Saatchi & Saatchi New York’s chief creative officer on the intersection of technology and storytelling – and the potential of Marcel
Saatchi & Saatchi New York is responsible for one of 2018’s most popular and successful campaigns. ‘It’s a Tide Ad’ swept the Super Bowl stakes, teasing viewers in as they were left guessing if the next ad to air was what it seemed to be or, really, just another Tide. As well as a whole host of other gongs, it picked up one of only four Immortal Awards given in the show’s inaugural year.
And so Taras Wayner, Saatchi & Saatchi New York’s new CCO after leaving his post at R/GA, has that intriguing challenge for a new creative leader. He’s got to keep that momentum going. For Taras, what excites him is the will to make super famous work, something that he thinks permeates the whole agency and motivates every member of the team.
LBB’s Addison Capper chatted with Taras to find out more about his plans for his new agency and the process of writing a book about his experiences of fighting - and beating - cancer three times.
LBB> What was it about the opportunity at Saatchi’s that was too good to pass up?
Taras> The opportunity that was too good to pass up was the opportunity to join a leadership team who were all pointed in the same direction and whose main goal was to create famous work. I was also drawn to Saatchi’s desire to change. Many companies will talk about the desire to change and evolve but the leadership team is serious about it and we’re already starting.
LBB> You joined Saatchi NY not long after the launch of It’s A Tide Ad, one of this year’s most successful campaigns. How does something like that alter your approach to a new job like this? I think when a CCO moves to a struggling agency, their aim is quite clear - but when success has been recent, it’s a more interesting task in a way… perhaps more about stamping your mark on the company?
Taras> Joining Saatchi after they produced Tide made it an even easier decision. It showed that the entire company is committed to doing famous work. You can’t pull off such an epic event like Tide without everyone from account to production to experience design to writers to designers to data and marketing science to media and connections planning working as one. The mark I can make on a company like Saatchi is to sustain that success and also help evolve the company to become more modern storytellers.
LBB> R/GA is a company with quite a distinct tone of voice and approach to work - with that in mind, how have you found the switch over to Saatchi’s?
Taras> The switch is not that difficult. Any modern creative wants to be making famous work. So, it’s about finding those people and creating the right frameworks to get to there. What I can bring (from what I learned at RGA) is to help Saatchi think about the whole experience a person has with a brand. We’re in the experience era and we need to be putting the customer in the center of every idea we create and always be thinking about the end to end customer experience. Then we tell the story of that experience creating a whole idea.
LBB> You have a copywriting background but over your career have created products and worked more and more in technology - how important is it for a creative to be versatile like that nowadays?
Taras> It’s imperative for a creative to always be working at the intersection of story and technology. When you stop you fall behind. A creative who is successful in a type of work, say script writing, develops strong muscles for telling stories. But that can also become a problem if you only rely on that strong muscle and let others atrophy. We must be always pushing to change the landscape of storytelling by using emerging technology.
LBB> In the press release announcing your hiring, Saatchi NY CEO Andrea Diquez mentioned your ability to “blend storytelling with technology” - what is the key to balancing the two?
Taras> Storytelling and technology have always been deeply connected. In the past when the emerging tech was radio and then TV, we figured out how to tell the most interesting stories on those platforms. Today we interact with many types of tech and the job of a creative is to figure out how to tell the best story for a brand on those platforms. Where we get ourselves in trouble is when we try to force a method of storytelling that works on one platform on another.
LBB> Looking back at your career, is there a particular piece of work that you’re most proud of?
Taras> There are two pieces of work that stand out to me. One was the FOX Sports TV spots that won the Cannes Grand Prix. I did those with Eric Silver, Rosie Bardales and Dan Morales. It was one of those moments in time where everything aligned. Everything went perfectly and the experience allowed me to learn how to tell a great story from master storyteller, Eric Silver. The next was Filmroom for Nike Basketball, which helped me discover that a brand has the power to create great experience that can build an unbreakable bond with a customer.
LBB> Saatchi & Saatchi is part of Publicis, so I wanted to pick your brains a little about its Marcel platform. I was at the launch in Paris and it was pretty intriguing - what are your thoughts on it?
Taras> I love Marcel and am drawn to its potential. I believe the best work happens at the intersection of diverse skillsets. When you are working with a few hundred you can create those unique combinations in person. But when you’re working with a few thousand, you need help. That’s the potential and power of a piece of technology like Marcel.
LBB> How did you get into advertising in the first place? Was it always the plan or more a happy accident?
Taras> Getting into advertising was kind of planned. I went to art school at Syracuse University but then discovered Newhouse and started spending more and more time studying advertising. I loved the tension I could create with words and picture. I loved how I could get someone to feel something and change their mind through a piece of communication.
LBB> And what was your childhood like? Where did you grow up and would you say you were creative as a kid?
Taras> I grew up in a small town outside of Albany called Latham and it was really a great experience. I come from a family of PhDs and MDs and was always the ‘creative’ one in the family. But I think that’s because I was terrible at math and science. But, I believe the whole family is creative and great problem solvers, they just channeled it in other areas.
LBB> Culturally speaking, what most inspires you? Are there any artists/filmmakers/writers that have a big influence?
Taras> I will read and watch EVERYTHING written by Aaron Sorkin. I have tickets to his adaptation of To Kill A Mockingbird. I love what Jason Blum has done with the horror genre. He’s a master storyteller. And I’m an avid consumer of classes on Masterclass. I believe the platform has the power to fundamentally change education.
LBB> Outside of work, what are your passions? Any quirks or side projects hidden away?
Taras> I love to cook and am currently trying to finish a book about my journey through three rounds of cancer.