Digital Craft in association withAdobe Firefly

“The One Consistent Theme Has Been to Focus on the User”: App Creation in 2020

Advertising Agency
Kansas City, USA
Jay Gyuricza, VP of sales and marketing and general manager at Wunderman Thompson Apps, speaks to LBB’s Addison Capper about an increase in app usage during Covid and common mistakes from brands
Jay Gyuricza is the VP of sales and marketing and general manager at Wunderman Thompson Apps, an agency within the Wunderman Thompson network that inspires growth through app experiences across all of its offices and groups. With over 18 years of experience in mobile and digital strategy, he is responsible for developing plans to support growth and client delivery for the Atlanta agency. On top of keeping consumers satisfied and entertained with the best quality app experiences, Jay is  passionate about creating and maintaining office culture, inspiring and leading with conviction, and holding teams accountable.

LBB's Addison Capper caught up with him to find out more.

LBB> Tell me about Wunderman Thompson Apps. Where does that fit within the wider WT ecosystem? Define the work that you do. 

Jay> Wunderman Thompson Apps inspires growth through app experiences. We work across all Wunderman Thompson offices and groups including Health and Commerce. We build apps for clients as part of wider WT programs or in dedicated projects focused on apps. We build apps for mobile phones, tablets, and connected devices such as Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku, Samsung, and Xbox. We also build apps for conversational experiences, which includes voice technologies such as Alexa and Google Home as well as chatbot apps across platforms. We are a full service agency that provides strategy through maintenance and support. Our user experience team is focused on designing great apps for our clients. Our engineering team is well versed in iOS swift and Android Kotlin as well as cross platform technologies such as React Native and Flutter. Our quality assurance team has a library of devices to test our apps on as well as the ability to run automated testing programs for our clients. We also have a robust analytics team to measure activity across all digital properties and provide insights to our clients. Finally we have an App Growth team which helps clients not only grow their install base but the amount of time users spend in apps as well.

LBB> You've worked in mobile and digital strategy for over 18 years - how has the industry evolved over that time? 

Jay> When I started my first job in 2000 after graduating college I was given a beeper and whenever it went off I needed to fix something on Back then we had one channel with one specific purpose in eCommerce. Now we support dozens of devices with dozens of features. But for everything that has changed, the one consistent theme has been to focus on the user and their needs. 18 years ago we focused on making basic e-commerce transactions simpler on the web.  Now, we are still focusing on simplifying experiences for users, but across every device and screen.

LBB> Mobile and digital strategy are part of any brand's overall comms strategy these days - it's much less singled out than it was, say, 18 years ago. How does that impact the work that you do?

Jay> Our strategy focuses on the overall digital ecosystem and cohesive executions are key. We see many brands with too many apps that are not up to their brand standards and actually damage their brand. Similar to the proliferation of microsites years ago, companies need to reign in their apps and make sure they are providing premium experiences. For example, we’ve worked with several Fortune 100 clients on their app ecosystem strategy. 

LBB> So much of advertising in 2020 is about the customer "journey" and "experience", which digital and mobile plays a huge role in. What are your thoughts on that?

Jay> Consumers have so many choices to enter an experience and move onto others so each experience needs to be valuable for brands. In general we think that having multiple experiences across devices is preferred but brands need to make sure each experience is satisfying.

LBB> Speaking of that, Covid has deeply affected that customer journey - what are the biggest shifts that you've been witnessing?

Jay> We’ve seen an increase in app usage during Covid. Even though people are traveling less outside of the house they use their devices even more inside them. We’ve also seen an increase in app usage through connected devices such as Apple TV, Fire TV and Roku. With more time at home, consumers are discovering all the different apps these platforms provide access to.

LBB> What's a project that best defines the work that you do at Wunderman Thompson Apps?

Jay> Our work with PGA TOUR is a great example of the work we do. They have a passionate fan base and we have built an experience that brings the latest data and technologies for tracking your favourite golfer or tournament. We also leverage new technologies such as augmented reality to bring the experience to life. In addition to a remote experience, we worked with PGA TOUR to build an experience for fans attending events in person. These features include purchasing tickets, wayfinding, food ordering, etc.  This app really takes advantage of all the different things a mobile device excels at.  

LBB> How did you get into this industry in the first place? Was it a plan or more a happy accident? 

Jay> I really just fell into the industry with my first job out of college. I never got bored since I have played so many different roles in the agency. I started out as a developer and advanced to become a technical architect. Then I started switching roles every couple years from project to program management, then account management and new business development. The only role I haven’t played is on the creative side so maybe one day I’ll get to play the role of creative director.

LBB> In your bio it says that you are "passionate about creating and maintaining office culture". How are you nurturing that office culture during lockdown?

Jay> From the beginning of the lockdown we really tried to increase our communication through weekly office virtual standups and more ad hoc meetings. We also did the standard virtual happy hours but it was hard to connect with people. Recently we have had success with some virtual events. We mailed everyone in the office paint, brushes and a canvas and hired a Bob-Ross-certified teacher to teach us painting. This month we are mailing everyone gingerbread house kits and then encouraging people to build them together over video meetings.

LBB> With that in mind, how do you see the office of the future? 

Jay> I think physical spaces are important to have to come in and collaborate with team members and clients. Especially on some of our large accounts, it helps to do things like planning in person. But we will have a smaller footprint moving forward and coming into the office for developers will be optional.

LBB> What keeps you busy when you're not working? Any quirks or hobbies to tell us about? Favoured apps?

Jay> I have three boys so attending their soccer games took up a lot of time. I was also a huge sports fan in general so when everything came to a halt, I had to find things to do.  
Different apps really saved me during lockdown... Yousician helped me learn to play the ukulele, Waking Up helped me meditate, and MapMyFitness pushed me to start running again.  

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