The Digiday Questionnaire: Mark Silva

The famous Proust Questionnaire comes from a popular 19th-century parlor game in which guests were asked to answer a series of questions to reveal the respondent’s true nature. Digiday is updating the Proust Questionnaire for the digital media industry. If you or someone you know would like to answer the Digiday Questionnaire, contact me at the email address below.

Our latest subject is Mark Silva, svp of emerging platforms at Anthem.

The Digiday Questionnaire: Mark Silva

1. What about working in the digital media industry makes you happy?
In nearly 20 years of digital, dating back to the pioneering days of helping launch CareerMosaic in early ’94, there hasn’t been a moment of boredom, tedium or navel-gazing that exists in many industries and organizations. The ongoing reinvention of our product — what advertising agencies “make” — is as much an adaptive and survival mechanism as DNA for thriving from a Valley perspective. So far the challenge of “what’s next” makes me endlessly happy.

2. What about working in the digital media industry makes you miserable?
Misery is a luxury for those who have time to dwell on things that keep them from focusing on what’s important. If you’re miserable in this industry, you probably don’t belong here.

3. What is the worst fault you see in your area of the industry?
I think the greatest challenge with emerging platforms and Valley innovation is that it rarely fits marketer CMO and agency CEO time frames, and therefore lays in peril of decimation with shifts in business performance, focus or strategy. Think about it: VCs usually invest funds over 5-7 years with expectations to harvest in 7-10 years. The best funds don’t sit on the sidelines in a down market, because they deploy their strategies in good times and bad. Wall Street works by quarters. So I believe the fault lies in a failure of vision and strategic commitment. One can argue that there’s also the issue of proven track record — agencies that innovate too far ahead of the curve won’t be around to harvest, and ones that innovate in the service of their current solution are rarely leading the business where it needs to go.

4. What positive changes do you hope to see in the industry?
There’s a fast-moving tide of marketers embracing technology as the greatest creator of wealth, value and culture. It’s certainly driven by consumer adoption that’s moving faster than enterprise. You see evidence with companies like American Express, Anheuser-Busch, Ford and Wal-Mart setting up shop in the Valley. As a result, I believe we’ll see more C-suite executives demanding better ideas with a technical core rather than tacking promises onto the exterior of a product or last year’s insight. Can you imagine a more positive change in our relationship than helping to create markets, and not just marginalized and interruptive marketing?

5. What is the quality you most admire in a digital media CEO?
The qualities I admire most in any CEO are vision, courage, curiosity, dissatisfaction and execution. Throw in a dash of humility with the digital title, because there’s nothing more humbling than the path of innovation.

6. What tech company do you wish you started?
Today? Instagram. Great outcome for a small team of founders and investors. On most other days, I’d say Twitter or Zynga.

7. Silicon Valley or Madison Ave.?
Not even close: Silicon Valley, baby.

8. Track or Do Not Track?
Be useful.

9. App or mobile site?
Today, it’s definitely app. And not just “mobile optimized” apps. You need to start with mobile. Most marketers are starting with existing assets, infrastructure and web analytics when approaching mobile, but we believe you need to re-envision the channel from the start. Instagram’s in the news right now for their amazing $1 billion valuation in Facebook cash and stock. Let’s use them as an example. They were only available via mobile and optimized entirely to that platform — in fact, only to Apple iPhone (not even iPad) until recently. If you wanted a Web version of your photos, you would have to use Webigram or some other third-party hack into their API because they couldn’t prioritize the artifacting to Web or even mobile Qeb. As a result, they were incredibly useful and beloved to the tune of 30mm happily, deeply-engaged users. In a similar way, Flipboard took a year and a half to migrate to Smartphone from Tablet because the usability is so essential to their brand and experience. Marketers need to be thinking this way as well.

10. If you could only use one of these for these rest of your life: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Spotify, which one?
The “rest of my life” service probably hasn’t been invented, but Twitter would probably be closest. We actually use Twitter as our emergency response center at home and our kids know how to find us and communicate in the unlikely event that mobile or Web services go down. Thanks, Dick, Jack, Ev, Biz  and team.

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