Flatt Hopping

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Kevin Flatt
Kevin Flatt
As Kevin Flatt prepares to step into his new role as interactive creative director at Tribal DDB/Chicago, the man famous for helping to put interactive advertising on the map with BMW Films explains how the prospect of joining a new family—and starting one of his own—led him to leave Fallon for the Windy City.

AdCritic: What went into your decision to make the move from Fallon to Tribal DDB?

Kevin Flatt: There were many factors that led me to make the move, and they all seemed to come together at the same time. For starters, my wife is pregnant, and we wanted to be closer to family while we started this new chapter in our lives. She is originally from Chicago, and I'm from Texas. So we started there. I've kept a good friendship with [Tribal DDB North America chief executive officer] Matt Freeman since first meeting him while judging the One Show years ago. I've always felt that he is very smart and has a great attitude for succeeding in this business. I knew that one day we would get a chance to work together. His Chicago office has been doing great things over the years, but they needed some new creative leadership to push it even further. After meeting the team in Chicago, I felt like this would be a great place to share my experience from Fallon and start a new family.

AC: Since you're joining an agency that's solely focused on interactive (as opposed to an all-purpose agency like Fallon), do you expect to encounter any differences in structure or creative atmosphere?

KF: I don't expect any major differences. The team of experts that I led at Fallon were focused on the interactive side of the business while being able to effortlessly collaborate with everyone inside and outside Fallon on the larger creative platform. Tribal has that same kind of environment and attitude. They also have a worldwide network of digital expertise you can tap into for emerging areas.

AC: You're considered one of the pioneers in the interactive realm. How do you maintain your creative edge and constantly looking for new ways to raise the bar?

KF: I think it's important to stay connected to what is currently happening in the lives of people today and how they use technologies to interact. With a little creativity and belief, you can create new and exciting solutions that inspire. But it's not technology that drives a creative solution. It's an opportunity for a creative idea to succeed. Advertising is still about ideas that communicate.

AC: Do you see independent interactive agencies outpacing the larger traditional agencies in the interactive field? If yes, why are these shops better equipped to navigate the digital divide?

KF: Any company who invests efforts deeply in the interactive field will have more success than those who don't. The space changes often and develops very quickly, so the learning curve is a tough one. You still have to be imaginative and good at communication regardless of your background or company structure.

AC: Why has interactive advertising been so hot in the past few years?

KF: I believe it's thanks to better technology, larger bandwidth and inspired creatives with more experience. I actually have felt that interactive has been an extremely interesting area for some time—it's just taken a while for the rest of the industry to take notice.

AC: Looking back through the history of interactive advertising, what are some of the benchmark projects that inspired you personally?

KF: It's hard to pinpoint individual efforts that changed the industry, because so much of where we are today is based on many exceptional efforts too numerous to name. But some that really caught my attention and inspired me to focus my efforts in this space are: VW Turbonium, Heavy, Nike ID, HP Invent, NikeLab, Tokyo Plastics, Napster's Back campaign, IconNicholson's Snowball Fight and Yugop. And while I'm proud to have been a part of creating BMW Films, I know that its bigger accomplishment was to say, "Hey, look over here at all of the great things going on in this space!"

AC: In your opinion, are traditional media like TV and print on the verge of extinction?

KF: TV and print will continue to be a great way to reach audiences. They are just no longer the only option for connecting with interested consumers in a big way. Advertising and design communications use many tools—each with its own inherit purpose. Use them together in the right way, and you can create an impactful experience.

AC: What's the next frontier for interactive advertising?

KF: Mobile is going to change in the U.S. We're starting to catch up to what has been available in Europe and Asia for some time. I also believe that traditional television will continue to move towards an on-demand type of experience. With TiVo and web-based content being the current landscape, I can imagine a new experience based on consumer's immediate desires and less on a channel's program schedule. Interactive experiences will also be happening almost everywhere with the growth of internet accessibility and inexpensive computers and displays. I don't know if it will be like Minority Report, but it won't always be while you are at your desk.
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