Matt Edwards is currently the Art Director at Johannes Leonardo, a newly created position at the creative agency who’s philosophy is to treat the consumer as the new medium. Edwards was most recently at Y & R Prague, and also led a small media company in South Africa. The Makegood recently spoke with Edwards about the exciting challenges he faces in his new position, as well as upholding Johannes Leonardo’s increasingly important philosophy.
The Makegood: Congratulations on your new position as Art Director at Johannes Leonardo! How does it feel to be chosen as art director at such a powerhouse company? Why do you believe your position is vital to the company?
Obviously being offered a job at Johannes Leonardo is first and foremost an unbelievable opportunity. I feel that, in this industry, it’s all about pursuing avenues that are challenging. When it comes to an agency like Johannes Leonardo the learning curve is a sharp one, but the rewards in the form of creative output are immense. As far as my position being important, I believe that every position in the agency is an important one; everybody needs to play their part in order for the machine to run smoothly. I hope to be a great addition to an already great team.
The Makegood: You are joining Johannes Leonardo as a South African native. Do you believe that the culture will be very different from what you have grown accustomed to in South Africa? Will you approach clients differently, or do you have a set strategy?
As far as culture goes, starting my career in a so-called “emerging market” is more of a positive than a negative. In South Africa, both budget and internet penetration are low. This leads creative ideas to be smarter, smaller executions that push big results through things like PR and word of mouth. In the US, there is no ceiling for what can be done and on what scale. However, every idea or campaign should be born from an insight, unique selling point or a human truth. Nothing changes here. So whether I am working in South Africa or Prague or here in New York, I try to approach clients’ challenges the same way. Making sure to keep in the mind what the target consumer wants, the climate of the market and try to always remain culturally relevant.
The Makegood: You have previously worked with clients such as Harley Davidson and Zatec Beer. How will the experience you have with these and other clients help you with your clients at Johannes Leonardo?
I feel the days of an MD walking onto the agency floor and asking “who has automobile experience?” or “who has banking experience?” for pitching are over. The business is no longer run by creatives who have experience working on the same type of clients over the course of their careers. In today’s market, ideas can come from anywhere and anyone. So as far as my previous clients contributing to my new clients, I have definitely taken learnings from every piece of work I have done, but what it boils down to is insights. Clients are looking for creative solutions and consumers are looking for communication that they feel they can embrace. This has been same in the past two countries I have worked in and I feel it will be the same here.
The Makegood: The philosophy at Johannes Leonardo is “the consumer is the medium.” How do you interpret this philosophy? How will you use your position to uphold this philosophy?
It’s truly a great philosophy, but a daunting one to live up to. The reason it’s so daunting is because it’s true. In today’s market it’s not good enough to just broadcast a message out into the world and then check sales in three months’ time and see the results the client wants. The consumer is constantly evolving, changing and challenging. If brands don’t embrace this and give them content they can own, mold and share across all touch-points these results will never materialize. It’s also important to give the consumer the benefit of doubt, rather challenge them than dumb it down. This is something I am learning from Jan [Jacobs] and Leo [Premutico, founders of Johannes Leonardo] and I plan to uphold to the nth degree. The results are there to prove that this way of thinking works and, in my opinion, it’s only going to become more relevant.
The Makegood: Johannes Leonardo is already an award-winning, leading creative agency. What do you see for the company’s future, and how do you see yourself further elevating the results?
As far as the future goes I think Johannes Leonardo is in a great position with a lot of things to look forward to. Already this year we have welcomed ECD’s Tom Martin and Julian Schreiber – two industry heavyweights. With plans to move into new offices, the appointment of Michael Duda as CEO and a lot of new business opportunities on the horizon, things are looking great for 2014. I hope to add to this mix, by being involved in producing the best possible creative for our clients, present and future. With an eye for award-winning work that also drives marketing results and keeps consumers engaged.
The Makegood: Thank you, Matt.