"We need to get beyond talking about it," he contends, "and say: 'Now what are we going to do about it?'"
Plenty, if you work for Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, which in recent years has morphed from traditional ad agency to new-media machine, dismantling its media department in the process. As director-communication strategy at the San Francisco agency, Mr. Spanier co-runs the new strategy department -- a silo-busting fusion of account planning and media services -- with John Thorpe, director-brand strategy.
There, media isn't a last-stop function applied to whatever the creatives pass down, says Mr. Spanier, who joined Goodby in 2003 as a media supervisor. "It's actually a point of creative amplification."
For instance, when his team discovered a mysterious "colony collapse crisis" that's killing honeybees, it took Häagen-Dazs from ice-cream marketer to eco-advocate via the "Help the Honey Bees" campaign.
The 2008 campaign launched with a new flavor, Vanilla Honey Bee, and inventive print advertising such as seed-embedded inserts consumers could plant to grow flowers for bees. The effort reached its nontraditional zenith when Häagen-Dazs testified before Congress on the matter.
"You can't buy that sort of marketing connection," says Mr. Spanier, 34, who cut his media teeth as a strategic media planner at Zenith, London. "Rather than just saying, 'Buy my product,' Häagen-Dazs became part of a much larger story."
Mr. Spanier calls the launch of Britney Spears' fragrance, Curious, in 2004 a "catalyst moment." "We always knew he was good," says Derek Robson, managing partner at Omnicom Group-owned Goodby. "But it was at that point that we realized Joshua was special. So did the client."
Mr. Spanier identified an opportunity to connect with girls where they live: on the phone. A total of 30,000 girls responded to text and prerecorded voice messages from Ms. Spears introducing her new Elizabeth Arden scent. Curious became Arden's most successful fragrance launch and, according to NPD Group, the No. 1 fragrance launch of '04. Within the agency, "it opened up a lot of people's minds to new ways of thinking about media," Mr. Spanier says.
But then, that's his bag. In meetings, "he's the one who always drops the bomb that gets people thinking in new ways," Mr. Robson says.