4A’s Chick Foxgrover talks with McKinney’s Colin Dwan

4A’s Chick Foxgrover talks with McKinney’s Colin Dwan

July 19, 2019

Earlier this year, McKinney Creative Technologist Colin Dwan attended the 4A’s CreateTech 2019 conference. While there, he had the opportunity to meet Chick Foxgrover, chief digital officer for the 4A’s and the man who spearheaded the launch of CreateTech. Recently, Foxgrover and Dwan reconnected and talked. In their conversation, they touched on elements of fostering a culture of innovation and change within an agency, the power of technology to evoke emotional response, the distinctions between futurism and innovation, and how innovation for innovation’s sake can pay off.

Here are just a few of their insights and comments excerpted from their chat.

On linking emotion and technology, and doing it authentically

Colin Dwan: The biggest thing I’ve been trying to focus on is not so much the technology platform itself but the emotion we’re trying to spark, which may be easier to do when people have their guard down a little bit — where technology can kind of break through. So I’ve been trying to talk about things more in the perspective of ‘this is going to make the consumer feel this rather than they get to do this cool thing.’ Because sometimes the doing gets confusing or scary for people.

Chick Foxgrover: There are the kind of innovations — investigations, let’s say —that an agency can do or invest in that can help lead to insights on how to create emotional responses. In other words, one of the things we look at pretty carefully is technology…and technology culture is so much a part of life that things that arise out of technology and the use of technology become sort of ways for thinking for many people — either the memes that come out of them, the kinds of things that come out of Fortnite, or whatever that might be, that can then find an echo in a piece of traditional creative. I think that we see that sort of thing all the time.

But in order to be able to do that authentically, and to be able to create a message for clients that makes them an authentic participant in those kinds of cultural memes requires that the agency have some knowledge of them. So their deep involvement in those kinds of technology activities, particularly, for instance, right now we’re thinking a lot about gaming — it can be an important part of your strategic and creative thinking.

The distinction between innovation and futurism and helping clients make that leap of faith

Foxgrover: It gets a little bit confusing. People are so focused on things that are brand new that people start to feel as if that’s what innovation is — something brand new. Often innovation can simply be making a process better, being able to turn your creative process to produce more and better ideas — maybe with the use of technology, maybe with the use of technology the client never sees.

Dwan: Building the toolbox is so helpful. And even remembering that innovation doesn’t have to be invention. Every once in a while, you’ll come up with something that’s never been done before, but knowing what makes something resonate with people and refactoring what was cool about one project can be applied for other clients. And you can kind of mix and match and make something your own in a unique way that doesn’t have to be the first moon launch but can still reach consumers better.

I feel like, for a lot of clients, we need to use the practice of just training them and coaching them and getting them more comfortable with the ideas coming up more often. Because we are going to get better at how we understand the technology with each subsequent pitch. And they’re going to be more comfortable thinking that they may be able to pull one of these ideas off, and then eventually coaching them to the point where they’re ready to dive in.

On ethical use of the power of technology platforms

Foxgrover: Somebody (inside an agency) should be focused on the future and trying to connect the dots in certain kinds of dynamics that are happening….Last year was a watershed year for not so much focusing on the technology itself but on the ethics and responsibility of the power that technology platforms have. And there’s some deep messages in there for marketers and advertisers as they move forward, and as they think about how brands want to participate in the various technology platforms.

Of gaming and goodbyes

Dwan: Chick, you mentioned earlier your growing interest in the gaming world. I bounce back and forth between McKinney and the game development space — ran my own company for a few years, as well — so if there’s anything you’re ever interested in another opinion about, I’d love to chat.

Foxgrover: This has been really helpful for me, so let’s do it again. This is great.