The agency and consulting landscapes have been converging for a while. As digital technology has changed business and customer interactions, business leaders have new needs beyond what traditional agencies can offer. For the past four years, Deloitte Digital has been growing to meet this gap for clients and help them find their disruptive advantages in the marketplace.
The newest player in this story is Alan Schulman. This month, he joins Deloitte Digital as National Director of Content Marketing and Creative Experience, where he will bring his expertise as a creative leader across a range of media, devices, and platforms to further enhance our ability to transform customer journeys for our clients.
Alan brings more than 30 years experience in marketing and advertising—the last 15 squarely in digital marketing. Prior to joining us, he was Chief Creative Officer at SapientNitro. Before that, Alan served in a variety of capacities within The Interpublic Group, including creative leadership roles at McCann-Erickson, FutureBrand Worldwide and Foote, Cone & Belding.
We asked Alan to share his thoughts on the latest move, what’s inspiring him, and what he sees on the horizon as digital technology continues to quicken the pace of innovation:
Why Deloitte Digital?
Alan Schulman: As a practitioner in “ideas that motivate and move people,” I’m very excited about getting further upstream with Deloitte Digital to have a more strategic conversation with CMOs. Right now, marketing is being redefined as audiences fragment, consumers switch between multiple channels, and traditional “interruptive” communications become less effective. It now goes well beyond communications—including Customer and User Experience, Content Marketing and eCommerce, just to name a few. So, CMOs are seeking help both internally and externally to arm themselves with new methods and models for how to transform marketing.
The Deloitte brand has that permission and those relationships within the C-Suite to effect that kind of conversation and the customer experience.
What opportunities are you most excited about?
AS: First, elevating the conversation from Digital Media spend—where most agencies are—to a more strategic conversation about Digital Marketing transformation. Next, I’m excited about the opportunity to build creative and content studios that can design and deploy digital and physical creative experiences and content that has real business impact. Third, the opportunity to collaborate with extremely smart strategists with deep knowledge within their respective vertical industries is a luxury most agencies can’t afford. Deloitte Consulting has that in force.
What are the biggest challenges you see?
AS: Creative cultures are fragile entities. To do their best work, creatives need air cover from executive leadership that will not only look out for them, but bring them opportunities to do their best work. The strategic consulting power of Deloitte combined with the creative prowess and potential of Deloitte Digital will be both a formidable and fun challenge. It will require openness and collaboration from both the emotional and empirical sides of the firm—if we get that right, nothing can stop us from creating huge business impact for our clients.
What do you think the future looks like for traditional creative agencies?
AS: If by traditional you mean campaign-based traditional creative agencies, I think that they will continue to have a role in brand storytelling, but it will be limited to their craft of communications in the interruptive model of television rather than always-on content ecosystems. Everyone loves a great commercial, but even the great ones have a very limited shelf life in today’s real-time trending content model.
Have enterprise needs around technology and analytics fundamentally changed the way we think of creative work?
AS: Yes. Smart marketers are connecting enterprise level data throughout the customer's journey—and that allows us to create much more targeted messages and experiences to surprise and delight customers along the way and post the sale. Deploying the right tech platforms and applied analytics allows us the potential to do that at scale. That’s the promise of one-to-one marketing at scale, informed by insight-based, applied analytics and great creative experiences. And we can start activating that for our clients now.
What should businesses be asking from their agencies now?
AS: For new behavioral insights and new ways to tell their brand story, then carry it through to the cash register—beyond just Likes or Shares or some other tactical marketing KPI that a CFO or COO doesn’t understand the business impact of. That’s what makes most agencies seem like cost centers.
Is the idea of being "customer centric" just the fad of the day, or is this something businesses will be focused on for a long time?
AS: Not at all. It’s so important right now—you have to do it or you’ll be disrupted. Marketers have been talking about it for a long time, but they either can’t seem to make impact through their sales channels externally or swim lanes internally to change the experience radically for the customer. Many marketers say that they are customer centric, but their call center experience is horrible or their check-out lines at retail take forever. We’ve all experienced it.
I just try to emphasize that you’re only as good as your worst customer touch point. So find that one and fix it first.
What's inspiring you now? What helps you sustain your creative energy?
AS: New methods in non-linear digital storytelling, Interactive eBooks and new advances in AI as well as data-driven storytelling, are all inspiring
What sustains my creative energy? Three things: My two boys (8 and 6) and their crazy imaginations, playing jazz guitar in a duo and group setting trying to take a good solo, and when I see or experience something that makes me go, “Why didn’t I think of that?”