Kaleeta McDade joined Ogilvy Experience as its global executive creative director earlier this year, in May. To quote Ogilvy's press release at the time: "Kaleeta will be responsible for defining, shaping, and driving the creative vision and strategy across Ogilvy Experience’s offerings, fusing design thinking and visual design to develop unique engagement experiences that evoke and shape the emotional responses of all individuals who engage with our clients’ brands." She is also serving on Ogilvy's Worldwide Creative Council.
Based in Atlanta, Kaleeta joined Ogilvy from Deloitte Digital, where she served as group experience director across their studios in the U.S. and India. Over the past 17 years, she has also held senior design and creative roles with Google Brand Studio, Apple, Sapient Shanghai, and Sapient Atlanta.
Eager to know more about her plans for the role and her views on a sector of the industry that has undergone such widespread disruption during Covid, LBB's Addison Capper chatted with Kaleeta.
LBB> You joined Ogilvy Experience earlier this year - congrats! What was it about the role that was intriguing to you?
Kaleeta> We are living in a world where all of our expectations have changed. In 2020 we languished in our homes looking at the same four walls, yearning for something that moved us. After 20 years of doing experiences, I wanted to be 1) somewhere that was design-led and had creativity as a core business, (2) in a location that was amenable to the needs of my family, and (3) in a position where I could positively impact the world. Ogilvy is a whole vibe, it is the OG for creative as a practice. Having an opportunity to mix Ogilvy emotional brand creative and experience design at an enterprise level is a riveting partnership.
LBB> In your view - and especially given the events of the last 18 months with Covid-19 - how are people's expectations around customer experience changing? And what does this mean for experience agencies?
Kaleeta> Creating more time for living and not being ‘busy’. No one will get out of this ‘normal’, and no one wants our past reality to be normal. Time is the newest experience currency. Values and value, brands that are able to balance their products and purpose. People want to change the world, one purchase at a time. Moving from transactions to lifestyles, leveraging brand partnerships to provide authenticity in new spaces. It’s no longer about running shoes, it's wellness. It’s not just a burger, it’s a creative partnership with a top rap star. Experience agencies must balance function with emotion to differentiate transactions from brand relationships.
LBB> What have been the biggest widespread changes in customer experience brought on by the pandemic?
Kaleeta> Scarcity creates innovation. Restaurants creating newly formed outdoor spaces, groceries at your front door, movie releases on your streaming service, QR code payments. Some industries may never return to their former lustre - movie theatres, big-box retail. Our skin hunger will cause many currently struggling industries, like travel and beauty products, to rebound with a vengeance. In the words of Little Finger, ‘chaos isn’t a pit, it's a ladder’. I’m excited to see what new businesses will emerge.
LBB> I always feel like ‘customer experience’ is such a huge term. It could really include any step of the advertising journey! How do you define that term and the work that you do?
Kaleeta> Experience can mean everything and nothing because the definition is so vast. There is little ‘e’ and big ‘E’ experience. Little e experience is digital-only, advertising only - any way we continue to lead with our respective singular capabilities. We build systems vertically and expect them to go horizontally. Big E is the horizontal, it is off- and on-platform, it is any touchpoint a human has with a brand and the relationship that ensues. In the relationship, advertising is the pickup line or the first date, big E is the marriage. We turn 30 seconds of emotion into 30 minutes, 30 hours, and hopefully 30 years of brand affinity.
LBB> Covid saw a huge focus on e-commerce and a lot of companies paring back their physical footprint - what do you think the future holds for physical retail experiences?
Kaleeta> Everything we do is based on human needs, the need to connect, feel significant, variety etc. We experience these through our five senses. A physical retailer must balance its brand experience with the needs of the customer, enabled by the five senses. For example, being able to touch the product, smell it - any sensorial connection we cannot achieve digitally. Physical retailers will have to double down on having unique engagements or begin to leverage their locations as additional warehouse capabilities. The always-on expectation and delivery demands require numerous fulfilment locations to advance operational efficiencies and meet consumer demands.
LBB> When working with clients, what's more important when it comes to designing experiences - efficiency or emotion? Why?
Kaleeta> This sounds like a cop-out… both. Efficiency without emotion is functional, emotion without efficiency is fleeting. Ogilvy partners with clients to frame what problem we are solving for and for whom. We define what can be delivered that balances science and art.
LBB> What advice would you give to more traditional creatives looking to get into experience?
Kaleeta> There has always been left and right brain creatives, it is the war that has waged for aeons. Traditional creatives already DO aspects of experience, it is pairing this with system design thinkers to create something new. Framing the brand experience end to end IS the new Ogilvy. The Big Idea + Design Thinking are giving birth to a bastard child called Experience.
LBB> How did you wind up in this field? Was it a bit of a happy accident or something you consciously pursued?
Kaleeta> Careless planning.
LBB> What does the next year hold for you, your new job, and the field that you operate in?
Kaleeta> We are defined by our people, our work, and the way we impact the world. We will be loud, we will be formidable, and authentic. Influencing culture is the ultimate goal.