The Brain Tap Series: Interview 11 – Gareth Kay

Gareth Kay kindly agreed to be part of my interview series, despite having quite a bit to deal with over in Boston. Hopefully, everyone who reads this has heard of Modernista!, the advertising agency that links directly to its Wikipedia site as its company site (for the time-being, anyway). I thought that was ridiculously creative – such a simple idea and no one thought of it till they did. Of course, no one else CAN do it now – one of those things where if they do try to, they’ll just be called copycats! Anyway, Gareth is Head of Planning at Modernista! and also blogs here. Here are some of this thoughts:

The interview:

1. What is the most interesting job you’ve ever had and what lessons did you learn from it that help you in your current role?

I learned a lot from interning at a record label about how internal politics suffocate great ideas, but I have mostly only ever worked in the ad industry (there’s a rather sad admission). I’ve been really lucky to work in very diverse agency environments and learn from some great planners who all had very different approaches. This has taught me two things I think: at agencies it’s culture that makes the difference and there is no one way to ‘do’ planning. As a result, I probably over obsess about the culture of Modernista! and have tried to build a department with a diversity of planning approaches and experiences.

2. Modernista was much talked about earlier this year for its different-looking website. How did the team come up with the idea of linking it directly to its Wikipedia site and is it a long-term or short-term strategy?

As an agency, Modernista! has always refreshed its website every year or so. The idea behind this iteration was pretty simple – use the web as your website. It allows us to experience the reality that all brands face – that your identity today is distributed across numerous sites and not controlled or centralized in one place – and also to allow us to experiment with how we build a presence on various ‘web 2.0’ sites.

3. Name one ad campaign or event that you wish you’d been a part of, and why.

Simple. Tate Tracks by Fallon London.

Really tough brief – get teenagers into an art gallery – solved so elegantly and powerfully. Realize that what the audience is into is music. Get musicians in to write unique tracks inspired by a piece of art in the gallery. Have that song only available at first at the Tate Modern by the piece of art that inspired it. Later stick it all on the web. Advertise the content you created.

I love this campaign because it’s about solving the business problem through creativity not just doing a cool looking execution. And it makes us think about what advertising can be when we try a little harder.


Thanks for this, Gareth.


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