Jeff Benjamin


Jeff Benjamin
Chief Creative Officer,
JWT North America

Brands That Are Succeeding

Q.

What does doing something good for the world through interactive advertising do for a brand?

We’re getting to a point where advertisers want their brands to matter to the world. There’s this movie Deep Impact where a comet is coming to hit earth, and they say, let’s take all the important people and put them in a mountain, so life can go on, like a human Noah’s Ark. They’re taking teachers, doctors, and scientists—and I’m realizing if this ever really happens, I’m not getting invited to the mountain. For the most part, the measure of our existence is whether you have a 0.05 click-through rate or how many views your video got. It’s tough to matter in advertising as somebody who works in it. Even more important, it’s tough to make a brand matter. We are moving to a point in history when brands that matter are the ones that succeed. When you can make why you matter intersect with real business problems, you’ve hit a sweet spot. It’s definitely an ambition great brands need to have.

Q.
In the work, what did you see as the relationship between paid media and media that’s earned, owned, and invented?

There’s a huge relationship there. There’s a tendency to feel like you shouldn‘t make ads for ads. But the reality is you do. Otherwise, how is anyone going to know about what you’ve done? I don’t know how many times a viral phenomenon just happens on its’ own. Usually there was some catalyst at the beginning, whether it was a small media buy or a PR strategy that puts the work in the right people’s hands. In order to blow something up, in order to make Twitter go wild, you need to have a catalyst to spark that. Some brands are beginning to figure out a cocktail of having both, timing an effort to start with paid media that’s very strategic and serves as the catalyst for the earned media. Those are the brands that are succeeding today.

Q.
How do you judge effectiveness when you’re comparing work that touched millions people to that which touched thousands of people?

A:  You could say: why not just go by simple math and pick the one with millions of views? But it depends on who your audience is. Who are you trying to connect with? Who are you trying to get to participate with your brand? What’s your mission? What’s the ambition for that project? Sometimes your goal is not to be some 100-million viral hit. If it always was, we’d just be giving our brands to Miley Cyrus.

Advertising is fascinating, because it’s not just the views of the video. You also have to consider other types of artifacts that you get, whether it’s mentioned on the news, people talking about it, or people copying it. Recently, there was a Jean-Claude Van Damme video that came out and suddenly there were all these spoofs. When I worked on Whopper Freakout, the best thing was when people started making their own videos. It’s not just the math of the one video. What about all the people playing or participating in this cultural moment?

Q.
In the judging room, did you weigh consumer participation heavily?

A: I did. Mostly because this is the Interactive Advertising Bureau—the first word there is interactive. To me, interactive isn’t just about being digital. It’s about pulling people off the sidelines to play and participate with your brand. To me, that’s what you’ve got to be judging.

Q.
You can have creativity without impact and impact without creativity. What is the secret sauce to achieve both? 

A: It starts with a great brief, a great strategy. We often celebrate the best work for its creativity, but there is an amazing strategy behind it that comes from planners, clients, and media. That’s one of the interesting things about the IAB MIXX Awards. You pool these people together who are all responsible for the creative product.

“We are moving to a point in history when brands that matter are the ones that succeed. When you can make why you matter intersect with real business problems, you’ve hit a sweet spot.”