Roy started his career as a copywriter at Y&R, Tel Aviv in 2007. In 2011, he was promoted to ECD at the agency, a role in which he managed the entire online creative department. Over the course of his career, he has worked for clients such as American Express, Toshiba, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Ford, Hyundai, Danone, Teva, Colgate, O2, Dove, and more. In addition to ten Cannes Lions, his roll-call of industry honors includes a Golden Clio, an LIA award, and distinctions from Eurobest, NYF, D&AD (in book) and One Show (merit awards). Roy joined Michael Weinzettl for the Q&A session that follows.
Hi Roy, thank you very much for your selection of digital work for this issue of Lürzer’s Archive. What were some of the criteria you applied?
I asked myself a few simple questions. How brave was the client? Did they take a few risks? Did the agency apply current digital trends and use them in an amazing way? New technologies are starting to become overused in advertising – so how did they give it a new twist to make the work groundbreaking? I want to see an idea and “wish it was mine!”
Can you tell us about your career to date? You started out in Tel Aviv at Avnon Amichay/Y&R Interactive, then you went on to Germany, and then London.
Digital kind of chose me. In 2006, after finishing my studies, I was looking for my first job in advertising. Shalmor Avnon Amichay\Y&R were one of the best agencies at the time and I wanted to work there. They didn’t have any offline jobs but I managed to sneak in as a digital copywriter. I was hooked! Digital offered me so many possibilities and I stayed for the next six years. I progressed from junior copywriter – and chief coffee maker – to ECD, leading the entire digital department. We had lots of success, winning pitches and working on some great projects, which were awarded at all of the major festivals. I was now ready to move on and take my career global. An opportunity came up in Germany and I decided to take the plunge, so I moved to Jung von Matt Hamburg. There, I learned to work in a completely new way in an unfamiliar market, culture, language, and mentality. After three successful years, the bright lights of London came calling. I started at Blue Hive in 2015 and partnered with Nick Watmough as digital creative directors. Together, we are leading the best teams in the universe!
Tell us about your experiences during the “German phase.” Was it all in digital/interactive or did you do “classic” advertising (meaning print and film) too?
The German market is an interesting one. People don’t tend to be earlier adopters and are a little bit cautious – unlike Israel, which is known as the Silicon Valley of the Middle East. The German market still heavily relies on traditional media, so even though the work was predominantly digital, we still produced TVCs, print, and OOH. What we managed to do was to combine innovation with traditional advertising. For example, we created a special 2-in-1 commercial for Mercedes-Benz that showed viewers the A-Class AMG if they fast-forwarded the ad on their TiVo receiver. If not, they watched the regular A-Class.
Who were some of the people you admired when you first started out in the business? Can you name any particular influence on your work?
I was fortunate to have two mentors at the start of my career. Eran Gefen, the founder and former CCO of Y&R Interactive Tel Aviv, was a big influence for me. He taught me about digital advertising and a few months after starting he gave me CP+B’s “Hoopla” as a present. The book blew my mind and I’ve been applying its way of thinking to our work ever since. When Y&R Interactive merged with Shalmor Avnon Amichay to become a leading integrated agency, Eran left and Gideon Amichay, the founder and CCO of the agency, became my mentor. As Gideon was from a traditional media/design background and Eran was a high-tech entrepreneur, I had the opportunity to learn from both worlds and improve my integrated skills, trying to be as media-neutral as possible.
What were your first experiences with digital media like and can you, perhaps, tell us of an early experiment in the digital arena you were involved in?
The first big digital experience I was involved in was “The Internet Shutdown.” We created this project to bring back three missing Israeli soldiers who were kidnapped by Hezbollah in 2006. To commemorate the day of the kidnapping one year after the event, we asked the main internet sites in the country to shut down for 5 minutes. We needed all of them to join in, to show the true power of the internet, and at the right moment they all joined us stopping the internet. Even the biggest TV channel in the country took part. This was the first time the local market realized the power and potential of online digital media.
As of March 2015 you’ve become Digital Creative Director on the Ford of Europe account at Blue Hive. Can you tell us about Blue Hive in general? Where are you guys based? Who are some of their clients?
Blue Hive is a joint venture between JWT, Ogilvy and Wunderman, creating WPP’s one-stop shop for Ford and one of the biggest advertising accounts in the industry. Ford has always been – and will remain – the main client of the agency, but recently we started bringing in new business and won a pitch for South West Trains, one of the UK’s main rail operators.
What are the some of the challenges facing you as digital creative director for Ford of Europe?
Having only one major client is a bit like being part of a big family. I’ve worked on large global accounts before, such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW, but the agency relationship with Ford is much closer. We don’t always agree on everything and, as a huge corporation, it’s difficult to stay flexible, but we are lucky to have a client who truly embraces digital. Recently, we developed a “digital first” strategy to help drive innovation in digital and social. We are now focusing on Mustang, Edge, and Focus RS to showcase how awesome the brand is. We established an annual social media plan and started to work with different markets on digital activities. In the Netherlands, for example, we wanted to test what fans would do to get their hands on a new Mustang. We created a 24hr livestream on YouTube that forced viewers to stare at an empty road for 24 hours and wait until a Mustang with code passed by. The winner was the one who shared the code first.
What is the work you’re most proud of? Is it the work that won you those ten Cannes Lions?
I’m struggling to find one project. They’ve all been fueled by lots of caffeine and late nights, but the rewards make the hard work worthwhile. I’m proud of every win, but some of the experiential projects I’ve been involved in make me really happy too. The “Night Terror App” we developed for the Horror Channel, which monitored people’s dreams and turned them into nightmares, was fascinating. The O2 “Calling Greeting Card,” which turned a regular printed card into a fully functioning phone, was also a great learning experience for me. More recently, South West Trains is probably one of the best clients I’ve ever worked on, mainly because they are prepared to work with us in a totally transparent way, as real partners, giving us the creative freedom that will inevitably produce some amazing work.
And how important to you are ad awards in general?
Advertising is a tough business, with little appreciation for what we do out there in the real world. Jeff Benjamin once said on the Cannes stage: “This is the only place that people will honor you for a banner.” Fueling our motivation to produce amazing work while keeping our creative output level high is therefore crucial in our industry. Awards give us something to measure our creativity by and enable us to forget all the crap we go through. On the other hand, I think that too many sub-festival awards are diluting the prestige of the main event. Each piece of work can be submitted to 8 different categories and it seems like it’s just a case of having enough money to enter, creating a negative impression of awards in general.
Do you see digital as just another addition to a creative’s toolkit, or is there much more to it?
The world is digital! It’s no longer a bolt-on to an above-the-line idea. TVCs have become digital content, extended in an immersive digital world. Even radio is being replaced by a Spotify playlist. It doesn’t matter what channel an idea is for – in this new world, they all blend into one. With all the innovation and technology available, the basic tools of telling a story, and the insight behind it, are still the most important values in creating a memorable experience.
You’ve worked in Israel, Germany, and the UK. Any differences you found in the mentality, way of working, attitudes …?
The Israeli market is a bit like the Wild West. Lots of clients with little money to spend have a constant need for ideas. Five presentations a week and a timeframe of three weeks from brief to delivery. It’s a great motivator and some great work happens this way. In Germany, the focus is all about craft: you can produce three projects in a year and they go though multiple stakeholders and rounds of changes until they are perfect. The UK is in the middle of these approaches: you have more freedom to improvise and the final execution is also important. One thing I’m still struggling with is the multiple meanings some words and phrases have in the UK. When I was first told I had an interesting idea, what they actually meant was: “Roy, it’s horrible!”
What do you forecast for the future? Will print advertising as we know it disappear completely?
In my opinion, digital media such as banners and pre-rolls will disappear long before traditional media. If brands don’t add value by finding new ways to entertain, consumers will lose interest quickly and seek an alternative. After all, when reading a magazine they can only skip a page, whereas in digital they can block it and ignore it completely.
Where do you get the inspiration for your work?
I try to absorb almost every experience I encounter during the day into inspiration I can tap into. This could be people chatting on the bus or conversations with close friends. Digital trends, culture, start-ups, and literature also play a part. Anything, really, as long as it’s not advertising!