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Q&A with Top International Digital Thinker, Nathan Martin

Published by on Sep 19th, 2012, No Comments

The producers of The Digital Edge Live Show set to take place in Cape Town in October, put some time aside to do an in-depth interview with international speaker Nathan Martin, CEO of Deeplocal who will be headlining the event. Coined by Forbes Magazine as “Willy Wonka with a toolkit from Mythbusters”, Nathan has been instrumental in shaping innovation in the ad industry with projects like the Nike Chalkbot robot for the Tour de France and the Prius bicycle with mind-controlled shifting.

With clients that include the likes of Nike, Toyota and Volkswagen, and awards that include AdAge Small Agency of the Year Northeast and Cannes Lions Grand Prix, Deeplocal (with Nathan at the helm) is a force to be reckoned with in the digital marketing sphere. Here’s a sneak peak of how the conversation unfolded:

Q: What do you love about the digital marketing industry right now?

A: What excites me most is the competition to be creative. When Deeplocal entered the industry almost four years ago, I don’t think many creatives were pushing (or able to sell through) ideas that really blurred the boundaries between art and advertising. Having come from the art world, I see many ideas and work that remind me of the creative use of technology of my previous life. As more work that defies categorisation begins to exist, more clients begin to buy in to more wild ideas and more amazing work is brought to life. And the best is yet to come for digital marketing.

Q: What do you think is currently the most valuable developing media type in the digital arena?

A: I don’t think a single media type is most valuable. I think we need to look at our target audiences as holistic humans – just like us. These humans play in many different worlds and engage with many different media throughout any given day or week. The most valuable thing we as advertisers can do is synchronise efforts across media and provide information whenever, and wherever a user needs or expects it. We need to adapt to the user’s behaviour.

Q: What do you think is the most important factor that companies ignore when planning a digital marketing strategy?

A: It seems sad and obvious to say but I think that when developing a strategy, many simply forget the “would I like this” question. I think especially with digital marketing, we tend to add too much complexity too quickly. I know I’ve done this myself. It is very hard to focus on a single simple good idea. Make it simple and make it cool.

Q: What, in your opinion, are the latest innovations in digital marketing and media?

A: Everything old is new again. Many of the latest innovations I’ve seen are old technology: non-human audible audio to sync mobile device to TV, motion sensors to adapt video to user’s movements, RF to link numerous devices to a single source for cheap communication, etc. I think this shows where we are with technology these days. We have enough tools in our shed that we can go back in for a second look and see what we can do now. Smell-o-vision is even making an appearance again.

Q: What was the process behind inventing a concept like the Nike Chalkbot?

A: The Chalkbot was an example of a great collaboration between some cool people at Wieden and Kennedy and Deeplocal. This was our first project in advertising and to us Wieden was simply Adam Heathcott, Jeremy Lind, and Marcelino Alvarez. Those three people were our points of contact, our supporters, and our collaborators. While many were involved, this project like many is about a few good people working their asses off. I have a very long story I can tell but the short version is that Adam, a creative at W+K was inspired by some work I had shown him nearly a decade before Chalkbot. We worked with another outside engineer to prototype a solution to the challenge of printing on the streets, and once proven, we worked together to expand what was possible with the machine and the surrounding system. We had a few days to prototype and five weeks to build the thing. The process was called “get shit done.”

Q: Tell us about the Nike Chalkbot’s win at Cannes

A: I’m not a huge fan of awards shows myself but it was a tremendous honour for me and everyone at Deeplocal. It meant a lot to receive the respect we did from an industry we did not originally come from. It still means a lot to me.

Q: What can we expect from Deeplocal in the coming year?

A: We are growing a bit, moving into a larger facility and transitioning to working a bit more closely with a few of our clients. We don’t want to just keep delivering cool physical experiences, we want to change the way our clients do business and engage with customers. Expect to see things that seem out of character with us at first but I encourage you to dig deeper. There is a method to our madness.

Q: How do you think South Africa compares to the rest of the world in terms of Digital Marketing innovation?

A: I hope to learn the answer to that from all of you at the event. You tell me.

Challenge accepted!

Find out more about the Nike Chalkbot robot project in the video below:

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