What should a senior art director do when faced with a brilliant young graduate student whose thesis project nearly blew digital ad targeting to pieces? Run? Hide? Nope: hire her.
Inside the tent
That’s exactly what Jeff Anderson, the co-executive creative director of New York ad agency CHI & Partners did when he heard that 25-year-old student Rachel Law had graduated with a Design and Technology masters from New School – the place where she built a browser extension that looks like a game but is actually a potent disrupter of ad targeting.
Ms. Law, who originates from Singapore, created “Vortex” at New School, and while art directors and account managers making a living in online advertising agencies will find their palms moistening at the product, they’d be first in line to admit that her brainchild is fiendishly clever. It collects vast numbers of cookies that bear no relation whatsoever to actual user behavior online, and then uses them to misinform ad targeting technologies. User profiles and browsing data morph into fake identities, scuppering targeting in one fell swoop.
But Mr. Anderson appears to have taken a leaf out of the late President Johnson’s book. Perhaps it’s better to have dangerously intelligent talent inside your tent than outside it. He’s quite clear that it was Ms. Law’s “hacker mentality” and her brilliant understanding of data collection, cookies and ad targeting that attracted his agency to her.
Why art directors need access to different brains
Anderson elaborated, “Here at CHI we think that ideas can come from anywhere in the agency; it’s not just up to the creatives anymore…and in order to do that we need all different types of brains. She has a brain that I don’t think I’ve ever met before.”
For her part, Ms. Law told AdAge that her new role as a creative technologist has a “really fancy title” that she’ll try to figure out the meaning of as she sets about her new work at the agency’s Manhattan office. She’s being joined by another new recruit to CHI from New School, Dena Soukieh, who will work as the agency’s new user experience designer.
Anderson says that the agency will feed all its new digital projects through their filter “because they’re so in tune with how people use digital products these days.”