Sarkissian Mason Signs Schneider

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After spending the last few years as a freelancer working for agencies including Wieden + Kennedy, Tribal DDB and AKQA, Matthew Schneider is jumping back into a full-time agency role as interactive creative director of Sarkissian Mason. Schneider, who will run the independent firm's New York office, explains his reasons for taking the post and the tasks that come with it, while also revisiting some noted recent work.

You were a freelancer for the last few years. What motivated you to get back into an agency full-time?

I had always been looking for the right opportunity and I was looking for those in bigger places, the kind where you walk in and —just be a cog in a wheel. I was looking for a place where I really felt like I could have an impact and cultivate my own creative group the way I wanted. I worked in a lot of places like Wieden's that do just incredible work and I was looking for a place where I could actually elevate the level of creative, and those were the kinds of things that attracted me to [Sarkissian].

I had freelanced with them before so I had a good rapport and I really like the direction that [president/founder] Patrick [Sarkissian] is leading the company. The experimental work they do is just incredible and I was really excited to be a part of that. They hadn't had a creative director before and things, for a lack of a better word, were a little haphazard so I'm trying to bring a little semblance to it.

Have you always been entrenched in the interactive space or did you make the leap from traditional work?

I've been in the business for 12 years and I kind of have always done both. I've seen Flash go from a little widget module to a full-blown application and I always straddled both worlds non-committal. But I finally truly felt like this is the time to make a commitment to interactive. In the last couple of years, interactive video is finally rivaling broadcast. Hardly anybody I know can watch music videos on television and commercials have less impact. People prefer to get their media in a new way and it's such a great opportunity to be a part of it, whereas a lot of traditional people have really tried to sidestep it and they're getting grandfathered out, as it were.

What do you specifically hope to achieve in the new position?

I really want to build a creative group that has passion for what they're doing like none other and really elevate the creative here. I want to have our shop known for being idea-driven and one that can really create amazing work for our clients and partners. We're in this unique position in that a lot of the smaller places I worked for would be a two-client process where an agency's a client like Exopolis and Firstborn. Here, they're direct to client and form these amazing partnerships with their clients so you don't have to deal with another agency and level of creative. That's a great thing, fostering those relationships, trying to create more opportunities and really growing the New York office.

Will the focus strictly be on interactive?

I would say the focus is interactive and another thing we've been specializing in the past is interactive video. Some of the work we've been doing for Mazda and Boeing has truly integrated video and interaction. You're not just a passive participant so you can modify and create your own way. That's the future of what we're trying to do. [The focus is on] all that lives in the digital realm but it's so above and beyond where it's been.

Is there any notable project of late that sticks in your mind?

Right before [coming aboard], I was in Amsterdam freelancing for Wieden + Kennedy and created the site for Fifa "Streets." The fluidity of the process for that has been a model I've been trying to use going forward. It had its ups and downs but for the most part it was a very fluid, efficient creative process from start to finish that yielded a great product. That was, for me, the ultimate model.

If you weren't in advertising, what would you be doing?

I would go back [to school] for industrial design. I love creating furniture. On the side, I'm creating a chair that's a new take on the director's chair. It's the only chair that hasn't been readdressed. It's ubiquitous. Everyone knows it, everyone's sat in one and everybody's probably even owned one but it hasn't had a proper revisit in design. I want to see it in somebody's living room.
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