Digital Media

Sparks & Honey’s Terry Young on Culture, Data-Driven Advertising News, and Modern Families


Terry Young is CEO of sparks & honey, a company that operates a data-driven advertising newsroom that helps synchronize brands with culture. The Makegood recently spoke with Terry about culture, the data-driven newsroom model, and changing dynamics of the modern family.

The Makegood: You are a seasoned agency executive that has held posts at IPG, McKinsey, Targetbase, RAPP and Epsilon prior to launching sparks & honey just over a year ago. What inspired you to found sparks & honey?

I had been in advertising for nearly 15 years and it was clear to me that the industry needed a new model that moved at the speed of culture and leveraged the latest tools, technology and data. I wanted to create a next-generation agency that wasn’t constrained by long creative cycles, high cost paid media and calendar-based launch plans. I took my inspiration from the news industry and Wall Street, and then combined those with my digital, CRM and technology background. After three months, and many work sessions with friends and mentors, I crafted the business plan and roadmap for sparks & honey.  Five months later, I founded sparks & honey as a new agency within Omnicom.

The Makegood: Your team holds a daily “culture briefing” to discuss what’s popped over the last 24hrs or what is set to pop in the very near future. How do you get the latest information and how do you manage to translate it quickly in measurable business opportunities for your clients?

The sparks & honey cultural briefing is held daily and allows for a curated discussion on the biggest and most interesting cultural bursts over the last 24 hours. The magic is in the broad view of culture and the connections that we make during the daily discussions. Over time, the team has built a very strong muscle memory that allows for some very interesting brand connections to be made. With that said, the accuracy and speed of the curation process is made possible by our Wave Branding Platform, proprietary algorithms, pattern analysis, and frameworks for organizing and clustering culture. The team is well trained in spotting trends, doubling patterns, and narrowing our forecast to clusters of relevant brand opportunities.

The Makegood: You apply your concept of “wave branding” to your clients that include Fortune 500 companies like Clinique and Hyatt. Can you provide an example of a project that demonstrates your method and that you are especially proud of?

With The Explosion Of Conscious Media with GaiamTV: We used our cultural mapping methodology to understand and dissect the latest trends shaping the Consciousness movement for GaiamTV, the leading provider of streaming media in the space. We helped establish and define the term “Conscious Media.” This work was satisfying and eye-opening for us.  It gave us deep insights into conscious capitalism and conscious marketing. Our trend report on the Explosion of Conscious Media can be found here.

The Makegood: You recently released this report: Marketing to the Modern Family. Can you summarize the highlights on your statistics? What do brands need to know regarding the new family dynamic?

The Modern Family has been shifting for the last two decades, but has seen an uptick in the last 24 months. While the traditional family is not disappearing, families are taking on highly novel configurations. The shift is driven by the continued pressures on families, ranging from the economic downturn and high unemployment rates and an accelerated shift in social acceptance of new and varied family configurations.

Here are a few key stats from Marketing to the Modern Family:

  • In 2010, 5.4 million children lived in a household headed by a grandparent, up from 4.7 million in 2005.
  • Over 12 million households are headed by single parents
  • 25% of same sex American households are raising children
  • 13% of adult children between 18 and 29 move back in with their parents after an attempt to live alone.
  • Co-parenting is a growing movement of unromantically-involved couples who come together to have children

Key Implications for brands:

  • Understand the diverse family spectrum: you must think beyond mother as head of household and begin to include stay-at-home-dads, grandparents, co-parents and the unique parenting styles they employ.
  • Help simplify life for busy families: regardless of family structure, the commonality amongst modern families is that of barely reigned in chaos. Conflicting schedules, splintered situations and mounting pressures add up to an opportunity to help alleviate stress and streamline life.
  • Design for special needs: grandparents are increasingly acting as default nannies. Look for ways to design products and services that cater to their special needs.
  • Think digital: mobile natives (and eventually their parents) expect very specific UX, interface and experience design.
  • Sneak in healthy behaviors: consider how to painlessly introduce healthy (food, fitness, behavioral) choices into the daily life of the modern family.

The Makegood: The data-driven newsroom model is changing the media-buying landscape. What do you think are the biggest challenges for brands and publishers, and what do they need to know in order to be successful?

There are many fringe and emerging cultural signals that should be on every marketer’s radar, but the following four are critical:

  • It is time for most of the Fortune 1000 to move from a paid media and campaign-centric world to a content and culture-centric world.
  • Brands must move at the speed of culture and understand how culture is shifting in real time. This requires new tools, new skills, and access to a data-driven newsroom.
  • Brands must understand a world driven by exponential change NOT linear change. They must begin to bring the future to the present by identifying doubling patterns and design products that will only be relevant in three years.
  • Companies must prepare for a world of smart, sensor-based physical products that can move from physical to virtual words in a matter of minutes via advanced 3D printing.

The Makegood: What can we expect to see coming from sparks & honey?

We are launching several new trend reports in the “8 Exponential Trends Shaping Humanity” series. We have launched the first three and plan to launch the remaining five over the next several months. These trends include:

We also plan to continue to produce research on the changing dynamics of the modern family and the new parenting styles of the Millennial parents. Sparks & honey’s advanced research is what allows us to push the boundaries of what can be done in a data-driven newsroom by both riding the waves of culture, optimizing our algorithms and platform, as well as building robust, branded content arsenals for our clients.

The Makegood: Thanks, Terry.