5Qs: Deutsch’s Winston Binch

Winston Binch spent six years at Crispin Porter + Bogusy, helping build the agency’s well-respected digital practice and serving as one of the agency’s partners. On Friday, Deutsch/LA announced Binch would join the Interpublic Group firm as its chief digital officer and partner. Binch, who came to CP+B from digital agency R/GA, discusses his reason for making the switch to Deutsch, why traditional agencies will win at digital and the imperative for agencies to move beyond messaging and into products.
Why leave now?
I’ve been here close to six years. I came here for the opportunity to work with guys like Jeff Benjamin and Rob Reilly and build a world-class tech capability. I feel like we accomplished that. The strength of the digital capability is among the best. That’s been proved in the work, whether Domino’s or Epic Mix or American Express Open Forum. CP+B has proved you can build brands and build huge powerful digital platforms in the same building. That goal was accomplished. I have a passion for building and inventing things. It feels like a great time for others in the industry to make leaps forward. Deutsch has been doing digital for a long time. They have strong technology. They built VW.com. They’re very eager to blow it out. There’s a great attitude there. It’s a great opportunity to push it even further. They have all the assets to do huge things.
Why a “traditional” agency?
I believe, particularly after CP+B, that traditional agencies are the future of digital. Look at what Wieden and Goodby are doing. I believe there are fewer great idea people than there are great technologists. APIs have leveled the playing field for a lot of agencies in a significant way. Having the ability to build brands and be creative, not necessarily attach to a certain media, is really important. You can have a technology layer under that and ingrain it in a creative process. You’ll see a lot more agencies from the traditional side push the envelope of digital innovation.
The knock on traditional agencies is they’re all ideas, no capabilities.
Does it matter if a traditional shop can’t build stuff in digital?
The thing that attracted me to Deutsch is they build platforms. They’ve proven it with VW.com. I really believe that building dot-coms is a craft and art but it can be learned. I wouldn’t be drawn to an agency that hasn’t proven to do it successfully. Deutsch really has. To be a successful marketer you have to work in that space. In auto the dot-com is your flagship store. For a brand marketing agency responsible for building a brand you have to be there. It’s a necessity. Building is absolutely important. In digital a lot of the great ideas come out of tinkering and experimentation. If you farm it out, you’re not involved intimately in the prototyping process and the discovery that comes out of that. I also believe in collaboration. I’m realistic to say one agency can’t have the very best people at any one time. But I don’t think you can understand how to get the most out of the creative unless you come from a culture of building. You need a strong tech core.
What’s a chief digital officer if everything is digital?
We’re figuring that out. The title is a symbol of what I represent. I’m a digital native and it’s my expertise. I’ve always had in my hand in a lot of things. My goal is to take Deutsch from being a really good agency digitally to a top-caliber shop. I want to build a culture of invention and help them adopt the language and help pour more gas on it.
Why do you think it’s important agencies get closer to product development?
People check three to five sites a day. To be relegated to digital marketing, you’re adding to clutter of the web. People aren’t seeking you out. Seeing the success of Epic Mix for Vail has changed the conversation around skiing and the mountains. People are seeking the brand out in new ways. Mobile is going to add another complexity to it. If you can’t make things that are useful for people, you won’t reach them. Digital advertising is important but it’s not enough. Banners move a brand in millimeters, they don’t change a culture. You have to be able to make things that people talk about, use and come back to. We have to encourage frequency. And to drive frequency you have to be useful.
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