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Q&A: Kandace Hudspeth, McCann NY's New Head of Social and Digital

  |  September 9, 2011   |  Comments

Rising interactive star makes leap to idea house.

kandacehudspeth-dsc-1114When, after a string of roles at interactive shops, a rising star makes the leap to a media-neutral agency, the transition can be a shock. Kandace Hudspeth is discovering that firsthand as the new leader of digital and social strategy at McCann New York.

Hudspeth shows no outward symptoms of cultural whiplash, but she does confess some awe at the disparities between her prior data-driven employers (MRM Worldwide, Euro RSCG 4D, and iCrossing) and her current idea-centric one.

"It's a totally different environment," she tells ClickZ. "When I joined MRM, it was to lead strategy for US Army. We were…very analytical in nature. At its heart I think of McCann New York as an idea house. In terms of strategy work, you have traditional brand planners at the core." She hastens to add, "They totally get the space in terms of digital and social."

At McCann, Hudspeth will support account teams, consulting directly with clients (like Weight Watchers, MasterCard and the Ikea catalog), and instilling social habits in the agency's own culture and processes.

A competitive fitness model outside of agency life, Hudspeth took some time yesterday to chat about her winding path through agency land.

ClickZ: Is McCann's social practice more about best practices or the big idea? What do you bring to it?

Kandace Hudspeth: I think it's all of it. My background is very diverse. I spent a lot of time with clients doing enterprise enablement and...integrating marketing and technology to deliver any idea they would partner with an agency on. My unique angle is getting inside a client organization. To me social and digital are one and the same.

Social to me is about the emotional connection and activity between two people… Digital is about the operating framework that allows that behavior to occur. Creating that operating framework and system that allows that behavior to occur in a more efficient manner and in a real-time manner is pretty crucial. And it takes a lot of effort in terms of governance. It's a lot of transformational work.

It requires understanding the norms of that environment. A lot of the work that I do, it tends to come on in more of a consultative project. I'm doing that role for McCann itself, using that type of thinking through all of the program teams that support our clients. I'll be focusing on all of our top relationships.

CZ:What's your perspective on McCann New York?

KH: In a way it feels like coming home. In a sense it's a very different animal from where I was before. When I joined MRM… we were very analytical in nature. My team was more traditional digital strategy.

At its heart I think of McCann New York as an idea house. In terms of strategy work, you have traditional brand planners at the core. They totally get the space in terms of digital and social.

Where you can be even more unique and optimize even more is [by pulling] in true creative strategists, brand planners, and people like myself. That can be truly powerful. McCann has the potential to do it because they really are set up to be that idea shop.

On Talent:

As we are growing and shaping and building a capability, the type of talent that can take that idea house to the next level -- it's an interesting mix of people.

The pressure to be very client facing at a young phase in your career is a lot of pressure to put on one candidate. The talent is hard to find. There is a team here that I've been brought in to oversee and shape. My plan is to work with them. I don't have a cookie cutter template.

CZ: You've worked on IBM at Euro RSCG and Intel at MRM. Is there a similar tech client you'll be serving at MENY?

KH: Not necessarily tech, but I'm jumping into Master Card. Operationally there's a similar need there. I'm also especially interested in Weight Watchers since I compete in fitness.



Zachary Rodgers

Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects. 

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