How Snap appointed Colleen DeCourcy as its Chief Creative Officer

Colleen DeCourcy’s planned retirement turned out to be little more than an extended vacation. The creative executive had climbed to serve as one of the best in the advertising world, co-president and chief creative officer of Widen + Kennedy, where she helped propel the agency to new heights, helping it continue to do what it has done for decades. Other than did for Nike. A-list brands like Ford and McDonald’s. but as he said when he announced his retirement last December“You can’t be a big advocate of change and never think that it means you. If you really believe that injecting new thinking, new blood and new dynamism into a company like Widen makes it all the more interesting.” So at a certain point, you change yourself too.”

DeCourcy had plans to do a lot for a while. Maybe go on a motorcycle tour. Maybe do some landscaping. Then she’ll start thinking about how she can advance her particular set of skills, built on a storied career.

That “what’s next” came sooner than he thought. Last month, less than six months after leaving Wyden, Decorcy was announced as the new chief creative officer of Snap, the self-described camera company whose flagship app is Snapchat, which has 332 million daily active users. Reporting to Snap’s chief marketing officer, Kenny Mitchell, his job – as described by Snap’s press release at the time – was “to drive the company’s global creative efforts and help drive its brand image and storytelling”. Is.

His first work with Snape was an advertisement for an Oscar-nominated film codaWhich highlighted Snapchat’s augmented-reality lens for learning American Sign Language.

In his first official interview since taking the job, Decorcy revealed fast company That her new job boils down to helping Snap move beyond the “best known, least understood” social platform. It’s a huge challenge, in line with its goal of embracing its skills and embracing change, as seen in Snap’s frenzied public stock-market performance. Investors and the media (and advertising decision-makers), mostly outside the 13- to 34-year-old demographic, which makes up much of Snap’s audience, don’t get Snap. Here’s an edited version of our conversation:

Before joining Wyden+Kennedy in 2013, you founded your own social media-focused agency called Socialists, so the move to a social platform isn’t entirely surprising. But coming so soon after “retirement” was probably. How did this happen and why did you want this new job?

This has always been my love/hate relationship with the (social) place. But I believe it can bring value, and so I had it something I could look forward to once I saw it. Maybe I’ll take advice or something, who knows. Then a friend introduced me [Snap CEO] Ivan [Spiegel], which is a really compelling boy. His values ​​really matched mine, and we had fun talking about all kinds of things. We talked about the social media landscape, the company, and more. I’ve always been on the lookout for a version of Social that does better. Initially, I thought maybe I could help them with some contract work, and the discussions went much earlier or sooner than I expected. Then it became inevitable, that I wanted to take a stab at it with the juice I had left.

What was Evan looking for in those initial conversations, and how are you defining the role of chief creative officer at Snap?

I was really surprised by what we talked about at how big Snap’s scale is. When we talked, it occurred to me that this was the most famous, least understood platform we’ve found. It’s something I can work on to do something about. And doing it in a way that we also did at Widen, which is when you can tell someone a story about their brand and what it’s bringing to the world, and it can resonate with them. , it helps guide the way they see the path and future of that company.

Our hope was that he would keep telling a product story, and I would keep talking to him about a brand story. And we’ll see if that gets us to a place where more people can understand what was really going on here. We are just getting started.

Snap has been jokingly referred to as Facebook’s product development division. How can creative brand work help persuade users to stay with Snap by using similar features borrowed by other platforms?

Ivan’s direct answer to this is that they cannot replicate our values. This is the answer that is guiding my thinking, in terms of how to achieve it. The job is to give people a better understanding of what we do, especially in these times. [when] We’re at the 10 year mark, and people have preconceptions and metaverse discussions about Snap and Snapchat. Snap AR is one of the best, most used contributions to that world, so this is the moment to define it.

This sounds like a big change compared to your experience working with Facebook as an agency partner. As the company faced a laundry list of self-inflicted problems in 2020, you told me you were hoping to effect change from there, but it seemed like a heavy burden,

Going back to the values, that’s what attracted me here. That’s why [Snapchat} is always building from the community out, I can do my style of storytelling, which starts with the values and community, and do it at Snap where I’m just surfacing truths and values from within the company, as opposed to trying to sell something as something else.

What’s an example of that?

The first thing I had a hand on here was the Oscars work with the Snap American Sign Language. This amazing film Coda was at the Oscars, we have a very large team here of deaf coders and developers who had created lenses to bring more deaf people into the Snapchat community, because they enabled you to communicate, enabled you to sign, and honestly, it was a matter of keeping it as simple and honest as possible. Taking these beautiful products that had come out of the values of the company, matching it to a moment, making it as un-sales-y as possible, and just kind of saying, ‘This is what happens here. If you like it, you might be into it.’ That easy way of thinking about the care that’s gone into growing the community, makes the job far easier than it may have been in the past.

What lessons across your wide-ranging career do you feel will help you most in this specific task?

When you come up through the ranks of advertising, most of the time you’re working on CPG [consumer packaged goods], You have one product, you know what it is, there are other products like it, you map out competitively, or if there’s no real difference, you use another one to inspire people about the product. make things. This is how we grew up.

Now it’s an environment where it’s like, “What’s the product? What other product is it competing with?” Social technology is a very different animal, and I think that’s why for many years, advertising agencies and tech companies didn’t understand that. How to work together. What has helped me in this matter is the combination of digital spaces that I have come across and can think of with these kinds of problems, but the basics I learned in Widen , they apply to a place where you can’t have a specific product. I don’t have shampoo to sell. But truth matters. Actual human experience counts. And with work, saying something counts. So I think those three things are the lens through which I’ve been looking at Snap and Snapchat in these early days.

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