Inspiring Futures is a podcast about the future hosted by Ed Cotton. We live in the now, everything around us is increasingly real-time, so we are somewhat challenged to think about the future because it’s an unknown and takes discipline to think about. But what happens when we do we think about the future, when do we think about it, who inspires the futures we think about and what do we think the future will hold? Inspiring Futures is a podcast that talks to people from diverse backgrounds, careers and industries and talks to them about how they think and what they think about the future.
Vasanth Seshadri- The Sunny Side- Singapore
Vasanth is a polymath- he's a creative director, but he's also an author, he has an engineering background is a graduate of computer engineering and started his career as a digital consultant.
Somehow he saw the light, transitioned to copywriting, and has held numerous jobs with JWT, Wunderman, Edelman, and Sapient-Razorfish. Vasanth also spent time in the halls of one of the most respected creative departments on the planet- BBDO NY. He worked on the likes of P&G (Gillette), J&J (Splenda, Lactaid), GE, Mars, and Emirates Airlines.
For the past four years, he's been running his shop, The Sunny Side, which aims to disrupt large agencies and make the combination of quality, speed, and price work.
It seems to be paying dividends as the agency has picked up business from Sephora, Castrol, Novartis, and P&G.
In our conversation, we talk about his background, career, his work at BBDO, the similarities and differences between Asian markets, and bringing speed and skill to some of the biggest clients in the world.
Neel Williams- Group Creative Director- The Martin Agency
A few weeks back I was fortunate to chat with Neel Williams - Group Creative Director at the Martin Agency.
Neel runs all things creative on the massive GEICO account.
I couldn't beat the brilliant intro Neel has on his website, so I decided it was simplest to just cut and paste it.
"I am a copywriter by trade, Group Creative Director by title and gumbo-lover by birth. I graduated from Yale University, majoring in Art History. After attending The Creative Circus and working in Atlanta & New York, my wife and I moved to Richmond, Virginia.
Since then I’ve made a lot of fun stuff at The Martin Agency, helped write two nationally published books, invented a high-five machine, grown two mediocre moustaches, fathered two outstanding children, founded a modern fairytale podcast, and sang lyrics about Irritable Bowel Syndrome with Boyz II Men."
In the episode- we discuss Neel's early motivations to be a strategist, how he shifted into the creative domain, the importance of inspiration, improvisation with boundaries, the importance and role of strategy on the GEICO account, and the challenge of finding new ideas when you've already done most of the ones that are available.
Bonnie Wan- Partner and Head of Brand Strategy, Goodby, Silverstein and Partners
Bonnie Wan has been working at Goodby since 1998.
In 2022, she was named Advertising Age/Creativity Chief Strategy Officer of the Year.
She started her career at Weiss, Whitten, and Stagliano in NY before becoming Adam Morgan's first hire at TBWA Chiat Day LA followed by stints at FCB and Hal Riney before joining GSP to work with Jon Steel.
In the conversation, we talk about the shifts and changes in the strategy discipline with leaders moving from gurus to guides. Higher stakes for clients and a wider remit in terms of media expansion.
She describes her approach to strategy is to work and think as a "team"- "it's not about being the smartest person in the room", but "making the whole room smart" and that requires a spirit of generosity.
The department culture is key for Bonnie- it's all about her bench and her team and making alchemy happen between the members of the team.
When it comes to philosophy around the process of strategy, she highlights the need for always-on, constant monitoring of culture and of consumers and the practice of always asking the smartest questions to ensure you arrive at a really interesting place.
Bonnie talks about her development of "Brand Camp" which is a 6-week strategy sprint that gets clients to an "organizing idea" and involves workshops with GSP strategists and the client C-Suites. This has served to bring new non-advertising clients to the agency and codified in detail the strategic process.
For emerging talent- she's created a 15-week training camp that teaches the fundamentals of Strategy.
We also talk about her upcoming book- "The Life Brief" - where she applies the strategic thinking and framing used for brands to life. Which is something she applied successfully in her life, Bonnie has just signed a book deal with Simon and Schuster
Stevie Archer and Kevin Skobac - SS+K
This podcast episode features an interview with Stevie Archer- ECD and Kevin Skobac-Managing Director, Strategy- SS+K
SS+K is part of the M&C Saatchi network and has been around for 30 years.
It has a history of working in the political arena - including working for Obama in 2008. That political experience translates into a philosophy they describe as "thinking politically and acting creatively".
In the conversation, we talk about the agency and how its philosophy manifests itself in the work and the discipline of strategy, how creative and strategy work together and discuss in detail their work for Icelandic Tourism.
Kierstin De West- From Strategist, to Sustainability Researcher to Marketer
Kierstin De West is the Chief Marketing Officer of Alpha Foods.
This podcast is the story of Kierstin's journey from ad agency strategist to brand marketer to running her consulting business and on to senior brand roles at Lululemon and Alpha Foods.
In the episode, we talk about what she learned along the way, what agency folks need to know about working client-side, why strategists make great marketers, and even how to market plant-based foods.
Nick Steel of HarrimanSteel- Two Decades as a Creative Independent
Nick Steel is the co-founder of the creative independent agency HarrimanSteel.
The shop has worked with the likes of Uber, Seedlip, Tom's, Nike, Girl Effect, FootLocker, Patagonia and more.
Nick founded the agency straight out of art school at 27 and was lucky enough to get Nike as his first client.
In our conversation, we talk about his approach to the business, the importance of agency culture, and how the pandemic has shaped his thinking and that of the agency.
Such rich and inspiring conversation! Thank you for the insights.