How did you get started in marketing? It depends on how you define marketing. I am a classically trained graphic designer. The aim of good design is to embody a complex idea in a form that is simple and strong enough to convey a message, an idea or a movement directly to the senses. It’s at this primal level of communication that marketing can occur. So, if that fits your definition, I was a marketer fresh out of design school at nineteen.
What are the unique challenges and opportunities of being a digital prophet? Everyone expects you to have the right answers to questions that may have not been asked yet. The truth is, forecasting is hard—ask any well-respected weatherperson. Sometimes you successfully identify a trend, and other times, you are way off. In an interview with Forbes years ago, I said, “Apps are rubbish,” and wasn’t I wrong!
But being a digital prophet opens up unique opportunities to highlight ways in which technological engagement can enhance our humanity. I am passionate about anchoring my analyses of where technology might take us in terms of human dignity and creative expression. I see my position as an opportunity to encourage compassionate engagement.
What emerging technologies will have a lasting impact on how ad creatives work? Any technologies that engage sight, sound, touch, taste and scent stand a chance of wielding lasting impact because they tap into people’s emotions and not just their disembodied intellects. Technology misses the mark when it addresses us only from the neck up.
How should brands balance personalization and trust in their marketing? The idea of “personalization” is old school. I would recommend that brands think in terms of “customization.” I think about it like this: A person may buy into a brand because it reflects their personality; that’s personalization, a reflection of their identity. Customization, however, is what a customer can do with a brand to truly stand out; in this case, they deeply engage with a brand and take ownership, and the brand becomes an augmentation of their identity.
Who would you interview today for your video series Shingerviews? I have been doing this series for years now. It taps into people with significant influence in various genres. I would like to chat with a few of the current-day frenzy influencers to better understand how they feel they can diversify their talent beyond the platform that made them famous—or does that even matter anymore? It has worked for decades for TV, movies and radio. Perhaps the newer platforms don’t just anchor careers, but also provide a sustainable model for real success.
What are some specific resources you use to uncover digital trends? Extensive, original research is at the heart of my predictions and statistical data. I work a lot with groups of students to help confirm or reconfigure the various projections that I may have. I have a cross-disciplinary community of brilliant experts for whom I host salons and think tanks to debate the more conceptual and philosophical aspects of technology’s generative role in society. Much of my inspiration comes from my friends. I tend to hang with people who are the real originators and culture makers, such as artists, musicians, performers, poets and writers, in order to better understand their edges, dreams, creative instincts and futuristic leanings. I also value publishers and networks like TechCrunch and Engadget for tech intel.
What is the most exciting advertising work you’ve seen recently? The Lego movies. A brand that is so powerful that it gets people to pay $9 to watch its brand for almost two hours is genius. Also, the blank edition of the Lebanese newspaper An-Nahar, which was the winner of this year’s Grand Prix in Print and Publishing at the Cannes Lions. It is an elegant example of how an established medium can transcend everything—communication and perhaps even art itself—to become a vessel for something greater: the human spirit’s ability to hope and dream.
On your website, you describe yourself as an accidental singer-songwriter. How does music feed your work? It feeds every element. Music is the quickest way to recalibrate my state of being and open up the sky. It provides me with an intimate and honest channel of creative expression. Sounds like any social network’s mission statement, I know, but music embodies this organically.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? Stay true to your core and you can be very successful. I wish someone had told me that I could be true to myself and also thrive commercially. There’s a misguided perception that there is an inherent conflict between creative passion and commercial viability, but authentic creativity issued forth from individuals centered in their unique purpose is the very asset that society needs in order to advance. There was a time in my twenties when I wore suits and ties and tried to conform to a business culture that I felt was nonnegotiable. Boy, have I changed that. Being unique can be celebrated in the right environment. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to live this way; I just wish I had discovered this sooner.