Jason is the fifth speaker in our quick interview series with some of the cool BOLO 2011 presenters, but he comes in first for responding with the longest answers yet – and we love it! Enter Jason Damas of AKQA who reveals plenty of interesting tidbits about himself. Make sure to check out Jason during the Advertising Super Forum at BOLO.
BOLO: What do you like to discuss with close friends?
Jason: I’m friends with an inordinate number of urban planners, so the issues related to land use, public transportation, infrastructure, etc., are probably one of the most common things to come up. We also talk quite a bit about music and technology — these are all the things my crowd tends to nerd out to.
BOLO: What do you love about the marketing industry?
Jason: I love that we constantly get to touch something different. We own a creative corner of the business world, especially when dealing with interactive media. It’s all fundamentally about people, and making brands, products and experiences better. The fact that we get to come up with a ton of cool ideas, run with some of them and test/attach metrics to all of that, that’s pretty great.
BOLO: What do you hate about it?
Jason: It can be frustrating when we have to take a myopic view towards certain brands or products. Sometimes you want to just say that a baby is ugly, and having gotten that bit of nastiness out of the way, move on to figuring out how to put some lipstick on it. Occasionally you can run into a lot of roadblocks with this, and it tends to set up situations where your marketing efforts aren’t as successful as you’d like.
BOLO: Why do you think your BOLO topic is important in today’s marketing climate?
Jason: Earned media is more important than ever. Brands really don’t have full control over the conversation anymore, so the publicity generated by customers (both satisfied and not) is going to define you to a greater degree than your formal marketing will. I don’t think television advertising ever worked that well on me personally, at least not in a way I’m directly cognizant of, but I research almost any product or service I buy online first, even if it’s a pain (many times I’ve been tapping away on my iPhone standing right in front of a product in the aisle of a store, battling AT&T’s single-bar service). I focus on SEO, and this has been the “invisible hand” driving search engine results for some time, but now it’s getting even louder and more transparent with social media.
BOLO: List 5 things about you that only your (best friend/spouse/dog) knows about you?
- I absolutely despise cereal. I can’t eat it without getting completely ill.
- My biggest musical guilty pleasures are Hall & Oates, Huey Lewis & The News, and Roxette. One of these has been sort of reclaimed by hipsters… maybe the other two will follow?
- I’m a little too obsessed with accurate data collection. I have all these superstitious beliefs about my iTunes library and how a certain % of the songs should be listened to between major life milestones (moving, switching jobs, etc.). I have set up a bunch of smart playlists just so I can access this number going backward to life events at any given point.
- Before marketing, I had some interesting jobs: newspaper reporter, record store manager, real estate agent, sandwich maker, tour guide at a historic mansion, and frozen lemonade scooper.
- Not much of a secret, since it’s even in my BOLO bio, but I have a deep fascination with American retail development, in particular, enclosed shopping malls. Along with a friend I run a blog at Labelscar.com where we’ve gone all over the country trying to scrape together pictures, memorabilia, and histories of these centers which are slowly dying out. A lot of people don’t know but the entire concept of an enclosed mall was brought to the US by an Austrian Jew, Victor Gruen, who fled Europe during World War II. He felt that the rapidly expanding cities of the US were lacking in the kinds of town squares they had in Europe–there were no places to be out of your car, walking around with others. He fancied himself an urban planner and malls, as we know them, are somewhat of a bastardization of his concept, but I find them compelling, especially the older ones.
BOLO: If you’ve attended BOLO before, what was your favorite memory? If you haven’t attended, what are you looking forward to the most?
Jason: I haven’t attended, and this is a strange answer but I’m looking forward to the Hotel Valley Ho! I have developed a really deep interest in well-executed boutique hotels, mid-century modern architecture, and this particular kind of desert chic, so I’m pretty excited that this conference is being held in an environment that’s kind of inspiring. I was in Phoenix on a work trip a few months ago and instead of staying with the rest of the team near the airport, I paid out of pocket to stay at the Hotel Clarendon in Midtown which has a similar vibe.
Obviously I’m also psyched about the sessions, and the opportunity to meet with a smaller-sized group of people in this space who aren’t search-specific. The search conferences are useful but a fair amount of them repeat topics I see frequently; the broad-yet-deep nature of BOLO seems like it will present a lot of new opportunities to learn.
BOLO: What other BOLO speaker(s) are YOU excited to hear/see/drink under the table?
Jason: Sree Sreenivasan, in part because I started my career as a journalist and I’ve seen a lot of people from that space come over to this one — there are a lot of transferable skills — but also I think most marketers have a similar kind of worldview as journalists. Also Stephen Randall of LocaModa because I love the place-based social networking space, and really anyone focused on social tracking/analytics (Jeff Widman, for example) which is a space I want to learn more about.
JASON DAMAS is the global Director of Search Engine Optimization at AKQA, the largest independent interactive marketing agency in the world.