Questions for AKQA’s New Interactive President

The old adage about all good things coming to an end is probably small comfort to the board of AKQA, which had a very good thing indeed with its now-departed president of interactive, Kate Everett-Thorp.

Everett-Thorp, a consummate networker and evangelist for the firm, has moved on to join San Francisco-based venture capital group WaldenVC. Replacing her at AKQA will be Andrew O’Dell, a longtime right-hand man at the agency and at Lot21, where they were both founders.

ClickZ caught up with O’Dell last week to discuss Everett-Thorp’s resignation, their differences in personal style, and what he sees on the horizon for the agency.

Q.How do you recover from losing someone like Everett-Thorp?

Kate and I worked together for about 8 years. I was a founder with her at Lot21. Although Kate was extremely high-profile and legendary, I was always the person right next to her. We aren’t going to lose any momentum with our existing clients and service offerings.

I also think Kate’s going to continue to be one of AKQA’s biggest supporters. The fact she left to pursue an entrepreneurial opportunity will benefit us.

Q.What strengths do you bring to the agency?

My personal style, and a wealth of knowledge about the digital advertising space. I’ve been doing this for about 10 or 11 years now. Specifically on the new business side, I can bring a wealth of new opportunity to AKQA.

I think I’m probably gonna be… I don’t want to say more hands on, but more active with the employees and growing the digital services offering. Kate helped grow the AKQA brand and put us on the radar that we were flying under for so long. I think I will be getting more hands on in terms of growing the service offering.

Q.I keep hearing the creative side has a more important place at the digital campaign planning table than it used to. Do you agree?

I absolutely do. As an approach for AKQA, it’s paramount. Creative is always going to be the differentiator in this business. We have made an investment in terms of getting some of the best creative talent from around the world. It’s been proven in the work we do for clients.

Q.Are you doing much original video for the Web?

We’re doing quite a bit. Through projects like Perfect Dark: Zero, through Visa, ESPN and Nike, we’re doing great work. We’re lucky in that we have clients who are really pushing this.

Now the mainstream marketers say “We are doing a shoot,” and we’ll come along. For instance, with Nike and LeBron James, [the TV guys] have him for two days, and we get him for 30 minutes or an hour.

Q.What’s the next big thing in interactive?

I wish I had a crystal ball. I think what we should do as marketers and agencies is really get good at what we do. As the industry continues to evolve, let’s get good at doing our jobs right now. The trends will come to us.

Q.Any thoughts on word-of-mouth and social media? What’s the best approach for an agency to take right now and in the future?

We’re trying to figure it out. I think there’s opportunity there. I see that as being a proper service offering for us.

With word of mouth, it’s kind of a gold rush. Everybody’s doing it. A few will succeed, most won’t. Will it go on to be replaced by another trend that nobody saw coming? It’s like with search, if you think about Alta Vista and all these companies that started out strong [and didn’t make it].

Q.What annoys you?

Being a veteran and 36 years old, what annoys me is when people don’t necessarily see the opportunity that working in this business is right now. It’s only 10 years old, and people talk about it like it’s a hundred years old. Ten years from now it’ll look nothing like it does now.

People who are involved in this, from the junior up to the top of these companies, will be at the forefront of a new industry. It’s not just going to be on your computer… Back in the day of Lot21, it was more specifically Internet-related. AKQA is more about digital. We’re not confined to the Internet. A lot of our clients don’t know that.

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