Q&A with Tessa Conrad

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Tessa Conrad, Global Director of Operations at TBWA Worldwide will be co-presenting at YMS with Bryan Rosenblatt of Reddit on how to tap into Reddit, the untapped focus group of 280,000,000 people. Here we caught up with her for a sneak preview.

Innovation is something that all companies want to be seen to be driving - who stands out as doing it really well right now?
I’m really excited by what Intel is doing right now - they truly bring a the force of innovation to so many different industries, from Autonomous Driving to Drones to VR and so much more. I think they are doing an excellent job of showcasing how they are so far beyond just processing chips and instead are on the cusp of innovation throughout multiple verticals. Plus, just look at this insane light show.

Is it a challenge to get brands to take a risk on doing something truly innovative and different?
Brands are often just as excited as we are about innovation - the main area of challenge is when it comes down to return on investment (ROI). It can be scary to put money into projects where ROI is less obvious and therefore seemingly much riskier. But, if it goes well the earned media alone does wonders for a company that wants to be known for innovation.

This means that as an agency, we need to be sure that when pushing for more innovative and different work, we truly bring the most creative work possible to help minimize the risk of lower ROI.

What tech innovation are you most excited about right now?
I’m most excited about the rapid innovation in cameras and expanding capabilities available in film. In the past, the cost to be able to create quality content was much higher than it is now. With the recent launch of stellar cameras for a fraction of the price (most that are often even a part of your phone), high quality camera equipment has become much more accessible to the masses and as a result has empowered more people to create great content. In addition to this, global companies are also making their technology available again at a fraction of the cost (think Google and their JUMP innovation), ultimately opening up way more opportunities.

In our Youth Trends report, we’ve seen that more practical innovations such as click and collect services and contactless payments were favoured over drones and robots. Is that something you’ve found?

We’re lucky enough to live in the age of plentiful technological innovation which means the number of drones, apps, etc at our fingertips is huge. There is however still a lot of territory to explore, though I think it’s human nature for us to first and foremost focus on how we can use new innovations to directly impact our lives (rather than the attraction to new shiny objects which I am also guilty of!). It’s about utility over luxury; things that remove unnecessary barriers are key and we see people naturally moving to adopt this technology while still delighting over the shiny objects.

What trends are you seeing when it comes to young people’s tech and digital habits?
One trend is pretty clear at this point: young people are notorious cord-cutters when it comes to consuming content but it goes much further than that. The likes of Instagram, Snapchat and the rest are quickly becoming natural go-to’s for consuming entertainment pieces, whereas in the past it would have been TV and magazines.

In order to reach all audiences, brands need to be ready to deliver unique, quality content to different platforms in ways that are relevant to the userbase, rather than cutting one overarching piece into segments that fit but aren’t platform unique or specific.

At YMS you will speaking alongside Reddit. Can you give us a sneak preview into how brands can tap into their amazing community?
With the use of anonymous pseudonyms on Reddit a lot of people’s gut instinct first-thought is that it must be full of trolls. While trolls are definitely there (just like everywhere on the internet), it’s actually a pretty constructive and positive place where people build a unique community for themselves. Interestingly, while they may not be known for their birth-name, they instead build an ongoing reputation for their handle.

Knowing how rich the Reddit community is, the advertising industry is crazy not to tap into the Reddit platform, even if that means just becoming a member of Reddit to simply lurk (read and not post) and soak in the knowledge. People are honest and it’s refreshing to get a “no-holds-bar” take on the world and the different verticals that impact us all. For a first dip of the toe into Reddit depending on the comfort of the brand, hosting talks such as AMAs (“Ask Me Anything”) or AMAAs (“Ask Me Almost Anything”) is good initial step to learn and explore – but have a good PR plan and get ready to be honest.

What is the campaign you are most proud to have worked on?
Rather than a particular campaign, I’m most proud to work at TBWA on changing the way we are working. We’re known as the Disruption® Company and with that, we’ve developed what we call Disruption Live to change the way agencies and folks that work at them approach their daily inputs and outputs. Seeing how you can impact a collective of 300+ agencies is incredibly rewarding. Plus being able to have a hands-on approach here means I get to see the ins and outs of a lot of our offices around the globe, which is a pretty unique opportunity.

And finally a few fun questions…

What’s been the best moment of your career so far?
Moving to NYC has been the best career moment of my life so far. Previously based in Hong Kong, the move meant going across the globe to a place where I knew almost no one which of course was also terrifying. However, it allowed me to work on the global team at TBWA to tackle our innovation and digital initiatives while also meeting a bevy of intelligent, driven and interesting people!

Plus, I work on Madison Avenue and as a fan of Mad Men, how could I turn that down?

Favourite app? Why?
Instagram, though I do have much love for Snapchat filters. For me, Instagram tends to be where my friends and colleagues post their true-self moments, while Facebook has become more professional since you’re friends with a lot of the people you work with rather than just “your crowd”.

I love seeing where people are going, what they are eating, their silly moments and the like. I also like the streamlined feed that lets you choose if you continue down a carousel or just like the header image. It’s very on-demand.

As a bonus, I follow a lot of meme accounts which is a good brain-break from work (when I’m not on TIL, ELI5 or AskReddit).

Something few people know about you?
That I grew up in Asia. I moved to Hong Kong when I was ten from a really small town (of ~3000 people) in Canada, which meant a major culture shock. Before that, being able to ride an escalator was a big deal so you can imagine the surprise of entering a huge metropolis like Hong Kong! It was definitely tough in a lot of ways but it meant I was privileged enough to be able meet people from all over the globe, travel to a lot of different places and meet a lot of really interesting people.

What are you most looking forward to at YMS?
Meeting the delegates that attend and hearing what they are interested in. Aside from that, I’m really stoked to hear from Leon Logothetis on the Kindness Diaries from Netflix. I love the show and truly believe in the power of kindness so am excited to see how he approaches the power of the human connection.

Finally, what we should of asked you that we didn’t?
I get asked a lot about how young people can make it in the industry. Whether you’re at an agency, client-side, with a tech/publisher/start-up or whatever - we work in similar ways. The work/life balance is tough and while it’s a hugely interesting industry, there’s a lot of talk of how to push your career while avoiding burn-out.

I think the most important thing is working hard. As silly as it sounds, it truly works. Figure out what’s important to you in your life, what your goals are and what you’re willing to work for. Putting in the time to be introspective upfront allows you to figure out what you value and where you want to go. Once you know where you want to go, remember to check in with yourself on the days when you’re feeling exhausted and to gut-check whether you’re getting closer to your goals. Be the person that self-teaches new skills; one that over-prepares and forces yourself to be excited rather than scared. That’s the way to set yourself apart, and something that no-one can take from you.

Tessa Conrad will be speaking at YMS NYC 2017 - come and say hello! Haven't got your tickets for YMS NYC 2017 yet? Head on over to our event page for more information on the biggest youth marketing conference in America.