Abigail Posner: How Brands Can Humanize Their Digital Experience [PSFK 2013]

Abigail Posner: How Brands Can Humanize Their Digital Experience [PSFK 2013]

Google's Strategic Planning chief to appear at PSFK NYC to offer insight into how the brand-tech paradigm is changing.

Betsy Mead
  • 12 april 2013

As part of the run-up to PSFK CONFERENCE 2013 in New York this April, PSFK will be publishing a series of short interviews with speakers to give a taste of what will be discussed in this meeting of creative minds. Abigail Posner, a luminary in the world of advertising and now Head of Strategic Planning, Agency Development at Google, will be discussing how the company is seeking to humanize the branding by becoming more attuned to customers and their preferences. She recently spoke to PSFK to offer us some insight into how the brand-tech paradigm is changing.

What does Google hope to gain by getting more involved with the digital agency space?

I was asked to come to Google after spending 15+ years as a strategic planner in the agency space. Google is definitely developing beyond being a search company with all its interesting applications, including YouTube and many more. We (Google) realized that we really want to partner cultural and creative people. Agencies are key players in this space — brands are increasingly looking the digital arena to amplify their stories. Google wants to help them figure out ways to be meaningful, highly creative and highly inspiring.

We need to bring along people who have that mindset, and get strategic planners, creative directors and copywriters involved in what we do everyday. Not only can they help us have a better perspective and greater understanding on what is guiding our clients but they can help us provide a the rationale beyond the financial for advertising campaigns and the meaning of a brand. Many digital companies are not giving enough depth of understanding as to how people are creating meaning and lasting brand engagement.

How does Google plan to achieve this goal of making branding more relevant to consumers?

I was lucky enough to do a listening tour where I went and spoke with heads of planning and chief strategic officers round the country about what is keeping them up at night. I found out what their feeling was about Google and how they are they working with digital strategists. Many want to leave agencies but they are dying for deeper understanding so they can help inspire creative.

What are people’s aspirations? How does the brand play a role in it? I would employ anthropologists and psychologists and look at cultural analyses. We should be doing that with channels and places and spaces that consumers are engaging with every day. While advertising has tended to be more channel-orientated I’m not sure we, as strategic planners, have been putting the same emphasis on understanding as we should have. That’s what I’m hoping to bring.

What concrete steps have you taken to achieving this goal?

The company has all the data—they know how long people are browsing the internet for deals but we don’t the symbolic meaning of places and spaces. We are now trying to apply knowledge from the sciences, anthropology and psychology as to how are people engage. This could be in the mobile sphere, on TV and on the visual web. We are doing a series of studies at the moment–we did one on mobile and we are finishing one on search—and we will be revealing at PSFK how we are creating meaning and communicating to brands how they can do this.

How do you think the digital creative process has changed from an agency standpoint?

From a larger global macro perspective, there is no question that there is an expectation for more agility and a quicker and more open-minded approach to creative problem solving. It’s less about focusing on one element, because every discipline plays its own part, but the method is overall more cohesive. Oftentimes you are start in one place but are led to another, so you have to be flexible with your methods. This definitely has something to do with influence of the digital world, with a prototype in Silicon Valley.

I have found that that played out at Google. I ideate together with my creative partner in a much more collaborative fashion. We try to instill that into the process with our creative partners at the agency so it is less linear. It is hard to change so many pre-existing systems but when we approach our challenge we try to combine many concepts and methods, and we try to integrate that into our working relationship with our clients.

To learn more about PSFK CONFERENCE 2013, click here, and to watch the live stream go to, where the action will be live until 5:30pm EST.


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