Cillian Kieran is Founder and CEO of CKSK, a full service digital agency dedicated to developing truly innovative and creative platforms that create ongoing engagement with consumers through the possibilities of technology. Cillian recently spoke with The Makegood about his company’s new expansion into New York.
The Makegood: Congratulations on your expansion and welcome to New York! What factors drove the move?
From the day we started CKSK, we’ve always had the vision of creating a world class digital consultancy. That’s not to say it must be the largest (in fact we have strict views on size and quality); however, we always knew we would need to extend into the America’s and other markets in order to position ourselves as a globally active and viable option for Fortune 500 brands. Our launch in New York is the culmination of several years of planning and work that first commenced in Dublin and subsequently across Europe before finally opening here in the US.
The Makegood: Now that you’re stateside, how do you hope to optimize your new location and continue to be an industry leader? What traits will the New York staff members have to have to be successful?
For us New York is not an outpost, rather a strategic market in our international growth strategy. We’ll be using New York as an opportunity to recruit talent and partner with new brands seeking the unique blend of technology-led creative thinking that CKSK provides. New York offers us a great opportunity to get into the Americas as a market and we’re confident that we have the capabilities to do this already.
Team members at CKSK require a very unique skill set both to thrive within the agency but also deliver value to our clients and partners. We talk extensively about the death of creative thinking and the rise of the engineer. What we mean here is the idea that multidisciplinary creative talent has evolved, for us we don’t look for print designers who now ‘get’ digital. Rather we look for talented creative thinkers who can [work] as comfortably in traditional media as digital but have a deep understanding of the underlying technologies at play. If they don’t have this, we look for people with the passion and curiosity that drives them to want to learn about these aspects of creative thinking.
Ultimately CKSK’s greatest talent lies in a team that has a balanced combination of creative ability, passionate leadership and technological understanding.
The Makegood: What do you think the biggest challenge will be now that you’ve expanded and how do you plan to get through it?
We’ve already built three wonderful offices across Europe and I think, from this, have to a certain degree developed a theory about the challenges we’ll encounter each time and the formula needed to address those issues. First and foremost, it’s transposing and/or recreating the uniquely passionate culture that drives CKSK’s teams across Europe. We achieve this first by ensuring that every new team member here in the US spends time in our other offices, in Dublin and Amsterdam to develop an understanding of the unique culture we have there. We do our very best to work with complete transparency as an executive team so that everyone is aware of the challenges and opportunities that face us as a business so that we can work together to get through them.
The other common challenge we’ve experienced previously, which is the eternal challenge of service led businesses, is balancing the resources required with the need for growth. It’s a constantly moving target and we work hard to over-deliver for our clients without overextending our available capabilities as we grow. I believe we’ve become very good at balancing this, and while it’s touchy, we know how to service clients while still winning new business before chasing head count.
The Makegood: CKSK wasn’t even founded a decade ago. What has factored into your rise to success? How do you hope to grow further?
At an industry level, we were well-timed to take advantage of the rise in awareness of the value of digital in communications in Europe. We were there to not just witness but educate and build the understanding of digital advertising in Europe and that has been instrumental in our success. However, there were many companies in that period that have not succeeded so I do believe there’s something unique to CKSK – and that’s our passion and knowledge.
Every agency talks about digital and claims to be digital at the core. However, I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve met with a new client only to get feedback at the end of our first meeting that our technology and digital knowledge throughout the business goes far beyond anything they’ve experienced with other agencies. Invariably, I think it’s our ability to work and think like a tech startup yet articulate these new innovations and technologies in a way that’s strategically actionable for brands without intimidating or spraying lots of jargon at people.
We’re a team of creative geeks that understand the challenges of big brand communication in addition to how this must evolve within an in-house building capability.That means absolutely no outsourcing – where most agencies fall down in execution.
The Makegood: As advertising moves into an age more focused on digital ads and big data, how will CKSK stay ahead of the pack so to speak and make the best out of an ever-changing marketplace?
It’s an interesting question and I think in and of itself demonstrates what sets CKSK apart from others. While other agencies spent Advertising Week talking about big data, real time ad buying, re-targeting and even the value of content for brands, I was able to smile.
Why? Because CKSK established a content department four years ago recognizing that brand-led platforms would struggle to create cost effective, valuable content regularly – likewise, with real-time advertising. Now, while others obsess over content and mobile, CKSK is already experimenting with motion control devices, eye tracking and low energy sensors to understand what innovation lies ahead of the curve.
Our ability to build futures for clients while others are still learning about technology that the startup community has been experimenting with for several years sets us so far apart from typical agencies. We’re a technology innovation consultancy. If you’re looking for the future of your brand, you’ll place it in our hands and I believe our passion for that future sets us years ahead of the market.
The Makegood: Thank you, Cillian