As ECD of Momentum Worldwide New York, Patrick Bennett has been shaping the creative vision for Walmart, Verizon, American Express, Corona and Pacifico, among other brands, since he joined in July earlier this year. Prior to joining Momentum, Patrick was EVP executive creative director at iCrossing, where for five years he retooled the pure media company through training, hiring, rotating people and building processes to understand the creative space and helped land them on one of AdAge's 'agency to watch' lists. He has also worked at agencies including Ogilvy, Digitas and R/GA. In parallel with his career, Patrick also co-founded and built an experiential travel media company called Uncommon Caribbean that encourages travel to the region that represents his birthplace and Afro-Caribbean roots.
LBB's Addison Capper caught up with him to discuss the lack of barriers between our digital and real lives, why curiosity is a creative’s best tool, and the cultural richness of the Caribbean.
LBB> Experiential was one of the hardest hit sectors of the advertising industry due to Covid. Can you speak a bit about the main challenges you've encountered in the last 18 months - in your previous role and at Momentum - and how you dealt with them?
Patrick> The most significant challenge we've all had to deal with has been uncertainty.
Before joining Momentum, I had to grapple with many new questions, like how can a team successfully collaborate when film shoots are remote? How can you align on a vision with a director when you've never met them in person? How do we now build trust with clients when we can't even shake their hands?
Once I joined Momentum, that uncertainty took on new, more tangible forms. How many people can we fit in a space? Can we even have an audience for a concert? Will supply chain issues mean we need to rethink our choices in materials? How do we design touring experiences to meet constantly evolving regional Covid protocols?
The team here at Momentum still famously makes complex logistical solutions vanish behind truly exceptional creative, but with all the uncertainty of the past months, that's been an even more amazing feat.
LBB> Considering the space that Momentum primarily operates in, what lessons have you learned in the past 18 months that will stick with you and maybe you wouldn't have learned without the constraints of the pandemic?
Patrick> My career trajectory has taken me through both digital and traditional agencies. And during all this time, I've been surrounded by people wanting to draw lines. Above the line, below the line. Online and off, etc.
But the pandemic has driven home a learning that will impact everything we do from now on: there is no line between digital and real life.
Before the pandemic, Momentum was already innovating in the blended, or hybrid, experience space. But the entire world took a massive leap into that space thanks to the realities of the past 18 months.
As we go forward, it's essential that we allow people to engage with brands in real life and at a distance - at once. And both methods need to be equally magnificent.
LBB> Speaking of Momentum - congratulations on the new(ish) gig! What was it about the agency that tempted you to join?
Patrick> As corny as it may sound, with every move, the first thing that tempts me is the people. I immediately clicked with James Robinson, our CCO. And chairman and CEO Chris Weil's vision was inspiring. But I'd be lying if I said I had no trepidation about joining what has traditionally been an on-site experiential agency in the middle of a pandemic.
What sealed the deal was a simple realisation: Momentum is in a position to be writing the rules of brand marketing for years to come.
Today, the output hasn't substantially changed from 2019 for traditional and digital agencies. Obsessing over television spots, staying on-trend in social, display, print, radio, etc. - all potentially creative endeavours, sure, but not markedly different from their pre-pandemic versions.
And yet, with mask mandates, vaccines, lockdowns, testing, extended time at home and more, all of our day-to-day lives have radically changed. We are not who we were in 2019.
Doing work that taps directly into the heart of this uncharted territory we find ourselves navigating is thrilling, and the questions we're answering today will shape the future of how brands connect with people for the next decade.
LBB> What piece of work from your time with the agency are you particularly proud of and why?
Patrick> Creatives get into this business to make things people love, and Walmart's Joy Globes
is a perfect example of this. Everyone immediately falls in love with these giant Rube Goldberg machines encased in forty-foot-tall snow globes the moment they lay eyes on them.
The giant machines inside whir and spin as they tower over the space, appearing to print photos, wrap gifts or make hot cocoa. I've watched kids slowly approach them in slack-jawed awe.
Yes, there are digital hooks, social integration, shopper components, AR and more, but seeing the looks on these kids' faces is priceless.
LBB> You're also the co-founder of Uncommon Caribbean - what can you tell us about that?
Patrick> I'm a born and raised West Indian. I adore all my home region has to offer - the varied music, food, nature, people, traditions and more. But for so long, marketers promoting travel to the region never valued the depth of the Caribbean experience. It was just sun, sand and sea.
So, 10 years ago, my brother Steve - who already had a long career in Caribbean travel PR - approached me about taking it upon ourselves to redefine the region's brand. And for the past decade, that mission has been our passion project.
We've worked closely with destination marketing organisations across the region like the US Virgin Islands, Antigua, St. Martin, Martinique, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Montserrat, the Cayman Islands, Barbados and more. We've also collaborated with brands like Sunsail, Moorings, Helly Hansen and Toyota. In addition, we've worked with hotel groups, boutique hotels and small regional brands.
We've dedicated nearly every spare moment we have to help as many organisations as we can better see, appreciate, communicate and market all the unique qualities that make the Caribbean one of the most diverse and exciting places on the planet.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that this project involves lots of travel back to my beautiful home.
LBB> How did you wind up in advertising in the first place?
Patrick> Believe me, this wasn't planned. I mean, how many West Indians from small Caribbean islands are creative executives? I never knew this could be a career for someone like me.
And there was no one to show me the way - to understand where I was coming from or who I was.
But my singular passion for making things that people love has always been my guide. That focus eventually led me to design, film, digital, craft and telling better stories.
Now that this is my career, I'm incredibly focused on doing my best to support the next generation of Black talent so that they do feel seen, understood, valued and confident about their opportunities in this industry.
LBB> More 'traditional' agencies aren't really traditional at all anymore - and the reality is that specialist agencies now do much more than their original specialism. What are your thoughts on that with regards to Momentum?
Patrick> When I talked to CCO James Robinson about joining the team, I recall him saying, "You know all the crazy ideas that live in the back of decks? The ideas that win pitches, but are also the ones that often never come to fruition? At Momentum, all we do is actually make those."
To be honest, groundbreaking ideas can come from traditional, digital, PR, CRM or any kind of agency, but pulling them off in a way that surpasses expectations, beats every KPI and emotionally resonates with people in meaningful ways - that's Momentum's specialty.
This allows us to thrive, whether as valuable collaborators in an IAT (inter-agency team) or as a solo partner to our clients.
LBB> Also with that in mind, what are you looking for when hiring new creatives to your team? What does a great experiential creative need to have?
Patrick> A great experiential creative needs the same thing any creative does: an insatiable curiosity and incurable optimism.
People who never stop learning, are never satisfied with their current knowledge, never turn down hearing a new song or learning of a new-to-them artist, and never think they know all the answers.
Combine that with always feeling like something can be done, always bouncing back from harsh critiques and always believing that together we can do great things. I'm constantly on the lookout for people with those qualities from any industry to join my teams.
LBB> Outside of work, what keeps you entertained / relaxed / sane / busy?
Patrick> As I said, I find an endless curiosity to be the hallmark of creatives, myself included. Outside of work, that manifests as two seemingly unrelated passions: travel and running.
I find nothing in the imaginations of any human being set to film or page nearly as entertaining as immersing myself in a new place. Meeting new people, tasting new flavours, witnessing new sights, smelling new places - I can't get enough.
Curiosity manifesting as running for hours on end may seem a little odd, but I'm fascinated by what the human body can do. For example, what's my pace when I train a certain way? How is my performance affected by certain foods? How fast can I go? How far?
Running 100+ miles every month is my way of exploring all those questions. And that exploration was the essential thing that kept me sane during the pandemic when I couldn't travel.