Sein Name klingt wie der eines Rockstars: Johnny Vulkan ist einer der Kreativköpfe im Team der New Yorker Werbe- und Marketingagentur Anomaly, mit der er Ideen entwickelt und fördert. Anomaly funktioniert wie ein Inkubator im Werbebereich, der neue Ideen und Produkte entwickelt und dafür entweder am Umsatz des Kunden oder an dessen ganzer Firma beteiligt wird.
Vor seiner Tätigkeit bei Anomaly leitete Johnny mehrere Produktneueinführungen bei Fahrenheit 212, wo er half, neue Märkte und Produkte für Procter&Gamble, General Mills und Starbucks zu entwickeln. Zuvor war Johnny drei Jahre lang Chief Operating Officer bei TBWA/Chiat/Day in New York, bevor er anschließend die Vermarktungsabteilung der Agentur, die er nunmehr als Group Creative Director anführte, neue Vertriebswege für Kunden wie MasterFoods und Absolut Vodka erfand.
Bei Anomaly ist er so etwas wie der „Scout des Neuen“. Nicht nur verantwortet er die strategischen Markententwicklungen im digitalen Bereich, sondern er treibt auch die Eigenentwicklungen der Agentur voran. Zu seinen jüngsten Entdeckungen zählt Lauren Luke, eine junge Frau aus Newcastle, die es bei YouTube zu großer Berühmtheit durch eine Reihe von How-to Videos für Schminken gebracht hat. Gestartet als Antithese all der schlanken, aufgesetzten Models, die sonst die Industrie dominieren, verhandelt Johnny für Lauren nun mit verschiedenen Produktionsfirmen über ein TV-Format der jungen Engländerin und hat auch eine eigene Schminkreihe mit ihr herausgebracht.
Für alle, die Johnny Vulkan einmal live erleben wollen, bietet sich am 8. Oktober 2009 in Berlin die Möglichkeit: Dort wird er auf dem Brands and Ideas Congress des ADC als Referent sprechen. UPDATE: Leider fältl der ADC BIC-Kongress aus. Jenen, die sich nicht gedulden können, hilft aber vielleicht das Gründerszene-Interview:
Your are part of an advertising agency called „Anomaly” that often gets shares of the company it works for. Could you just very briefly describe the way Anomaly works?
We avoid being described as any one thing in particular – which is a reflection of the very diverse backgrounds of our partners. We all held senior positions in different creative industries and came together really to answer the same question for clients and businesses – simply – ‚what’s the right thing to do?‘. We are not predisposed or paid to deliver any particular type of answer in particular media channel – we start with what we think is the best thing for that business and then see if we are equipped to answer it. Over the years that has led us into business partnerships with people and it has also led us to what could be described as more conventional relationships with ambitious and creative clients like Converse, Coke, Umbro and P&G.
Our process always starts in the same way – get a diverse group of thinkers to surround the business problem and then build a team and solution accordingly. It means there’s no one solution, no one process but we get to better, custom designed answers and we also get to collaborate with a lot more people.
What is the mechanism that helps you choose challenging projects and companies at Anomaly?
Do we like the people involved. If we like the people then good work follows. It’s hard for us to get into something where we don’t feel a sense of emotional attachment so that is out starting point. We then also look to see if the project really excites us and finally we start looking at what is the best way to engage. Is it best for all parties to structure a more conventional relationship or a more entrepreneurial one. Each contract we have is different – it’s all about making it work for all concerned.
You helped evolve new markets and products for P&G, General Mills and Starbucks. In which ways did advertising change after the internet appeared?
The internet era has brought some much needed honesty and transparency to marketing industries and industry. You simply cannot hide in the modern era. If your products are no good, under perform or are unfairly priced then people will talk about – and their outlets are countless from simple comments on a news site to their own blogs, Twitters and Facebook pages. The best defense for any company is to focus wholeheartedly and genuinely on striving to produce great products that represent great value for their customers and take into consideration every aspect of the rapidly changing economic and ecological environment.
Your latest discovery, Lauren Luke, is a woman from Newcastle who rose to YouTube fame through a series of how-to videos for applying makeup. How did you meet her and what made you think she could lead to a powerful brand?
One of the partners was actually searching for something else on-line related to a celebrity and stumbled across Lauren’s video on how to create that celebrities make up look. He was surprised by how many views she had received and the number of wonderful comments and decided to do some more research into her. We felt from the outset that what Lauren was doing was something very special. The comments we read and our subsequent research suggested that to her fans her work goes beyond just learning how to apply make up but is also an inspiration for what young women can achieve with very little resource and a lot of heart. We made contact and started talking about ways in which we should could grow a business or businesses for her around that and that’s what has led us to helping create her own range, a book deal and several other fun projects that are in the pipeline.
In an interview you said that „She’s done it bedroom to bedroom“. Now you are negotiating with production companies about putting her on broadcast TV – is this the modern way of “from rags to riches”? Starting from your bedroom ending up as a branded star? How do you see the role of the internet nowadays?
I suppose that’s one way to look at it – but I think it’s also a story that suggests what’s possible for anyone in the internet age. We’ve seen so much entrepreneurial activity from people of all ages and all backgrounds – it really is any era of possibility for everyone. I think it’s not just about fame and money – it’s been a liberating time for so many people. Every day grandparents are connecting over Skype video with their grand children, people are reconnecting with friends from their childhood and the world’s information is delivered to our fingertips. The internet has accelerated and expanded possibility, shrinking distance, breaking rules and reinventing commerce. It’s still very much the wild west with many models still to be resolved and redefined. For us that is very exciting, especially as what we call the internet today and how we behave will look very different again in five years time. Our businesses are no longer just about executing against know shapes and sizes – like a 30 second TV spot, a poster, a print ad, a web site – although they are still important – it’s increasingly about constant adaptation and change, a willingness to build things, break them down and build again.
What were other great projects of yours that you liked especially?
We are fortunate to work with some really fun clients in great categories. In the last couple of years we’ve produced some work we’re really proud of on Converse including picking a recent gold Effie (effectiveness award) for our digital work that utilizes google search terms to bring our audiences to insightful pieces of content. We also helped Umbro launch the new England shirt that they’ll be wearing in the World Cup (fingers crossed). Both were parts of fully integrated campaigns where we produced everything from the websites to the store windows – something we love to do. We’re also really excited about a new TV series we’ve co-produced for our friend and business parter Eric Ripert, the Michelin starred chef of Le Bernadin, New York. His new show ‚Avec Eric‘ was co-developed and part funded by Anomaly and airs nationally in the US in September.
At Anomaly, you are responsible for innovation on the agency’s own initiatives and intellectual property, as well as stewarding digital strategy. What’s your master plan here?
I can’t tell you the master plan. But I can tell you what underpins it. Editorial content and digital PR will continue to become more important. We’ll be expected to produce more, faster and for less and the mentality will move from campaigns every now and then to a much more ‚always on‘ approach to marketing. However, there will still be a role for what people will consider to be conventional pieces of creative work and thinking that provide the peaks and the beacons among the chatter. Most importantly this will be an age of integrity and transparency from the products and services themselves through to how we talk about them. I’m genuinely excited about what this means and it’s important to me that Anomaly stays at the leading edge of the debate and hopefully can continue to provide some good examples and leaving some lasting and worthwhile things on the way.
Johnny, thanks a lot for this interesting interview.