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Creatives out of Their Comfort Zone: Kristina Slade

Exec Makes the Leap From Traditional to Digital

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After nearly a decade of working at various creative agencies, Kristina Slade stepped back, reflected, and decided it was time to get more digital.

Ms. Slade traded in her job as associate creative director at Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day in Los Angeles to become creative director at San Francisco-based digital agency AKQA, where she has been for more than a year now. Her move comes at time when the ad world is seeing a lot of trading of talent. Digital shops are eager to beef up their traditional creative chops, while creative shops are on a never-ending quest to make sure they're up to speed when it comes to digital.

Kristina Slade
Kristina Slade

Ms. Slade gave Ad Age a few minutes of her time recently to talk about her current role, the challenges of jumping from a creative shop to a digital one, and more.

Ad Age : What inspired your move?

Ms. Slade: I was at Chiat for 18 months and near the end of my tenure I was getting frustrated with [traditional media]. ... I was thinking there are better [online] opportunities for brands and consumers. It's not that I immediately jumped to the idea of digital, but I took a year off and thought about what I wanted to do next. I loved the creative side, and AKQA was looking for someone who had big brand experience, not necessarily just in creating a banner ad or microsite, but a larger approach to marketing. Digital is a self-curated experience, so if someone didn't engage with you, it just didn't happen. It's about what can a brand give someone.

Ad Age : Has it been a difficult transition going from a traditional shop to a digital shop?

Ms. Slade: There was a lot to learn. I'm pretty digitally savvy so I wasn't like, "Oh my God what is this?" But it was more about understanding the technology behind things. It was exciting for me to understand how certain platforms worked and the inherent potential. It was just getting behind the scenes of technology so we could make smarter choices and creative work that was better by leveraging all the potential of different platforms. Jumping in and absorbing all that tech info was the first hurdle.

Ad Age : How are you putting your mark on the agency?

Ms. Slade: I've gone out and hired almost everyone in my department. I look for people who are enthusiastic, idealistic. I'm not interested in too-cool-for-school people. When we've been here late nights, and pulled three all-nighters in a row, people are still taking dance breaks every hour, bringing homemade food in.

Ad Age : Do the resources at your disposal differ at AKQA vs. at a large creative agency like the one you were at before?

Ms. Slade: The budgets are definitely small, and there's a bit of a holdover from when clients think, "Well I need to do something digital; it only costs this much to make some banners." But when we really look at the landscape, we actually have metrics and can prove what we can get for every dollar spent in digital. The generation after me is not used to paying for music. The industry needs to retrain people.

Ad Age : How much traditional creative are you bringing in through digital concepts?

Ms. Slade: We're not necessarily trying to bring it in. It's just becoming a consequence of how we approach our work. It's about creating meaningful engagement, and we may need to use TV in that instance. We'll continue working in different channels as long as we're coming up with core strategy.

Ad Age : What do you think a creative shop will look like in 10 years?

Ms. Slade: The traditional shop is getting smaller. It'll look like a hybrid shop. There are a few agencies that understand how to strategize differently, and some traditionals will become hybrids, but some that think of digital as an idea to check off, that 's wrong. It's super-limiting. I think it'll be a combination of traditional agencies and digital agencies who truly think in terms of big-brand strategy.

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