From the Agency to The Zoo: A Talk with Google's Scott Lange.

SXSWi 2015: I had a chance to catch up with Scott Lange, the Midwest Creative Lead at Google’s The Zoo. Before moving over to Google, he worked at a variety of agencies including FCB, Lowe Campbell-Ewald, and BBDO, and held creative leadership roles at both Organic and WPP’s Team Detroit. He was one of four speakers on a panel discussing data and its importance in marketing and beyond.

You have a lot of experience on the agency side of things. How has this influenced your current role at Google? Are there parallels?

There are a lot of parallels to what I did for agencies as an Executive Creative Director and what I do for agencies in my current role at Google. My role as a thought leader has not changed, but now I am able to use that role to complement many different agencies’ offerings to their clients. I help to push their thought in the digital platforms to places they may not go without a catalyst like my team. I focus on the strategy and initial creative development and brainstorming, and I help my agency partners to innovate in that space. I have said before that, “I’m never more happy than I am when I’m standing in front of an empty whiteboard with a fistful of black dry-erase markers, surrounded by smart people.” I’ve been fortunate to build a career out of that.

Were there any trends you noticed bubbling up at this year's SXSWi that didn't exist (or weren't relevant) last time around? 

I heard a lot of talk about Artificial Intelligence. The idea of machines becoming sentient is always a fun sci-fi theme to talk about. It has all of the elements of a wonderful story—very thought-provoking.

What Interactive advancements are you most excited about?

The evolution of the mobile space. As our phones become more and more powerful and connected to more and more things—including things we wear, cars we drive and the houses we live in—I think we will continue to be blown away with very practical advancements in predictive analytics and predictive modeling to make our lives easier without needing to think about it.

Notice any (formerly buzzworthy) trends that are dying off... or didn't take off? 

I expected 3D printing to make a bigger impact than it has at this point. While I think it’s still early, and 3D printers aren’t going anywhere, I expected it to be bigger by this time.

Was this your first year speaking on a panel? In what ways did this appointment change your SXSW experience? A speaker vs. spectator kinda thing...

This is the second time I have spoken on a panel at SXSW. When it comes to observing other presentations, I don’t think being a speaker or panelist really changes your experience. However, I do find myself soaking up and absorbing good techniques that I see others using to engage their audience.

What sorts of questions were you asked? Or, what insight(s) did you provide on the panel? 

My particular panel was about CREATING RICH EXPERIENCES FROM DATA. There is a lot packed into that title and most of it screams “analytics.” I think that I provided a “right-brain” counterpoint to the very logical discussion that came up about how we use data (performance metrics and anecdotal data) in our jobs. My point of view is that you can look at the metrics we see through two lenses. The first is analyzing that data to validate (or discredit) creative executions: data as validation. The second is to look at that data about platforms, performance and audience to learn a little more about what is relevant to them: data as inspiration. I think most of our concentration is on validation and more time and energy needs to be spent on the inspiring aspects of data. Regardless, to be a successful creative leader in digital, mobile, or online marketing today you must understand the importance of data gathering and analysis without becoming a slave to it.

What advice, or simple tips, would you give to today's digital agencies?

Don’t be so afraid of failure! Help your clients to embrace failure by making it not hurt so much. One way to do this is to make sure that you are drawing the most lessons out of each failure by measuring and analyzing each project with the mindset of continual improvement and evolution. In my past position in the agency world I was part of a team who set up a robust content marketing arm that was built to challenge the agency’s “launch and leave” campaign structure. My client partner once asked me what my measure for success was—how would I know when we were heading in the right direction? I told her, “We’ll know when we are doing it right when I share with you twice as many case studies of failure than I do of successes. That will tell me that we are taking the risks we need to, and that I have your absolute support!”