If you can’t make someone cry, you’re just not trying hard enough.
Iain Tait, 39
Global interactive executive
Wieden & Kennedy
ON A SOUND STAGE IN LONDON, Iain Tait watches as multiplatinum pop-rock outfit Maroon 5 writes a new song. Behind the band, a giant display board offers a Twitter feed, displaying in real-time the suggestions from thousands of fans watching live over the Internet. For them, the marathon 24-hour songwriting session is a rare chance be a part of the band’s creative process. For Tait, who developed the event for Coca-Cola, it’s the future of advertising.
“There are certain parts of the advertising world where you’re still speaking from the top of the mountain with a big loud message. There’s a place for that. But people expect more now,” says Tait. “They expect a toothpaste to talk back to them if they say the toothpaste sucks.”
Tait is the ad whiz who has helmed Wieden & Kennedy’s digital push for the past year, vaulting the venerable 29-year-old agency to the vanguard of digital advertising. Best known for the interactive 2010 YouTube campaign for Old Spice with the football Adonis Isaiah Mustapha, Tate is now at work on new technologically proffered consumer connections to Coca-Cola Music and Nike Better World.
Scottish-born and raised in Barton-under-Needwood, England, Tait became a lifelong geek when he got his first computer in 1982, a ZX Spectrum, on which he programmed simple games. But it wasn’t until the early 1990s, when he began exchanging mix-tapes with strangers he met online, that he began to grasp the power of digital connectivity. “Everything’s a learning experience,” Tait says. “What’s important is to have an environment and a culture where you can take some calculated risks and be able to try stuff out.”
Indeed, as global interactive executive creative director for a famously free-form ad firm, Tait has the elbow room to do just that. Coming up with new ideas requires indulging his myriad other interests, which on any given day may include video games, psychology, or urban planning. If done right, digital media should not just be aesthetically appealing, he argues, but should actively evoke emotion, like a film: joy, sadness, relief, fear, laughter.
“So much of the art of creativity now is about joining other disparate things,” says Tait. “You need to look really far away from where you intend to get to.” —Martin Patail