The Egotist Interviews: Scott Prindle, Made Movement's Chief Digital Officer

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With the launch of their first self-initiated project last week and the announcement of Alex Bogusky joining as the fourth partner in an already exceptionally strong agency, we caught up with Made Movement's CTO, Scott Prindle, regarding the past, present and future of a shop that's currently on the tip of a lot of tongues.

Q: Less than a year ago, you made Adweek’s list of ‘The Top 10 Technologists’ working in advertising. And since arriving at CP+B to eventually become Creative Technology Director, Crispin has been named Interactive Agency of the Year three times at Cannes. Why climb down the advertising mountain to get back into the fray by starting something from scratch?

A: It was a very difficult decision to leave. But I’ve always had a tremendous respect for entrepreneurs who have an idea and a vision and then put in the hard work to bring it to life. And in Boulder it seems that every other person you meet is running a start-up, and that entrepreneurial spirit can be contagious. So when the conversations started with Dave and John about forming Made Movement, I realized it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

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Q: Why Boulder as headquarters for an agency focused on supporting a revival in American manufacturing? We know Colorado’s lovable, but wouldn’t somewhere in The Rust Belt, like Detroit or Pittsburgh, be more fitting?

A: We want to promote manufacturing across the country. And with Boulder being one of the most creative, progressive and innovative cities in the U.S., we think we’re in the perfect place to rebrand the Made in U.S.A. movement.

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Q: Tell us about Made Collection, your flash-sale site featuring premium American brands.

A: Our original plan was to launch solely as an agency. But as we spent more time looking into American made product, we realized it was very difficult to find things that we like. So we saw this as an opportunity and started sketching out a few approaches for a curated collection of American made brands. The more we sketched, the more we liked the idea and saw the potential for combining commerce, cause and community as a central hub for the Made in U.S.A revival.

A site feature we’re excited about is a game layer, called Boom Points, which highlights the direct link between your purchase and the good that you’re doing for the U.S. economy. Alongside each product, you’ll see the location of the manufacturer, the number of employees, and the associated Boom Points. This score derives from the manufacturing multiplier effect, a measure showing that a dollar spent on a Made in U.S.A item sparks $1.40 of output in other parts of the economy.

Made Collection. Shopping With A Mission. from Made Movement on Vimeo.

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Q: Are you hoping Made Collection becomes a new-business engine for your agency?

A: We think that it can be. Both components of the business—the agency and the e-commerce site—work towards the same goal of helping drive demand for American-made products. At the confluence of these efforts, we’ll build a social platform where we’ll lead and engage a community of enthusiasts. We think this opens up a number of options for clients looking to advance their brand and actively join the conversation around the Made in U.S.A. movement.

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Q: Have you always been a believer in American-made products or have you grown into it recently?

A: It’s something I’ve grown into over the last few years. My wife is a fashion designer and works with manufacturers in the garment district in New York City. Through that process, I started to better understand the mechanics of production and the effects of offshoring. And as the economy has continued to struggle, I began to see the importance of buying American-made product in support of American jobs.

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Q: If an American product pales in quality to its foreign-made counterpart, do you still condone purchasing it? In other words, how deep does your commitment go toward stuff made on our soil?

A: We don’t want support for Made in U.S.A to mean an acceptance of inferior product. We know we live in a global economy, and there are many high quality products made outside of the U.S. that we love and can’t do without. And in a lot of product categories, especially in the electronics space, options for buying American-made are very limited. So one of our goals is to rally consumers around the reshoring movement, letting our favorite brands know that we’d love them even more if they made their products here.

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Q: How did Americans get so far off-track by not consistently seeking out and supporting companies and products made in this country?

A: It’s very easy to get hooked on buying a lot of stuff at very low prices. And that’s what has happened as offshoring has reduced the costs of manufacturing. At the same time, there’s been a growing sentiment that nothing (or very little of interest or quality) is made in the U.S.A. any more. So we stopped seeking out American-made products.

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Q: Why do you think now is such a prime time for the resurgence of ‘Made in the U.S.A’ sentiment?

A: As we continue to struggle to work our way out of the recession, with an 8.2 percent unemployment rate and with all of us knowing a friend or family member out of work or underemployed, I think we’re starting to see the hidden costs of offshoring—costs in terms of jobs, costs in terms of poor quality, throw away products, and costs in terms of the environment. The recession has been a wake-up call, and more and more we’re seeing the good things that happen when you buy American-made products.

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Q: What’s your favorite American brand?

A: I like Rag & Bone, an NYC-based clothing brand that makes a lot of their garments in American factories. And I also like New England Shirt Company, based in Fall River, Massachusetts, which once had a thriving textile industry. They have a great story to tell in terms of staying in continuous operation through the offshoring era.

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Q: Name three dream clients for Made.

A: There are many clients on our dream list, and that’s hard to narrow down. But we talk a lot about three key categories of manufacturers where we’d be really excited to do work. One is a brand that has always made their products here, has resisted the offshoring trend, and is looking to get a boost by lifting Made in U.S.A in their brand messaging. Another is a brand that has offshored but is now looking to re-shore some (or all) of its manufacturing. And a third is a brand doing advanced manufacturing in growing sectors such as renewable energy, high tech or automotive.

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Q: Political party affiliation aside, who better aligns with Made Movement’s agenda come this November election — Obama or Romney?

A: Jobs and the economy are front and center in the campaign, and we see this as a non-partisan issue that any politician would want to support.

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Q: Who’s your hero in the industry and why?

A: John Mayo-Smith, Chief Technology Officer at R/GA. I had the good fortune to work for John at R/GA for many years and learned a tremendous amount about how to integrate technology into a creative-driven environment. This experience helped me significantly in my efforts in building out the technology department at CP+B. John continues to raise the bar for innovative technology leadership in our industry.

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Q: What invaluable thing did you learn at CP+B and/or R/GA that you’ve carried forward into your new endeavor?

A: A key learning from R/GA is that interactive is a team sport, and the closer the relationship between UX, design, production and technology, the better the work. And a key learning from CP+B is that great work starts with a great idea. Then you look for the right technology to bring the idea to life.

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Q: A visionary, young coder is about to take a job at a software company. Convince them to instead take a job at an advertising agency.

A: First, I’d acknowledge that this person has a lot of opportunities in front of them. Software development is a skill set that has been in high demand over the last 15 to 20 years, even through the recession. And the demand will continue to grow. Second, I’d stress that advertising isn’t for everyone. Software development in a creative-driven agency looks different than it does in a pure software development shop, or enterprise IT organization.

But for the coder interested in being in a vibrant, team-driven, creative environment, where they’ll have the opportunity to explore, prototype and invent on a daily basis, and work with a wide variety of technologies on a wide variety of project types, then an advertising agency is the perfect place.

Digital is disrupting the advertising business, and brands are looking for inventive, groundbreaking digital platforms to drive their business. This opens up significant opportunities for coders to be creative and strategic leaders in the advertising space. The industry’s next Don Draper could be a coder.

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Q: On this topic of agencies losing good developers to other industries, what are your recommendations for finding and attracting primo digital talent?

A: I’ve spent a lot of time recruiting developers over the last 10 years. I think the most challenging stretch was during the Flash-microsite era, when every digital and advertising company was recruiting from the same very small pool of Flash developers—a niche skill set combining visual, motion and software development capabilities. With the growth of social and mobile technologies, and the accompanying shift towards larger-scale brand platform and utilities, the advertising industry now affords opportunities for a broader range of technology skill sets. Developers who started their career in software development shops, within enterprise IT organizations, or in academia, who never would have considered working in advertising, are now starting to see the rewarding opportunities that the industry offers.

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Q: BDW seems to be going through a shift from training students for careers inside agencies to training students for running startups. As a member of the school’s advisory board, can you give us some insight on why this change is happening?

A: BDW was founded to develop digital talent for the advertising industry. But with digital transforming everything around us, we recognized that we could evolve the program to support a broader range of creative industries, including start-ups. I’ve been fortunate to work with BDW students at the school, CP+B and Made Movement, and it’s inspiring to see the level of leadership, creativity, problem solving and innovative thinking that they bring to any organization.

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Q: What makes a great technology leader in advertising today? Creative technologists seem to be a lot of different people with different skills — some are developers, some are not, some are idea people and some are neither. What is it that makes a great tech person in advertising?

A: A great technology leader in advertising combines a comprehensive knowledge of coding and software engineering principles with an understanding of all aspects of the advertising, media and digital marketing space. The creative technologist experiments, invents, brings forth brand and platform ideas, guides creative and strategic thinking, and teams with other discipline leads to deliver innovative digital solutions to clients.

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Q: How do you stay at the forefront of emerging tech so you can properly advise the creatives around you on the best solutions?

A: The pace of technology change over the last few years has been amazing. It wasn’t too long ago that the agency technologist’s toolkit was centered around a handful of technologies—Flash, HTML, video and databases. Now the technologist thinks about mobile, tablets, social, mashups, open APIs, physical computing, gesture recognition, gaming and a long list of other technologies.

What I’ve found is helpful for keeping pace is taking a rapid prototyping approach, where you research a new technology, move quickly to a working application, and then show that to others within the organization. Eyes light up when people can interact with something and comment and quickly imagine all of the possibilities.

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Q: Personally, what do you wish you would have or could have spent more time learning (ie. ROR, Python, other)?

A: I’d love to spend more time experimenting with physical computing technologies. As computing gets faster, cheaper and smaller, we’ll continue to see digital move beyond our laptops and smart phones into every aspect of our environment. Over the last few years, the industry has seen some innovative work in this space, including Nike’s Chalkbot and Volkswagen’s Fun Theory—two of my favorite recent campaigns.

We’re fortunate here in Boulder to have one of the leaders in this space, Sparkfun Electronics, close by. It’s always fun to browse their listing of components and sensors and think of all of the amazing possibilities. Now I need to head over there and take one of their classes.

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Q: How do you reconcile the idea of having a set budget and deadline in advertising alongside the idea that development is never finished? “Agile” and “advertising” seem completely at odds.

A: This has always been one of the challenges of making software in an advertising environment. But as digital has moved to the center of advertising, and as clients shift marketing dollars towards digital product and utilities, we’ve been able to arrange ongoing retainers to allow for continued platform evolution and development.

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Q: So, it’s officially been announced that Alex Bogusky is a partner and creative adviser at Made. That’s large. Tell us something about the partnership that Alex didn’t already tell The Wall Street Journal in the article they ran.

A: Alex is just fundamentally bored by the traditional agency model. So he keeps pushing us into uncharted areas of community building and movement engineering. And already our relationships with clients are much more like partnerships, where we’re building their offerings and sharing in the upside.

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Q: Paint us a picture of Made Movement five years from now.

A: A thriving, vibrant creative culture; working with innovative, forward-thinking clients; continuing to evolve the agency business model; leading the community of Made in U.S.A enthusiasts; and having a measurable impact on jobs and the American economy.

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Comments

Dense! Great answers overall. I wish the best for Made. Thanks for doing this, Scott.

Great article. I learned a lot about Scott Prindle and his interview. Thanks for the great information.

Well done. It is a clear and smart article about a company and people with a vision. The advertising industry need new models in both the agencies and the production companies. The relationship between the client , agency ,suppliers and consumer is changing and Scott is on it. The Made in America is great example of this thinking and it benefits all of us. I wish them great success.

Good on you, Scott!

Great stuff. Didn't Dave Schiff do a ONCE session? Would love to hear what he had to say too.

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