model, but not at the expense of making sure our teams are prioritizing time with each other in the same shared spaces.
TBWA\Chiat\Day has been disrupting the advertising industry for more than 50 years. What’s the secret to longevity in such a competitive sector?
The secret is always the people. We identify true creatives as individuals who have a mission within this industry and individuals with a voice. The trick, which we won’t fully give away here, is rooted in how we as a company find and nurture talent, whether they are from the world of advertising or not.
With the increasing popularity of streaming services and ad-blocking technology, how do you ensure that your ads are reaching your target audience and achieving their desired results?
We believe advertising is a form of entertainment, so, the ad-blocking capabilities that audiences have today are less threatening to our work. People don’t block what they enjoy, so we aim to create work that is disruptive and has a pull factor, a talk value. What we’ve done over the years is provide content platforms with characters and IPs that audiences recognize and love, from Jack in the Box and DirectTV to BEHR Paint.
What are the major challenges you have faced as a company and how did you overcome them?
The ultimate challenge of advertising remains the same as it ever was: how do you create cultural and emotional connections in a persuasive way, while selling a brand and its benefits? So, as brand needs, marketing platforms, the cultural conversation in the zeitgeist, or even the creative pool continue to evolve, our mission remains the same. The challenges are numerous, but with a clear singular mission, those challenges are much easier to maneuver.
What does it “really” mean to be a disruptive marketing agency and how does this approach work?
Disruptive is the word we use to describe how we think and behave. Our Disruptive approach is always applied through the lens of problem-solving with big creative thinking. More specifically, we look at creating brand platforms over campaigns.
We also use Disruption to redefine the market of a client, not just their marketing. For example, when we work with Gatorade, we don’t just look to sell bottles, we look to shift the conversation in sports, and it takes a Disruptive platform to do that.
Data and analytics are becoming increasingly important in advertising and marketing. How does your agency use data to inform its creative decisions and measure the effectiveness of its campaigns?
Over the last few years, TBWA as a collective has invested heavily in the future, which is largely driven by data, analytics and innovation, all in an effort to help our clients break through the clutter in a meaningful and strategic way. Our expanded suite of capabilities enables creative versatility, solving business problems across the full brand experience, as I mentioned previously.
Among our strategic investments is TBWA’s LA-based Cultural Intelligence Unit Backslash, which guides clients through its annual report, Edges, which identifies cultural shifts shaping our world. In October, Backslash launched its second zine on the future of technology — “Can Tech Rewrite Its Wrongs”— outlining clear opportunities for businesses to get on the right side of tech’s history.
TBWA\Chiat\Day works with big brands like Jack in the Box, Gatorade and DirecTV. How do you measure the success of notable clients like them?
We think about success in three ways:
First: did we satisfy the client? Our clients are very happy with the work we have provided for years.
Secondly, we ask: did the work impact culture? Did we create something worth talking about? Worth sharing? Did a conversation begin, or end, with this work? Films like Gatorade’s Serena Williams tribute “Love Means Everything” is a great recent example of work that we find satisfying because it answered the brief of the client, but also, in our opinion, answered the brief of the culture, which was in need of an anthem for women of color.
Thirdly, we ask ourselves: did we have fun making it? Did our teams grow while making it? Chiat\Day LA is an agency that takes the development and nurturing of all teammates very seriously, and with each project, we are looking to support the growth of every individual.
In your experience, what are the key social platforms businesses should currently consider building a strong brand presence?
Yes, Tik Tok, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are still very appropriate places for Brands to consider building a presence, but my favorite social platform is YouTube. Its focus on content of various lengths, and its capability within the platform allow for content to be central to a two-way conversation.
I don’t think we see Brands in the YouTube comments as much as we should, especially considering the amount of time spent on the platform by users. They want to watch, but they also want to engage in a conversation, to hear the opinions of others on the content specifically. The Brand that can generate a community in the YouTube comments will build an army of enthusiasts that will carry that excitement for their brand on other platforms.
Finally, what are some marketing tips you would give to small brands looking to build a strong brand and establish a loyal customer base?
Small businesses looking to build a strong brand and establish a loyal customer base should do two things: Earn, then display, confidence. Earn your confidence by investing time and energy in research and insights. Know the whys of your consumer. Learn what makes you and your product distinct. Then, with that earned confidence, display your brand to your audience. Go where they are and speak with confidence.
Thank you for your time, Desmond Marzette. Best of luck to you and Chiat/Day!
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