UM’s Colleen Soriano on Leveraging Innovation that Scales

Colleen Soriano is the SVP Managing Partner, US Integrated Investment & Digital Innovation at UM. Colleen has held management roles at MEC and Avenue A / Razorfish. We recently spoke with Colleen about her new role.

The Makegood:  Colleen, you have been working in media planning for 12+ years. Can you tell us your story of how you got into the business?

CS: I started at Organic in 1999 in performance analysis, which in hindsight, is hilarious to me since no one had any benchmarks to work with and the measurement tools at our disposal seem archaic now that I look back.  After about six months in the reporting group, I had a good sense of what our media team did and made the switch over to digital media buying. This afforded me more time with our clients, for example Lego, CD Now and (dare I say), greater access to publishers and technology partners, and entry to events like the DoubleClick Willy Wonka party. (Willy Wonka was the Woodstock of NY digital media and no small thing for a girl in her early 20s who was still marveling at the concept of “bagel Wednesdays.”)  I cultivated not only a working knowledge of the industry but also wonderful friendships with people that I respect and am thrilled to see them shaping the industry today.  It’s crazy to think about how the media business and my place in it have evolved since then.

The Makegood: As the Managing Partner, US Integrated Investment and Digital Innovation, what are your main priorities for the role?

CS: My main priorities are around bringing clarity to the digital product and discipline at UM and fostering innovation from different corners of the agency.  There is a sense of curiosity and entrepreneurialism inherent in digital folks, since the industry is still young and we have had no choice but to embrace perpetual change.  I think there is an opportunity here to bring greater rigor and focus to the fundamentals: deal making and the art of negotiation, cultivating stronger business relationships with individuals across the marketplace, and staying consumer focused (vs. technology focused) in our approach.  From an innovation standpoint, it’s about balancing experimentation with learning that we can scale going forward.

The Makegood: Your role focuses on Digital Innovation – how do you analyze innovation? Do you have a process to find innovation?

CS: It’s tricky.  Innovation often gets confused with invention.  In my mind, Innovation is defined as using a different, better and more effective perspective, idea or method to do what you are currently doing, but better.  Invention is more about the creation of that idea or method.  The process for keeping up with invention isn’t too systematic – scouring trusted tech and media news sources for interesting tidbits, engaging with my favorite clever and forward thinkers in the industry about what excites them at any given moment, and staying curious as a consumer of media sums up my approach.  Evaluating innovation is something different.  There is a check list of sorts – what kind of unique reach or scale a new opportunity might afford, thought around whether the idea or platform truly represents a cultural shift or whether it’s just a fad, how and whether it is most appropriate for a brand to leverage the environment, whether, what and how we can measure to learn from whatever we do – but if I’m being honest…there is always a crapshoot element to experimentation.  That’s when the old Samuel Beckett quote comes to mind – “Fail better.”

The Makegood: What would you say are some of the most promising innovative trends you see evolving in digital media?

CS: The most promising trend for innovation is that increasingly all media is digital media.  I am excited about this not as a digital practitioner but as a media enthusiast.  The opportunities for entertainment, information, and essentially a better operating system for our lives have increased exponentially.  Brands are starting to get it – they are becoming less self-referential and embracing the interoperability of things (APIs, data points, technology platforms, etc).  It’s a whole new world out there and it’s going to be fun as hell.

The Makegood: Thanks, Colleen.