Nigel Rahimpour: What Today’s Generation Of Creatives Need To Know About Tech

The Global Planning Director of Saatchi & Saatchi discusses the tools and behaviors that the young workers today need to adopt.

In today’s creative industries it is obvious that technology plays a critical role, but what is it? Is it simply apps or social media? Or is it more pervasive and how can the next generation of workers in this marketplace use it well and to their advatage. Nigel Rahimpour the Global Planning Director of Saatchi & Saatchi speaks to Tomorrow Awards Magazine about his vision on the latest trends in the marketing and visual communications industry.

What are the things you are doing to stay in the forefront of the latest trends?

I check out industry-specific publications and award shows.  But it is equally important to look at trends beyond our sector. That’s the way you create something new. You cross-pollinate and put things together that, at a first glance, have little to do with one another. For example, look at the rise of the solar industry. Then consider all the poor places around the world that can’t afford to pay for electricity. Now, what if an advertising billboard made out of solar panels can power a clinic, a street market or an entire Brazilian Favela? That’s what I’m talking about.

Young creatives coming into our industries have a very different vision for the role of technology in our industry. What would your advice be to them as they come in?

First of all, I think it is important to understand that technology is not an idea. The photo camera is a tool. If you know how it works, then that’s great. But you’ve got to have an idea first, one that is interesting enough to move people, that’s how things go viral. So don’t mistake technology for an idea. The mobile phone does not spread an idea. It takes a human to press send. So the real question is how do you get into the human brain and get an unfair share of mind over all the other noise that is out there? If you don’t get into the human mind, then it does not matter whether you have TV, OOH, digital or social at your disposal. People often believe that the latest technology will spread their idea. But that’s a mistake. It can help spread it, but takes a human to do it. This means, that people are the real media and getting into the human mind is the real challenge. For that you need to have an idea, not just technology.

A lot of technologies have trended, come and gone like augmented reality and second life. What new technologies do you think will suffer the same fate?

That’s a tough one. I think augmented reality is here to stay just like GPS. It’s just in its infancy. It will be a great way to immerse you in movies, music and all other sorts of entertainment – with glasses, contacts or headsets.  For example, it’s a fantastic way to showcase a product in retail, to learn about a place in tourism and procedures in hospitals. We are just seeing the beginnings of what AR can do.

We are very proud to be the first show to implement the 50/50 initiative. How are women contributing to your team and how will they change the creative industries in the future?

Claudine Cheever is our chief strategy officer. Women across the agency make enormous contributions. They are represented in big numbers on all levels. In fact, I think that as we move more and more into a service-oriented society, women are more likely than men to prevail, since they are much better at what I call soft skills.

 A lot of people that work in creative industries don’t even have TV’s anymore. How has personal behavior changed as it relates to how brands reach you?

Part of the answer is digital, but it’s also experiential. I’m thinking of experiences in the real world – events, stunts and of course utility and entertainment. For example, think of Red Bull, the Citi Bike project in New York or how Crispin kicked off the whole gamification trend with its Burger King video game years ago. That’s an agency creating a product that people want to spend time with. A lot of time! Not just 30 seconds like a TV-ad at best, but hours on end, because it has become an integral part of their lives. In fact, this is the way forward.

We travel a lot and we’ve seen the trend of seating people in different groups ever-changing positions like “Chief Innovation Officer” and “External Relationship Director” as everyone tries to adapt to the changing world. If you were to build your own company tomorrow, how would you structure it to best suit the future?

I would set out to solve business challenges, not just communications problems. In fact, I would be the most entrepreneurial agency in the world! To do so, I would abolish the term creative department, which has hindered account folks and planners from being creative. Agencies are simply not making use of their full potential. You see, the real entrepreneurs in this business – the Saatchi brothers, John Hegarty, David Droga, Alex Bogusky, Carl Johnson, Adam Stagliano and Dave Trott – exceed their job definition. That’s what makes them so great. Moreover, in a world where clients continuously cut their agency partners’ fees, I would sell intellectual property, not just time. I would pitch new products and services to my clients, share the R&D costs, and more importantly, the profits. That’s what I mean by entrepreneurship. Lastly, I’d be solutions-neutral, not media-neutral. My response to a business challenge would not necessarily be an ad campaign. I’d offer my clients whatever it is that solves their business issue – the right medicine. And if I don’t have a certain expertise in my agency, then I will strike a strategic alliance with someone who does, as long as it solves my client’s business problem. That way, my agency would be invited to the big conversation that a client is having versus just solving communications issues.

Follow Nigel on Twitter @_nigel_0

This interview has been reposted with the kind permission of Tomorrow Awards Magazine

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