Razorfish’s Clark Kokich on Why It’s “Do or Die” Time for Advertising

Clark Kokich is the Chairman of Razorfish and author of the new book, Do or Die. The book details the transformation that is overtaking advertising and how it is impacting the 300,000 Americans that work in the industry. Clark’s book includes video interviews of some of the top minds in the business and is available as a downloadable app–the first of its kind. We spoke to Clark recently about how advertising is changing.

The Makegood: Clark, Razorfish was one of the very first digital media agencies. To say that media has changed a great deal since the founding of Razorfish would be an incredible understatement. What, if anything, has stayed the same during that time?

There was one big change when digital came on the scene – the ability to measure and optimize campaigns in real time.  That hasn’t changed.  We used to do it exclusively with display.  Then came search, social, and mobile.  In every case, performance is driven largely through measurement and optimization, not solely by upfront planning.  As a result, the amount of unstructured data is growing exponentially.

This has upended the entire structure of media planning and buying.  Each year, a higher percentage of all media is trackable, which means every year the degree of complexity increases.  The trend isn’t going to change.  Eventually all media will be measured and optimized.  The agency business is not set up to deal with that degree of complexity.  We’ll need to adopt new processes and technologies, or we’ll be crushed under the sheer weight of the data being generated.

The Makegood: Your new book, Do or Die, is unorthodox in that it is delivered in the form of a downloadable app. How did it come about and why did you opt to distribute outside of the traditional publishing industry?

I had a contract with McGraw-Hill sitting on my desk.  I never signed it because I found the conversations with them to be very disappointing.  Publishers don’t add much to the process.  Basically, they’re just printers and distributors.  It’s no wonder they’re becoming increasingly irrelevant.

I was in the middle of this when the iPad was released.  Suddenly it didn’t make sense to write a conventional book on the subject of using technology to create experiences.  It seemed smarter to use this new technology to actually redefine what it meant to read a book.  That decision opened up a world of possibilities.  As a result, Do or Die includes videos, live Facebook and Twitter feeds, access to web pages, commenting within the app, and the ability to share content to social networks.

I’m happy with the way it turned out.  This was the first full-length business book published as an iPad app.  I’m sure others will figure out how to do it better, but Do or Die will always be the first, so that’s something.

The Makegood: “Quit Treating Media as an Afterthought” is a fascinating chapter. What are some of the major trends that are impacting buyers and sellers today?

Success in media used to require buying power and buying acumen.  Now media is dividing into two tracks.  The first is programmatic buying.  Exchanges will continue to take a larger share of media dollars, and in that world, data expertise is more important than buying power.  The second track is toward more custom, content-based programs.  And in that world, imagination is more important than buying acumen.  These are two really big changes, and again, I don’t think the industry is ready.

The Makegood: Do or Die includes video interviews with some of the top minds in media and advertising today. Who is included and what are some of the highlights?

I selected people I’ve grown to admire over the years, from competitors, clients, and the media.  There are two many juicy quotes to pick one as a highlight, although if you’re looking to sound smart in your next presentation, this is a great place to steal some sound bites.  To me, the most surprising revelation was in the degree of agreement on where things are going.  I suspected to get more pushback on the main ideas expressed in Do or Die, but didn’t.  Everyone agreed that marketing has changed at a very fundamental level – less talking to customers, and more doing things that matter.

The Makegood: How does someone obtain a copy of Do or Die? Is it available on a Kindle?

When ordering from the iPad, be sure to search in the App Store, not the Book Store. In addition, we’ll be releasing it in e-reader form for the Kindle and Nook in a few weeks, and by June we’ll have completed production of a version for the Kindle Fire.

And folks who want to participate in the conversation can engage on the Do or Die Facebook page or follow me on Twitter (@clarkkokich). Also, for more information about the book view the promo video here on You Tube.

The Makegood: Thanks, Clark.