5 minutes with... in association withAdobe Firefly

5 Minutes With… Iain Lanivich

Advertising Agency
New York, United States
Group Digital Creative Director, Lowe Campbell Ewald

When we clapped eyes on a recent video starring Lowe Campbell Ewald’s Iain Lanivich, our immediate response was ‘we’ve got to interview this guy!’ The charismatic creative director was using the video to explain why his agency, the recently re-named Lowe Campbell Ewald, was moving its offices to Detroit, a city hitting the headlines thanks to bankruptcy rather than creativity. For Lanivich, Motor City presents the perfect opportunity to build something new and that’s why he’s keen to encourage as many creative companies as he can to relocate there. 

The move to Detroit isn’t the only reason Lowe Campbell Ewald has sent our radar twitching – the agency has also been named the new North America hub for Lowe Worldwide.  LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with Lanivich, the creative director with a ‘head coach’ management style to talk sports, schools and saving a city.

LBB> How did you first get involved in advertising? Was it something you’d always wanted to do or was it one of those accidental careers? Before you were at Lowe Campbell Ewald as a creative director, I believe you were a business analyst. How did that career switch come about? 

IL> Actually, my high school was only a few miles from Lowe Campbell Ewald – and I never knew it existed. I knew what advertising was, but had no clue what a career in advertising entailed. I was raised by a blue-collar family that worked in the automotive industry, and most of my friends were in the same situation. Everyone told me to be an engineer. So I enrolled in one of the top engineering schools, only to realize (after one class) that engineering wasn’t for me. I quickly switched to computer science, since I always had a passion for computers and programming. I landed my first job in an entry-level position for Compuware (consulting at Ford Motor Company). My superiors realized that I had the unique ability to understand and troubleshoot very complex applications, so I was promoted to a Business Analyst position. The plan was to eventually go through Compuware’s training to become a programmer, but things changed when a friend started working for Lowe Campbell Ewald in mid-2000. He made me aware of an open position as an Associate Digital Producer – working with programmers, writers and art directors, to produce websites and applications – so I applied, and that became the start of a career in advertising. Everything just sort of fell into place from there.

LBB> Things are really changing up at Lowe Campbell Ewald at the moment – there’s the partnership with Lowe and the offices are moving to Detroit. How did these changes come about and what do they mean for the agency?

IL> Our move to Detroit is about returning to our roots (we were founded there 102 years ago) and being part of an emerging creative community. We are challenged every day to provide our clients with the most creative ideas and solutions, and our environment is a major contributor to ideation. Detroit’s vibrancy and diversity in culture, people and experiences, as well as our very cool, contemporary new space will help fuel inspiration and energy.

Our alignment with Lowe, announced about a month ago, is all about the ability to offer clients coordinated global solutions. As the U.S. hub for Lowe and Partners, Lowe Campbell Ewald will provide services for Lowe clients seeking a marketing partner in the U.S.  And vice versa  - we’ll tap the Lowe worldwide network to provide our U.S. clients with global reach.

Everyone is energized about the new opportunities both of these moves present.

LBB> You’re also a bit of a sports fanatic. The relationship between sport and creativity is quite an intriguing one, whether it’s the discipline, the team work, the on-the-spot problem solving. How do you see your sport feeding into or influencing your creative process?

IL> I have always told people I have a “head coach” management style. Once you know all the strengths and weaknesses of your players, you can put them in position to succeed – in both the project or assignment, and their own career. I do believe this came from years of playing and watching team sports. Since I grew up in digital, I wasn’t used to working in the traditional writer/art director team. And very few digital projects are identical. So I would assemble small teams of various skillsets as it related to the project or idea. It’s very important to pay attention to personalities of your team and make sure everyone knows their role. The more people involved, the more difficult projects are to manage.

LBB> We LOVED your Detroit video. It’s a city that’s had a tough time – what do you think the keys will be to getting it back on its feet? What response have you had so far to the video? Do you foresee a big influx of creative companies following your lead and relocating?


IL> The response has been extremely positive and unexpected. Less than 24 hours after it was posted (and hadn’t even been shared), I received an email from a person in Florida telling me there was a discussion about the video on his Facebook wall. When I looked, there were already 50-plus comments. In our industry, we tell clients that if you create good, relevant content, it will be found. This video was an example of that. 

In regards to Detroit, people only know what they see and hear. If you’re outside Detroit, the sentiment tends to be very negative. And in the past, there weren’t many reasons to believe otherwise. But that has changed in a very short timeframe. Detroit is rebuilding from the inside out. And the more we can feed it, the better chance it will have to succeed. I feel that once people look beyond the surface, past the initial layer of negativity, they can start to focus on the opportunities that exist. Detroit is not perfect. It’s far from it. But the right people can redefine it. And that’s the point of the video – if they aren’t sure they want to come to Detroit, we will bring it to them… hopefully, at the 2014 SXSW Interactive conference!

LBB> You’ve won over 30 awards in your career – are awards important to you? If so, why? If not why not?

IL> We move so quickly in this industry that you don’t often have time to stop and give each other a pat on the back. Awards can do just that. They are a reminder that you did something right, or creative, or innovative. However, different awards can mean different things. You often see an agency win an award for a campaign, and then shortly after, they lose the account. Awards don’t always mean the campaign was successful. So, my answer is that a campaign that exceeds all objectives is important to me, and if it happens to win some awards by doing so, then that’s just the icing on the cake.

LBB> You work with local colleges to help advise them on digital media arts education. As the pace of tech change accelerates I guess it must be harder than ever for colleges to keep up – what sort of advice do they come to you for? And what insights have you gained personally from this experience?

IL> Colleges and universities basically just want to know what the industry’s needs are. What types of skills we’re looking for within the industry and why. That way they can adjust their curriculum to adhere to that. I’ve noticed that many creative programs are trying to teach students snippets of various skills (photography, 3D, web design, video editing, etc.), so that they can identify their passions and continue to grow them.

LBB> Which recent pieces of work have you been involved in that have resonated most with you and why?

IL> I can give an example for both internal and external campaigns. The internal campaign ( was a real-time reality show played out online – featuring state-endangered Peregrine Falcon parents on live camera. An employee had built the nest on top of our roof in 2006, and finally, this spring had our first pair of mating falcons lay three eggs. We put a camera and live stream on the nest and created a 10-week campaign that captured the attention of thousands of daily visitors across three quarters of the globe that delivered an experience typically only found on The Discovery Channel or National Geographic. Together, viewers experienced life, death, happiness, sadness, anticipation, joy, and fear. It was an amazing feeling to make this experience possible.

The second is the agency’s 2013-2014 seasonal campaign that was recently launched for the Detroit Lions – a professional American football team. The city just filed for bankruptcy, and the team is coming off a disappointing season. The stakes are high for both. So we created a campaign called “One Detroit. One Pride.” Lions are the only members of the cat family that hunt in social pacts, called Prides. So this season we will march as One Pride. The players and fans united in bringing honour to the Detroit Lions and the community of Detroit. I’ve been a die-hard Lions fan for years, and I’m obviously passionate about Detroit, so having the opportunity to work on this campaign has been a dream job.

Work from MullenLowe U.S.
Prom King
Prom King
Burger King