My life in advertising: Michael Karg, Razorfish | M&M Global

My life in advertising: Michael Karg, Razorfish

Michael Karg, international chief executive at Publicis agency Razorfish Global, explains why he feels his role has transcended traditional advertising and media.

Michael Karg

M&M Global: What are clients looking for in their advertising and media solutions in 2015?

Michael Karg: Many clients are getting inspired by the likes of Uber or Airbnb, and are beginning to question what they have been doing, wondering whether their industries are under threat, how consumer behaviour has changed and what advancements in technology means for their value chain.

In essence, they are beginning to consider investing more in services and utilities and less in advertising and media spend. The other big topics are omni-channel retail and in particular optimising the online-to-offline experience as well as change management.

What have been the most notable changes in the advertising industry since your career began?

The pace of change was slower and the threat for our clients getting dis-intermediated much smaller. In parallel, everything was focused on the desktop experience and now mobile is at the centre and digital increasingly everywhere. It used to be that marketers were ahead of the consumer — today the consumer is way ahead of the marketer.

What has been the biggest challenge of your career?

Managing and timing change. Our clients are looking for Razorfish to lead the digital change with [them] and for them. We constantly need to find the right balance between what is possible and what our clients are willing to pay for without becoming too slow and losing our leadership in innovation.

“I would temporarily ban ‘big data’ until marketers and agencies take ‘small data’ more seriously”

How would you describe your leadership style?

Open – I am very transparent and inclusive with my team.

Collaborative – I like to get involved, particularly in strategic topics and work with the team on solutions. At times I wish I had more time for doing that.

Listening – Before making a decision, I am trying to understand different perspectives before jumping to a conclusion.

Direct – Maybe that is due to my Germanic routes. I just don’t want to waste time with misunderstandings…albeit I am trying to be polite in how my message comes across.

Supportive – We are a talent business. We need to invest and dedicate time to our teams to develop and nurture their skills. This is absolutely key in developing a high performance organisation.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given in your career?

Almost exactly 15 years ago when I interviewed at Digitas in Boston. On my way out of the building I run into this guy called George Chu. George was a legend with clients and internally and I am convinced [he] had a photographic memory. We stood on the escalator and he said: ‘If you are uncomfortable with change, don’t join a digital business.’ Well, I decided jump on board!

If you could pick one media platform that currently offers the greatest potential, which would it be and why?

That would clearly be WeChat.

For one, it is very rapidly evolving its capabilities and services in line with consumer needs. It has made tremendous progress in pushing the original messaging platform towards becoming the centre of an ecosystem of services and utilities — ranging from banking, entertainment, travel to transportation.

Secondly, because the Chinese consumers are hyper-mobile and very digital savvy, much more so than their Western counterparts. So, WeChat is poised for success

If you could pick a single industry buzzword you could ban, what would it be and why?

I would temporarily ban ‘big data’ until marketers and agencies take ‘small data’ more seriously.

We don’t lack data or ideas on what additional data we could add to what we have. What is massively lacking is a commitment to actually using data and insights to drive better results.

In general, we first need a culture and dedicated budgets around the importance of analytics in driving relevance and performance. Without that most markets won’t even get ‘small data’ right.

What are your passions outside of work?

This may sound crazy given that I am traveling four to five days a week for work. However, I would say exploring the world with my family and good food in the company of close family and friends.

What’s the most exciting thing about being in the advertising and media industry today?

The most exciting thing about it is that I don’t actually think I am in the advertising and media industry. At the core, Razorfish is an innovation business – and that I find very exciting. At our best we design services and utilities that help overcome friction points along the consumer journey. We are definitely not in the interruption advertising business.

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply