We caught up with him shortly after his early October appointment announcement, during MindShare's European management conference. While we tapped away at our computer, he was in a hotel room in Turkey overlooking the Bosphorus. Not a bad way to spend the first few days on the job.
Ad Age Digital: So chief strategy officer sounds like a lofty title. What's the responsibility here?
Simon Andrews: It is a lofty title. [laughs] What MindShare came to do is continue to be the force for what's important to clients. We've got a good digital practice, and we're looking at what's happening next, where things are going. And it's my role to shape what is happening and how MindShare can continue to grow and thrive in that area.
Ad Age Digital: Is your role more client-facing or are you really involved in devising the agency structure of the future?
Mr. Andrews: It's both. We'll be talking with clients, understanding what their issues are. And if you do that right, you do create the agency of the future. MindShare has an amazing client list, and they're very keen to get business benefits with consumer-generated content, social media, figure out what's the deal with mobile. It's stuff everybody's talking about. My job is to turn it into action and get some learning very quickly.
Ad Age Digital: How much of it is trial and error, experimentation?
Mr. Andrews: The only way to find out what happens is to do stuff. The nice thing is you can do things cheaply and quickly. Once we get some good learning we can scale it up. There's a McKinsey report that's influenced my thinking, and it said you should devote something like 20% of your budget on well-structured tests. That's the sort of philosophy I've got: trying to experiment. ... What should we do with MySpace and the blogging area? What should we do with widgets and gadgets? How about getting involved in mobile? We'll be taking the learning from Asia and pushing it to Europe and the States. ... If we can show what we've learned in the Far East, that's fantastic. Social networking is very advanced there. Our clients are getting advantage of being with a global company and taking in learning from different parts of the world.
Ad Age Digital: What do you think is the world's most exciting media market right now?
Mr. Andrews: I think it's the States. You've got good acceptance levels of broadband and you've got the infrastructure of lots of media companies and innovation. ... The States is certainly the poster child for [the idea that] no one knows what happens next.
Ad Age Digital: Speaking of things that no one seems to know yet, what about the online video advertising model -- to pre-roll or not to pre-roll?
Mr. Andrews: Pre-roll is a difficulty. A 15-second ad on a three-minute video seems like a long, long time, and it can elicit a negative reaction. The big challenge is we've got to make communications people want to spend time with. If they're not, no matter what we do, they're not going to watch it.