That Cookie-Killing Student? An Ad Agency Just Hired Her

By Published on .

Remember that grad student whose thesis project could destroy digital ad targeting as we know it? She got her degree and just started her first job -- not with a digital startup, a tech firm, or a top-secret government surveillance program. No, Rachel Law is working for a creative ad agency in New York.

Rachel Law
Rachel Law

Ms. Law started her work as a creative technologist at WPP-backed CHI & Partners on August 5.

"It's a really fancy title," said the 25-year-old, adding she's still trying to figure out exactly what being a creative technologist means, practically speaking. Ms. Law, originally from Singapore, will work from the agency's Manhattan office. She recently got her Design and Technology Masters from Parsons New School.

While at New School, Ms. Law built part-game, part ad-targeting disrupting browser extension called "Vortex." Vortex misinforms ad targeting technologies by collecting lots of cookies that have no ties to actual user behavior, turning user profiles and browsing information into alternate fake identities. A July Ad Age story about Ms. Law and her technology brought her to the attention of CHI & Partners, according to Jeff Anderson, co-executive creative director at the agency's New York outpost.

"We'd been looking for someone to join us for a while and actually saw the article in Ad Age," said Mr. Anderson, who said Ms. Law's "hacker mentality" and understanding of digital ad targeting, cookies and data collection were part of the agency's attraction.

"Here at CHI we think that ideas can come from anywhere in the agency; it's not just up to the creatives anymore…and in order to do that we need all different types of brains," he said, noting, "She has a brain that I don't think I've ever met before."

Ms. Law is working alongside another new hire who also hails from Parsons New School. Dena Soukieh just started as the agency's new user experience designer.

"Anytime a digital project comes up, we put it through their filter because they're so in tune with how people use digital products these days," said Mr. Anderson. He's worked with CHI for 18 months and previously worked in creative for Omnicom Group's Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco and TBWA/Chiat/Day in New York.

Fresh out of school with no corporate work experience, Ms. Law was able to negotiate a gig where she is in the office only four days per week, allowing her to work on book and film projects, and teach a "Time and Narrative" studio course at New School one day each week starting in September.

Her film, entitled "Spit," is based on the concept that "No one really consumes grand narratives anymore…. We consume things through a database; we consume things like a database," she explained. Her book project is closer to completion. "W.A.N.T: Weaponized Adorables Negotiation Team," a collaboration between Ms. Law and McKenzie Wark, is billed as a manual for understanding how we perceive data, networks and digital living.

"Digital living is under an onslaught of Weaponized Adorables," declares the Kickstarter page for the art book. "They are coming for you. You will be mugged in the bright alleys of your dreams by the teddy bear horde. What you can deploy on your side is your own W.A.N.T, or Weaponized Adorables Negotiation Team." The authors set a goal of $3,500 and scored more than $5,000 in donations in support of the book project.

The execs at CHI "were kind of willing to work with the fact that I don't want to spend my whole life at an ad agency," said Ms. Law. She has never worked in an office environment, and only this week filled out her first tax form. Previous (and, yes, under-the-table) work experience includes a bakery job and a gig hanging ornaments on a large Christmas tree on display. "And I'm short," she lamented.

"If I really wanted to step outside of my comfort zone…I'd have to go corporate," said Ms. Law. Even the cereal bar in the CHI office kitchen was a pleasant surprise, she said, suggesting that office life is somewhat foreign to her.

"She seems to really understand that digital technology is not going to go anywhere. It's just going to become more and more a part of ourselves and with that we have to be careful and understand how it works," said Mr. Anderson. "I almost feel like she's from the future."

Most Popular