Q&A: Elav Horwitz, Global Innovation Director at McCann Worldgroup

Elav Horwitz is McCann Worldgroup’s Global Innovation Director based in New York. As someone who’s fascinated by technology and innovation, she’s curious to find out whether traditional creative processes are still relevant – or if there are better ways to execute ideas today.

Horwitz leads the agency’s HumanTech offering – a division that connects the agency’s clients with a vast network of startups, tech companies, industry experts and teen entrepreneurs to rapidly ideate and prototype solutions.

Last year, it developed a prototype that transforms United States Postal Service mailboxes into fully functioning post offices using voice recognition and artificial intelligence. The project won a Silver Lion in Innovation at Cannes.

 
 

In a few weeks, Horwitz is heading to Thailand to present at AdFest 2019 in a session decoding the creative process. Barbara Messer recently spoke with her about her career, the “Women in Tech” initiative, what the agency world can learn from startups, and more.


How did you move from working in programming for the Israeli army into the world of advertising?

As a kid, I always wanted to work in advertising. I was lucky to have the opportunity in the Israeli army to learn more about technologies and computers. In the army, I was also an instructor for soldiers on these digital tools. I decided that I wanted to learn something that kind of combines digital and tech-education-advertising, so I went and studied ‘Instructional Design’ in college.

One of the courses in my last semester was on advertising and we worked on a project with a digital agency. The CEO came to our final presentations and after mine he offered me a job there and then. The rest is history.

 
 

You recently launched the global ‘Women in Tech’ initiative within McCann Worldgroup. Why were you drawn to a career in technology?

I love the possibilities that technology can enable, so that was my main driver. Sometimes at the beginning, I found that men thought that I didn’t really understand technology, but then I proved them wrong and over time, I gained my reputation.

As a kid, I always wanted to work in advertising. I was lucky to have the opportunity in the Israeli army to learn more about technologies and computers

I think that we need to identify women that have a passion for technology and digital, mentor and nurture them. We need to also highlight and celebrate that we have such women at McCann, and through this, hopefully, influence the advertising and technology industry.

You work with a vast network of startups, tech companies, and teen entrepreneurs. What could agency creatives learn from the creative processes of the startup world?

I think we both can learn from each other, actually. From startups we can learn how to move quickly, try, fail, test and keep improving. The startups can learn from us how to think about people first, their needs and how they can answer those by harnessing the power of creativity.

What is McCann Worldgroup’s HumanTech offering all about?

Our offering includes RapidHack and TeenHack, which are our own methodologies that we developed based on design thinking that moves from ideation-to-prototyping-to-market.

We have also developed a set of internal tools like a startups database, tech cards and walls (yes, walls!) in which we can inspire our teams around the world. (These walls are literally big moveable screens that McCann’s teams use for brainstorming and presentations.)

Our goal, as always, is to execute more innovative ideas to our clients, globally, based on the tools and processes that we created.

What do you enjoy most about your role as McCann’s Global Innovation Director – and what are your biggest challenges?

What I love is to find a new playground almost every day and think how it can be relevant for consumers and for our clients. I think the main challenge that we have is scaling, but it’s also an amazing opportunity, to think how everything that we do can influence our 24,000 employees and our clients all over the world.

Do you think creative approaches in most agencies are outdated? What is McCann doing to rethink its creative process?

I don’t think creative approaches in agencies are outdated because, as we say at McCann, creativity is the only way to survive and by using creativity we can hopefully solve some of the world’s problems.

From startups we can learn how to move quickly, try, fail, test and keep improving. The startups can learn from us how to think about people first, their needs and how they can answer those by harnessing the power of creativity.

I think we can help creatives with tools and processes that can potentially foster a better creative solution: from giving them more data points (yes, creatives love data) to technologies that can help them with the specific brief. It’s hard today to track cultural trends and new technologies, so we can help with those, for example.

What made you want to tackle this subject at AdFest?

I am very interested in the connection between the right brain and left brain, between art and science, between creativity and technology and I hope that throughout my session, people will gain some tangible tools and new ways of thinking on how to connect these two worlds for advertising and marketing purposes.

Coming up with a great idea seems like it should be the most important part of a creative’s role, but you say it’s only half the challenge. Where can great ideas go wrong?

It’s definitely an important role, but craft is also a big part of the idea. Once we have the idea, we should not give up on the execution. We want people to find our idea helpful, inspiring or fun. We want them to engage, share it and talk about it. Hey, we want it to be the best part of their day.

“The Chicken, the Egg, or in today’s tech world, does the Omelette come first?’, presented by Elav Horwitz, takes place Friday 22 March 2019. Book your tickets to ADFEST 2019 via www.ADFEST.com

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