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The saboteur of ad targeting gets a new job in an ad agency

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.”

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