The CP+B Approach to Digital

Ivan Perez-Armendariz is not your typical creative. For one, he has a computer science degree from Stanford.

Crispin Porter + Bogusky promoted him to the role of chief digital officer last month and tasked him with further expanding the agency’s digital capabilities. After being named Interactive Agency of the Year at Cannes Lions three out of the six years the honor’s been awarded, Perez-Armendariz spoke with Digiday about the agency’s approach to digital and the biggest opportunities it sees in the channel.

How is the continued shift to digital changing the structure, nature and culture of CP+B?
The evolution is constant. Today, agencies are at the intersection of Madison Ave. and Silicon Valley. We’re storytellers and brand builders blended with user-centered designers, technologists and VC. When these worlds collide, a tension emerges between the idea and the user. When we make great work, we solve for that tension. We live for that.

How does digital fit into the overall organization?
The chief digital officer is a new role that simply ensures our agency leadership includes a bit of Silicon Valley thinking at the top. It’s partly an operational role that pushes our structure into an ongoing “agency redesign”-type environment. Technologists are involved in the creative process as they have been for about five-plus years now. That’s not a differentiator. There is no digital arm or department or anything like that. If there is anything “digital” about us, it’s our culture. We are passionate about telling stories in the digital realm.

CP+B was one of the first traditional agencies to really embrace digital. What do you think other agencies trying to make that shift can learn from the agency?
No secret: empower the programmers and technical leads to make things. Create a culture of making things, even when there is no assignment. The other thing is to embrace experience design. Experience designers are still a secret weapon at some agencies. At CP+B, they partner with planners to create strategy, they partner with creative directors to vet ideas, they partner with designers to solve visual problems, and they partner with developers to make things pixel perfect. Not many roles have a wider span and potential for impact.

We hear a lot about the challenges facing agencies with attracting and retaining digital talent. How is CP+B dealing with the issue?
Tough call. Google isn’t going away, so retention will remain a problem. We deal with this by being the best at growing talent. Our consolation is knowing that the top minds in the industry came through CP+B and that our internship program is creating tomorrow’s agency leaders.

What are the biggest untapped opportunities in digital for brands?
Experiential marketing and brand communities, like Facebook fans, are becoming tightly connected. As brands have embraced social, an insatiable need for content creation has been unleashed. Experiential marketing solves for that content need with activations filled with teasers, live feeds, geolocation connectivity, and video productions that all yield social content. Combined, experiential and social are a win-win. At CP+B, we have a unique take on experiential marketing called “outeractive.” Outeractive tells a brand story, designs for sharable moments and creates a relationship between a brand and consumer. We don’t do events or sampling. We create real-life experiences that tell a brand story. Storytelling in the digital realm has become instantaneous. Instagram and Pinterest facilitate instant emotion-sharing, sometimes without copy. Visual design is now more important than ever because of these platforms.

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