.

You’re right—the web is no longer confined to the web, so we don’t find focusing on digital to be any kind of limitation. In 2014, with the mobile screen our ever-present companion, with social underpinning our every experience, with digital displays dominating our outdoor, retail, and living room experiences, the digital canvas simply IS the canvas.

question Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

My business card says ECD at Atmosphere Proximity (where we serve consumers on behalf of brands), but what I really am is a wannabe cartoonist/art director/first baseman/E Street Band guitarist making his way through life as a copywriter. 

I’ve spent quality time on the traditional side at DDB and Ogilvy (among others), but my love for all things interactive led me to Atmosphere in 2007, where I’ve been fortunate enough to help guide the digital experience for such diverse brands as AT&T, Citi, Cognizant, HP, J&J DePuy, Emirates Airline and Visa. 

What do you do for inspiration?

Read, read, read. And try to sponge up storytelling in all its forms, from books and comics/graphic novels to television and film. 

Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

pulse.me, comixology.com, kickstarter.com

How do you relax or unwind?

Play Dad to my three boys. Go for a run. Re-introduce myself to my wife. Get my soul crushed by the Mets and Jets. Travel with the aforementioned wife and three boys.

If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?

Trying to write comics, graphic novels, short stories . . . that I could then market on the internet.

What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?

Favorite part of the job is, as always, nailing the brief with an original, insanely-compelling idea that absolutely demands to be brought into the world. Hardest part of the job is keeping the Lords of Compromise at bay so that the original, insanely-compelling idea actually does get brought into the world without losing what made it original and insanely-compelling in the first place. 

When it all comes together—idea, execution, user experience—nothing’s more gratifying. Case in point, our Visa 360 App that you recently honored as FWA Mobile of the Day.

When I get stuck, I try to look at the problem through different eyes. What does the end-user want? Hate? Need? How would a screenwriter attack the issue? A stand-up comic? A child? When all else fails: WWBD (What Would Bernbach Do)?

What software could you not live without?

Apple’s gift to all copywriter-kind: Keynote.

Are there any websites that have shone through as being pioneering in the last 5 years or so?

Just to name a few: kickstarter.com, comixology.com, square.com, Wattpad and medium.com— though it’s not really the websites (or apps) that are pioneering, but the innovative service/business models they represent.

When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?

That’s the beauty of the digital space: we can take a general framework that speaks to a large group, then target and tailor experiences down to the individual level. The best clients recognize the need to offer this degree of customization, and the fun lies in figuring out how smart, intuitive and automatic we can drive the interaction.

What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?

It was a microsite (remember those?) for AT&T, born of a brief to talk about AT&T’s network superiority, and based on the consumer insight that in today's mobile society, no one's life takes place in just one place.

So as part of an integrated advertising effort to communicate that AT&T seamlessly connects “every place you live,” we developed WhereDoYouLive.com, an online store that literally let visitors seamlessly connect the names of key places in their lives. 

Our flash intro (remember those?) explained it all: “Because you live in more than one place, AT&T works in more places. And now the wireless network that brings your world together invites you to do the same on the custom souvenir of your choice.” 

Users were then invited to list three places they regularly travel between—such as Baltimore, Atlanta and Columbia—and were immediately presented with a new mash-up of a name—in this case,“Baltilanbia.” They could then place the name, along with a personalized slogan, on an equally quirky (and tastefully branded) t-shirt, mug, bumper sticker or tote bag available for further customization and purchase.

It's no longer online, though I'm sure it lives forever in our hearts.

Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?

Do 200-page brand guideline tomes count? Definitely plan to make the time to attempt it someday. Don’t see myself as a novelist, but one of my goals is definitely to get back to short story writing again. 

Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?

To me, creativity is forever fueled by curiosity, so outside of work I simply try to keep my eyes open to all the subtle—and not-so-subtle—ways technology is changing our daily lives. When you live and breathe the internet as we do, you end up looking at the world through a digital lens anyway . . . the hope is that you’ll subconsciously retain whatever real-world insights and inspirations you collect for use later on.

What was the last digital effort you saw (or were a part of) that used social media in a way that really made sense. Why?

The phrase social-by-design may have become marketing jargon, but the best socially-powered experiences—like Chrysler’s Dodge Dart Registry and Samsung’s Smart Phone Line—live up to an ideal we try to hold all our work to: digital experiences that make brands more valuable to people, and, in turn, make people more valuable to brands. 

For the Visa Signature rewards program, we used social to reengineer the brand proposition itself. In a category cluttered with offers that hold little relevance for the consumer, we asked the cardholders themselves to suggest the benefits that would get added to the program. This not only helped the brand prove that what matters to cardholders matters to Visa—it created an ongoing virtuous cycle where the perks, benefits and rewards are redeemed by the very people who inspired them.

The web is getting out of the web. Do you find that thinking in digital solutions alone hinders you? Do you feel the urge to solve the problem using all mediums necessary?

You’re right—the web is no longer confined to the web, so we don’t find focusing on digital to be any kind of limitation. In 2014, with the mobile screen our ever-present companion, with social underpinning our every experience, with digital displays dominating our outdoor, retail, and living room experiences, the digital canvas simply IS the canvas.

Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?

Ask me again in July (we've got something cool in the works).

There is perhaps a shift in web use these days. We are seeing a decline in the purely experiential sites in flash with huge production efforts, to a relationship with clients based on tools and services, that many times have simples interfaces. How do you see that trend developing? Will Flash suffer?

I don’t see the trend toward tools and services doing anything but gaining momentum; in many ways, it represents digital marketing in its purest form: the personification of a brand promise through an ownable, tangible and valuable experience, utility or service that fulfills a user’s unmet need. 

As for the second part of the question, I believe the marketplace has already shown that Flash doesn’t serve as an essential ingredient in this new mobile-first, customer-centric model.

What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?

The TARDIS. 

How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?

By doing everything I can to keep up, from picking coworkers’ brains to attending award shows to keeping the Smashing Magazine, Web Design Ledger and FWA tabs permanently open on my browser.

What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?

Saga Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Hands-down the best comic published today. (And well worth the $15 for the digital compilation.)

Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

It all starts and ends with the consumer. They’re the real clients—and the business is the better for it.

It has been a privilege, thanks very much

Always fun to talk shop. Thank you for the interest.


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Stewart Krull, EVP, Executive Creative Director, Atmosphere Proximity
Stewart Krull, EVP, Executive Creative Director, Atmosphere Proximity

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