Spotlight On: Deutsch LA’s CDO, Winston Binch

Winston Binch is a man of many talents: former guitar hero, ski enthusiast, and chief digital officer at Deutsch LA. He recently spoke with ClickZ about everything from the role of invention in the digital space to evolution of indie pop.

ClickZ (CZ): How did you get into digital marketing?

Winston Binch (WB): I wanted to be a rock star. When I left college, I worked in the television industry for a while. I worked on ABC News and The View. Then I decided to pursue music pretty much full time. I worked a lot of odd jobs. At that time, digital was really heating up, and the Internet bubble was yet to burst in the late ’90s. All of my musician friends were working as either Web designers or developers for their day jobs. Then I got an opportunity to join Sony music, and I ran production for SonyClassical.com. It was pretty eye opening and life changing. In the TV business, I felt like the line was too long to get to the place where you could make an impact. What I liked about the Web is that there were no rules. Everything was being invented on the fly.

CZ: What’s the biggest challenge in digital marketing right now?

WB: We’re not just competing with other agencies. We’re competing with Vice, with BuzzFeed and Google and Facebook. The world is very different. I feel the rules have yet to be written in the digital world, so it’s a pretty exciting time.

CZ: How has the digital world changed because of competition from publications like BuzzFeed and Vice?

WB: Business Insider did a report just recently, and they talked about the fact that 50 percent of Millennials are reading BuzzFeed per month. That exceeds the reach of TV networks like NBC, CBS, and FX. Forrester predicts that in 2016, digital will outpace TV. Everything is slipping, and interruptive models are more and more what’s happening. Video content is what young people are tuning in to. YouTube stars are more important to them than on-screen personalities. BuzzFeed and Vice have millions and millions of people coming to them. They have an audience, and they have the ability to get upward of millions of views on almost any video they do. They can offer brands an audience, and they also have content creation capabilities. It’s definitely a different world, and if you don’t make content that’s informed by data then you’re not going to survive.

CZ: How do you make content that’s sharable without trying too hard to go viral?

WB: Viral is what happens if you’ve done something very sharable. Everyone wants to create something viral. I just don’t like when people ask for a viral video. Shareabilty is the end goal. Our job as marketers is to drive awareness. The metric of just getting likes on Facebook, that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about word of mouth, pass along, links getting shared. There’s no silver bullet, but we try at the outset to ask ourselves a few questions. What is the PR headline? What would The New York Times write about this idea? We want to make sure that it breaks through. It has to feel like news. Even if it’s not a first, it has to feel like it. The second thing we do is try to define the idea in 140 characters or less. The third thing we ask ourselves is: What makes this sharable? If you have to think it through, it probably isn’t.

CZ: Can you remember some campaign or some piece of marketing from when you were a kid that stays with you today?

WB: No, because I really hated advertising. Funny thing is that I got here really unintentionally. I got into music and then realized that everything is marketing. So there’s not one campaign that sticks out. Although, my name is Winston, so I used to get “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should.” If there’s one thing I can say, it’s that was a very sharable idea. It followed me; it harassed me; it was sticky. I can’t remember any campaign besides that one.

CZ: What’s a piece of technology that you can’t live without?

WB: My MacBook Pro is my productivity device. I use a 15-inch with a retina display, and I consume most content on it. I’m a huge Netflix junkie. I do everything on this. Everyone wants to get the hot new device, but I want to give the laptop some love.

CZ: You originally set out to be a rock star, so what are you listening to now?

WB: I like so much music. I really love TV On the Radio’s new album. I think it’s a bit of a masterpiece. Delta Spirit’s new record. A lot of indie rock like Alt-J, First Aid Kit. I guess I’m a pop music fan now that indie is pop.

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