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Monday, April 27th, 2015

Grip interviews: Kevin Lynch

January 11, 2010 by Dave Hamilton

Kevin Lynch

Kevin Lynch is Creative Lead at Proximity CHICAGO.

1) The web is to advertising as _____ is to _____?
When it comes to creating analogies, I’m like a bear with a sonogram machine, so I went to for assistance. As it turns out, not only does the site not exist, but the URL is still available. Talk about Opportunity (note the capital “O”). I’m currently meeting with investors.

2) As more brands make the shift to digital, what’s the most common growing pain you’ve seen them struggle to overcome?
In a word, control. On one hand, you have marketers who can’t let go of the control they enjoy in other media. On the other hand, you have marketers who’ve completely ceded control to consumers, digitally speaking. I’d argue the latter is brand abandonment. I mean, Brand Abandonment™. It’s popular to say, “Companies don’t own brands, consumers do.” But that’s simply not true. Ultimately, consumers don’t make ownership decisions, companies do. To wit, if I owned my favorite brand of beer, it would be free.

3) When you look at the varied landscape of online advertising and digital engagement, what do you think we could be doing better, generally?
As it turns out, digital is a lot like every other form of advertising – we don’t treat our audience with enough respect, we care more about what we want to say than what our audience wants to hear, and too much of our work is forgettable. I know that sounds really basic, but marketing is not a tricky business – no matter what form it takes.

4) Do you think clients are more fearless in the work they buy for online, or less? How come?
If an idea is truly dead-on right for a brand, there shouldn’t be fear at all – only unbridled enthusiasm. That said, digital has fewer rules than traditional media, and those rules tend to change every few months. So there’s less reliance on the tried-and-true. Oftentimes, that means a marketer will take chances digitally they might not elsewhere.

It’s like skydiving. The first time you do it, you’re nervous but excited. By your 20th jump, you’re complaining about the reading on your altimeter. (See? I told you I was bad at analogies.)

5) Who deserves the corner office these days, the person who writes the best copy or the best code?
As someone with a copywriting background, I can say without hesitation it shouldn’t be us. The agency would never see their security deposit again, guaranteed.

A related question might be, does the corner office matter anymore? Seems we’re getting away from traditional power trappings. Yes, even here in the United States, or as Canadians call it, “Upper Mexico.” Today, the people who are adding the most value to their companies – on client side as well as agency side – aren’t caring too much about corner offices. Give them independence, an inspiring and rewarding environment, fair compensation, and the occasional free bagel, and they’re happy.

6) Does the work you do online feel any less enduring than, say, a full-page ad in the NY Times did?
On the contrary, what happens digitally seems to have more lasting power than stories from bachelor parties in Vegas. (Finally, a decent analogy.) For example, I was just referencing a Panera Bread ad. The ad ran full-page last Monday in USA Today. Because it was USA Today and I was not staying in a hotel, I had no idea where to find a copy. Fortunately, the agency (Mullen) had the ad posted on their Flickr stream and Panera had the text on their Facebook page. Both will be there a lot longer than last Monday’s paper.

7) Could Don Draper survive a week in your digitally driven shoes?
I try to avoid doing what ad people are supposed to do – that includes watching Mad Men. So I don’t know much about Don Draper. I can say, however, that what we do for a living is easy, assuming you never grow out of that stage in life where you’re 12 and you and your friends are spending afternoons throwing M-80s into neighbors’ mailboxes.

8) What’s the coolest app on your iPhone and why?
I’m still a sucker for the Sherwin-Williams ColorSnap even though it’s nine months old – which, I believe, is 43 in app years. It’s great on every level – high utility (from the paint breakdown to finding a retailer close to you), cool technologically, and just so very relevant for the product. Smart, smart, smart.

9) What’s the best fortune cookie you’ve ever read/written?
I opened one that said, “Your ideas are good.” For some reason, I’ve found that more reassuring than any of the compliments I’ve heard from clients, coworkers, consumers, or award show judges.

10) What’s the big idea behind your 15 ideas blog?
If there was a big idea behind it, I think the blog would be a hell of a lot better than it is. It’s just me trying to waste other people’s time. Three people’s time, specifically. It’s not a widely read blog, and I like to keep it that way. If you could please refrain from visiting, I’d be oh so grateful.

11) As a Creative Lead, what’s your leadership style?
As a leadership device, sulking is incredibly underrated. Not wanting to play that trump card too often, I also rely on trying to be honest, insightful, and funny. Of the three, “honest” comes most naturally.

12) What’s you favourite “viral?”
I like the whole Tiger-Woods-As-Philanderer campaign. (Not sure if it’s running up there, but it seems pretty popular here.) Clearly, it’s a teaser for something, but for the life of me, I can’t figure out what. Regardless, it’s a great example of earning media instead of paying for it. I just hope when the main campaign is revealed, it doesn’t disappoint.

12a) Does it bother you that I spelled favorite with a “u” in the previous question?
Nah, brings back fond memories. I heart Canada. When I moved there, I opened an account at CIBC solely because it had the word “Imperial” in the name. I think that’s really what we’re lacking here in the States – Imperialness. That, and extra “u”s.

7 Comments on "Grip interviews: Kevin Lynch"

  • Ian Mackenzie
    January 11, 2010 @ 4:27 pm

    “It’s popular to say, ‘Companies don’t own brands, consumers do.’ But that’s simply not true. Ultimately, consumers don’t make ownership decisions, companies do. To wit, if I owned my favorite brand of beer, it would be free.”


  • Paul Dhillon
    January 12, 2010 @ 11:42 am

    It’s true that brands should be focusing on what their customers “want to hear” but research can be so misleading that it’s hard to know exactly what that is. Sometimes the intuition of brand stewards (brand managers & creatives) is more effective than a focus group.

  • Steve
    January 13, 2010 @ 11:54 am

    I would suggest that there’s a difference between enduring in the digital sense (e.g. that it will always be there) and enduring in the sense that it will have resonance over a long period of time. My belief is the fact that ideas communicated digitally never really disappear paradoxically negates their endurance. They lose a bit of their sense of urgency and, therefore, their significance.
    After working with Kevin for over a decade, starting a company with him and sharing millions of memories, I can honestly say that this is the first time I’ve ever disagreed with him on any point.

  • Ian Mackenzie
    January 13, 2010 @ 5:49 pm

    To recap:

    1) Online ads are more enduring because they last longer.

    2) Online ads are less enduring because they last longer.

    The resonance point is well taken. Your online ad might last for a million years, but will anyone care two weeks from now?

  • Greg
    January 13, 2010 @ 6:32 pm

    “If an idea is truly dead-on right for a brand, there shouldn’t be fear at all – only unbridled enthusiasm.”

    I agree 100% with this. At least the way Kevin means it. The struggle comes when agencies and brand managers start to confuse “right for the brand” with conventional tactics. For some, a dead-on idea for a retailer is just low price in a starburst, and a dead-on idea for a fiber supplement might be old people smiling and having a good time.

  • kevin
    January 16, 2010 @ 10:07 am

    ha! before i realized the comment was from my old partner steve, i was reading it thinking, “hey smart point.” i should’ve known… a further explanation may help:

    the point of a digital idea being enduring but lacking urgency is a good one, though i think of a digital idea as being more of a life form than the announcement-feel of a traditional TV or print ad. which means a brand’s expectations of how folks take in the idea should be different as well. using the panera example, if they had created a “Break Bread” day, encouraging adversaries to grab a meal together on a particular day, the print ad could’ve been pretty much the same, but the digital could’ve spurred a lot more conversation (i.e. “which facebook friend have you had a falling out with? time to make up…” type of thing). panera could’ve then made it easy to have people share stories about who they reconnected with (they have a couple hundred thousand fans on facebook, so their audience is voluntary and substantial already). then, panera could’ve encouraged the same event next year, and the year after. and the success of future events would be led more by online conversation they’ve generated and maintained throughout the year, rather than a one-off print ad. in other words, a digital idea’s endurance can come not just from its presence, but from its (potential) development.

    good god, that was serious. sorry.

  • Dave
    January 16, 2010 @ 1:08 pm

    Am I reading too much into your ‘break bread’ analogy, or did just ask Steve out to lunch? Albeit, at a chain restaurant.

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