Technically Speaking: Dave Cox

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Dave Cox
Dave Cox

Lean Mean Fighting Machine has a knack for making it look easy—melding technology and creativity in engaging and, ultimately, award winning (the U.K.-based shop was interactive agency of the year at Cannes in '08) campaigns that transcend the label digital. So it's unsurprising that LMFM's tech guru, Dave Cox, is himself an art/science composite. The cognitive science grad spent "a few pretty soul-destroying years" at programming jobs before jumping to the agency world in 1999. In 2004, he and fellow Tribal DDB alums Dave Bedwood, Tom Bazeley and Sam Ball launched LMFM. Now, as technical director, Cox acts as facilitator in chief and looks for tech talent with a creative bent (Trapeze artist? Sure!).

Describe your role in a few sentences.
In its broadest sense my job is to be a facilitator. I do everything I can to never say no to the creatives. There's always a fair amount of nuts and bolts development to be done, and that will always be the case and we can be creative with how to do that well. More than that, though, is being part of the creative process, working through ideas with the creatives to achieve a common goal is where it's at.

Describe LMFM's tech contingent.
I've always hired developers with more than one string to their bow and a strong creative side. A good example would be our trapeze artist who speaks three languages and used to make the live interactive parts of his show. Because of this he's had a lot of experience with 3D Flash, interactive toys, and knows how people react in the real world to live work so it's all good experience. Or there's the fantastic Flash programmer who isn't scared of taking on anything, who's now our main iPhone developer. We're very keen to get technical people in on the creative process. Projects where we're technically innovating really thrive on a collaborative process because no one really knows what you can and can't do. We'll be talking though ideas and prototyping until the final thing, whatever that is.

Where are you finding tech talent? Are you seeing the emergence of a super race of tech/creative hybrids?
Perhaps appropriately, social networking is a good way to find people and that could be online (join my LinkedIn network!) or through the various user groups like LFPUG. If you get involved and attend the various events and seminars, you see the same faces a lot. Creative Technologist is a proper job title now. There are definitely more and more people who are realizing that that's what they've been doing all along.

Can you cite a recent LMFM campaign that represented a new kind of technical challenge? was a good example of coordinating a lot of elements. It was a big mash-up between Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Google Maps and Facebook. It was critical that nothing went wrong during the 28 days of the event as it was all live content coming from Nick Turpin. With a one-off shot like this you've got no bedding in period either so it all had to be perfect first time.

What new tech developments are you interested in, that you think will have an impact on your job?
Quite a specific thing I'm into is augmented reality. In general, I'm a sucker for technological advances—it doesn't have to first be clear how they will be used in our work, either. No one predicted the CD when they invented the laser. Can we use genetic algorithms? What can we do with face recognition, distributed computing power, crowd sourcing, multi-user apps, neural networks, powerful always connected handheld devices, ubiquitous computing, open source electronics? It's really endless and endlessly fascinating.

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