Jon Haber doesn’t have to think about plain-vanilla advertising. As U.S. director of OMD’s Ignition Factory, his job is to pitch ideas wild enough to scare the agency and its clients. Here are some that clients eventually signed off on:
• The first video-in-print ad, inserting a video player into issues of Entertainment Weekly to deliver promos for CBS and ads for Pepsi Max to young male readers in a new way.
• The first shakable ad, using the motion detector in the iPhone to get techsavvy males to activate mobile ads for Dockers pants.
• The first ads on Kindle electronic readers, providing scripts of the series Nurse Jackie as a free download to get readers to tune in to the Showtime series.
Doing something different isn’t easy. “The amount of ideas that we have to pitch to get one done is a lot,” Haber says. “There is a numbers game to it. And it’s not that we’re pitching ideas that are bad or off strategy or too crazy, it’s just that you have to have a lot of discussion about a lot of different things until something fits perfectly with a moment in time where a client’s strategy and budget and objective meet perfectly with a technology or an idea or an opportunity.”
When it comes to doing things differently, maybe it helps that Haber is just 30. He also began his career at a public relations firm and joined his first media agency—Initiative— doing corporate communications and new business. “If I had been doing the regular thing for a long time, I might have been scared to pitch [some ideas] because they were was so different,” he says. “But naiveté worked to my advantage.”
Haber’s Ignition Factory group started out finding cool new things at Silicon Valley startups through venture capital firms. Those meetings grew into a consulting practice that matches up tech companies with OMD clients. Ignition Factory hooked up PepsiCo with innovative startups—known as the PepsiCo 10. It also figured out a way to use Shazam—the music- recognizing iPhone app—to recognize the soundtrack to a Dockers commercial during the Super Bowl, creating an opportunity to interact with a TV ad using mobile.
In some cases, Ignition Factory is creating the ad model for some of these technologies. And, in the case of the Kindle ad, the group is creating an opportunity that other OMD clients can take advantage of.
New ideas don’t always have to spring from new technology, although technology “happens to be the most fertile ground for doing things that could be considered innovative,” Haber says. The group also looks for ways to reinvent traditional media.
“TV is one of the harder places— without introducing a new technology, like the Shazam example—to do something that’s never been done, only because people have been doing really creative things for a really long time,” Haber says. “We’re always trying to think of new formats and ways to do things differently to help clients break through the clutter on television too.” Opportunities are likely to emerge as television and the Internet continue to converge, he adds.
Haber is also “architecting” OMD’s efforts to offer consulting to clients on mobile that goes beyond the buying and planning services the agency already offers.
For fun, Haber plays a little World of Warfare, but since OMD’s game division reports to him, that is work to some degree. Recently, he has become obsessed with the P90X Workout System, which he bought after watching an infomercial.
To relieve stress, he brings his dog to his L.A. office. The dog’s a tiny thing that was originally his fiancé’s. “It takes a certain amount of confidence to walk around not only the office but the streets with my little white fluffy Maltese, but I do it with aplomb now,” he says.
Haber is planning to get married next March. His fiancée, Julia Cohen, along with her sister Jennifer, own Switch, a women’s clothing boutique in Beverly Hills frequented by celebrities. “There’s a reality show in that store,” Haber says.
E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: @jlafayette
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