‘A strong leader develops future leaders’: Indie Insights with Jessica Reznick of We’re Magnetic

Jessica Reznick, president of experiential firm We're Magnetic discusses the rise of live events and her indie shop's role in it / We're Magnetic

Welcome to Independent Insights, a regular series that features interviews with independent agency leaders across the country. This week we’re featuring a Q&A with Jessica Reznick, president of experiential agency, We’re Magnetic.

We’re Magnetic considers itself more of experiential partner than just an agency, using its multi-faceted team of engineers, project managers, and designers to create activations for brands such as Sony, Nike, Facebook and Netflix, among others.

Reznick joined the company as managing director in 2014 after stints at Deutsch, 72andSunny, CP+B and CAA. Now in her role as president, she oversees the work that comes out of the company’s offices in New York, Los Angeles and London.

The Drum last spoke to Reznick at November's 3% Conference about what drives her to continue working in what's still male-dominated industry.

In this conversation, she talks about the evolution of the live event space and experiential marketing, how brands avoid getting gimmicky with experiential, what it takes to get hired by the Magnetic Collective, and how much progress she’s seen for women entering leadership roles.

How have live events, as a marketing medium, evolved since you first started in the space?

Live events have truly evolved since I started my career. Prior to We’re Magnetic, I worked at traditional creative agencies – CP+B, 72andSunny and then the marketing arm of CAA.

During that time, I began to realize that experiential marketing was becoming increasingly valuable to brands and that there was real opportunity in the experiential space. It struck me that consumers were looking for different things from brands than they had previously. Consumers wanted to engage and co-create experiences in real life, and simultaneously were paying less attention to the messages that brands were pushing at them.

This dynamic has continued to increase in recent years, and we’re seeing Gen Z, our future consumers, especially drawn to creating experiences that complement and enrich their digitally savvy lives. Of course brands have recognized this as well, and experiences have become a harder-working and more important aspect of their overall marketing mix.

With this evolution, expectations of events are changing, too. No longer can events be cool just for the sake of being cool. Instead they must be built through the same brand objective lens as more traditional tactics, and most importantly, they must deliver real impact. Given this shift, we’re seeing better, smarter work. It’s an exciting time to be an experiential leader right now, and the opportunities feel limitless.

2018 feels like the year of the branded pop-up experience. Brands big and small have decided to bet big on Instagram-worthy spaces to drive awareness and the opportunity for sales. How do you ensure that your clients think bigger than the social buzz?

It seems that many people are putting the emphasis on building a shareable, Instagram-worthy space and backdrop. They are focusing on profiting from the consumer’s desire to share the photo, yet neglecting the all-important opportunity to create an experience that conveys a creative story for the viewer. When generating Instagram posts is the end goal, the consumer tends to walk away feeling empty and a little cheated. Photos and other sharable content generated at an event are great, but they can only accomplish so much on their own.

For our team, using the physical space to market and truly tell a brand’s story and message is paramount, and central to all of our work. We set out to create an authentic environment that connects the consumer to the brand’s message in real-life, and enables consumers to co-create a memorable experience with the brand. Sharable content of this experience is simply the icing on the cake. The other strategic elements are really key to creating an effective activation.

What do you look for when hiring at We’re Magnetic?

We’re a collective of creative and strategic minds drawn from different fields including architecture, engineering, design, technical production and advertising. One of the best aspects of our company culture is that we don’t have a cookie cutter mold when it comes to hiring. I think our greatest strength is drawn from our mix of individuals with different perspectives, expertise, and backgrounds, all of which complement each other so well. And given that, we don’t require any sort of straight and narrow career path in the experiential marketing industry to join our team.

From a work ethic standpoint, candidates need to love the fast pace and vulnerable aspect of live events. Our industry moves more rapidly than some of our counterparts, and much of our work happens in a way that leaves us quite exposed to our clients and competitors.

Because of that, you have to be energized by the thrill of live production and be emotionally strong enough to make mistakes in real time. You also have to be able to recover when they do happen, without letting those errors snowball into larger mistakes. We don’t have the safety nets of dark edit bays, or multiple eyes reviewing around the table before our work is shipped to print. When we go live, we are live and our job is far from over.

We’re over a third of the way through 2018 — what’s something you and your colleagues see that the industry needs to take notice of?

We need to educate our clients about what actually goes into creating experiential marketing. As an industry, we develop amazing live events and often make it look easy. However, in reality, a high level of expertise, strategic planning, financial investment and safety considerations go into each production in order to make it appear flawless. Also, while our timelines are generally extremely tight in the experiential realm, you simply can’t rush engineering and architectural planning, or fake the physics part of the equation.

I think this is especially important as we’re seeing more and more “experts” in the space, who are dressing the part but incapable of truly delivering. Clients that are better educated about the realities of the process are more fully equipped to seek the right partner. They are also able to develop a realistic timeline so that everyone is set up for success. Together we can create events with lasting and meaningful impact.

2018 has been an opportunity for the industry to shine a spotlight on female leadership. You have the pleasure of working with a company that’s majority female — what more do you believe can be done to even the playing field?

There is so much positive change happening in the industry right now, and it’s encouraging to see more women in leadership roles. We’re in a unique position because the majority of our team are women, and we have several women leaders. I believe that at We’re Magnetic and beyond, we must all use our platforms and opportunities to set a positive example and do good things.

In other words, share the positive changes we are creating, inspire others, and be inspired in the process.

I also think that in order to even out the playing field, female leaders can and should take action on policies that support fair representation and equal opportunities for all employees. We must also create new inroads into our field for people that wouldn’t otherwise see advertising and marketing as a real career possibility. It’s our responsibility to foster company cultures that are built on care and compassion for one another, and ultimately support employees with whatever challenges they face at various life stages. I think this is the right thing to do on a human level, and it also ensures we keep and grow great talent.

In history, a sign of a strong leader is one who develops future leaders. I hope women will continue to share their unique strengths and perspectives with their teams and the broader industry. That’s what I am trying to do!

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