“A New Technology Could Launch Tomorrow And Change EVERYTHING:” SMG Australia’s Strategy Director

“A New Technology Could Launch Tomorrow And Change EVERYTHING:” SMG Australia’s Strategy Director

He has dreams or running Marvel Studios and almost lost his finger in a sword fight. yes, it’s SMG Australia’s national strategy director, Chris Vance

Niki Waldegrave
Posted by Niki Waldegrave

What would be your ultimate role?
Running Marvel Studios.

What’s your proudest professional moment?
Having Starcom Australia be recognised as both Office of the Year at the Festival of Media Asia and Office of the Year in the Starcom MediaVest Global One Awards. I’ve been honoured to work with such smart, dedicated people since coming from the Chicago office and it was great to be part of both the internal and external recognition.

And your most cringeworthy?
My second year in the industry I was moderating a focus group with a packed back room full of clients and senior agency members. After twenty or so minutes one of the participants demanded a different moderator because she didn’t like how I was asking questions. She was six-years-old.

Who do you think is the best strategist in Australia and/or the world?
Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics fame still holds that spot for me. He has a weekly podcast that is a masterclass of telling interesting stories through the use of data and peoples’ experiences.

What’s different in a strategic role today compared to five years ago?
I think the tools and data we have at our disposal have allowed us to better understand people’s behaviour in ways we couldn’t have imagined years ago. However, the core tenet of the discipline — understanding consumer behaviour and turning that into ideas that solve business problems — is still what we need to deliver on, but we have more capabilities to help us tell richer stories.

What do you think are the most exciting things in the marketing world at the moment?
The pace of innovation and the pace of people are actually forcing us to innovate and change alongside them. A new technology could launch tomorrow that could fundamentally change how people experience the world. I love that nobody has all of the answers and we seem to be building a fair bit of the future as we go along.

Describe your average day?
I’m not sure I’ve had one yet. I try to ensure I’m focused equally on ensuring that our clients and client leads feel they are getting the best strategic support possible, while giving my team the space and resource to expand their thinking and try new things. I can also be found facilitating workshops, meeting with our media partners or out exploring some new idea that I can’t let go of.

What are strategy and marketing’s biggest threats and opportunities?
People have never been as connected to brands as they are today and that gives us nearly unlimited opportunities to engage with them in meaningful ways. I think our biggest threat is falling in love with the complexity that can come with that. All of the data we now have access to puts us at risk of trying to be too clever for our own good.

What gets your goat?
Dishonesty and inflexibility.

How is your board game strategy?
I’m a total board game nerd. The Euro games like Settlers of Catan and Agricola are personal favourites, but I’m absolutely terrible at Pictionary. My drawing skills leave much to be desired…

What has been your favourite job in media and why?
The one I have now. It’s giving me the opportunity to grow an already strong practice with the support of a fantastic team. I moved to media from creative strategy seven years ago. At that time the US was wrestling with the “connection planner” role, which tried to meld the two strategists into one. I thought the best way to learn the media side would be to immerse myself in it and haven’t looked back.

Hipster coffee snob or tea drinker?
My Melbourne team got me to replace one of my many coffees a day with a tea. Baby steps.

Cats or dogs?

Guilty pleasure?
Salted caramel in all of its forms.

What’s your favourite TV programme?
Right now I’d say Mr. Robot.

Who’s your favourite celeb?
John Stewart

What’s your quirkiest attribute?
I have never needed to sleep more than 4-5 hours a night.

One thing no one knows about you?
I almost lost a finger in a sword fight.