In Touch: Managers abroad

Mark D’Arcy, president/chief creative officer, Time Warner Global Media Group

What prompted you to seek work outside New Zealand?
Curiosity.

Can you provide brief sketch of your current role?
I lead the team that creates ideas, content and platforms that leverage Time Warner’s assets against our advertising partners’ biggest challenges.

How does it fit into your career path?
Your question generously assumes I have one! I started writing ads when I was about 18 or 19 almost by accident and discovered (thanks largely to the talents of the people I worked with) I was quite good at it. Within few years I found myself in New York where I worked as creative director at agencies large and small. For the 15 years I was copywriter I really did have an absolute blast. But while I enjoyed many aspects of the job, the simple joy of applying creativity to solve business problems was probably top of the list. That’s pretty much what I do all day and I have to say it’s still lot of fun.

What are its main challenges?
Bandwidth is one of our biggest issues and we have to be really focused about the projects we take on. The second challenge would be keeping ourselves obsessively focused on the user experience of the programs we create. Are they enhancing person’s day or detracting from the content they primarily came here to see and engage with?
We have to equally respect the content, the audience and the client’s needs.
In business people talk lot about ROI and we talk lot about ROA – return on attention. We’re all overwhelmed by choice and empowered to control (and increasingly co-create) the content we decide to enjoy. We make second-by-second decisions as to where we’ll get the absolute best return for the time we invest in particular medium or technology. Is it entertaining? Does it provide utility? Is the experience rewarding? It’s the difference between intrusion and engagement and we obviously try and focus on the latter.

What are three learnings you will take from it?
• People collaborate around good ideas not good intentions.
• Build broad diversity of skills and backgrounds into your talent mix.
• The answer can come from anywhere.

How do you now view New Zealand both as country and economic/business environment?
First and foremost I think of New Zealand as world capital of creativity. Historically these skills were expressed in our well-documented ability to solve problems with number-eight wire and bailing twine. Today this inherent inventiveness (along with hard work) is the basis of all the Kiwi success stories I read about. I recently got involved in KEA and when I meet people or read stories of the amazing things New Zealanders are doing both at home and overseas it’s almost undeniable our greatest natural resource really is the creative and intellectual capital of the people. How you leverage that talent so it can be monetised on the world stage is the obvious issue, and the answer (and I acknowledge the hypocrisy of making this point) doesn’t have to involve the talent hopping on plane and leaving.

What ongoing contribution/involvement would you like to make to New Zealand’s economic future?
As I said, I’m involved in KEA and I do work to support AUT University, which is stunning example of creative revolution in education. I’m always somewhat surprised they own up to me being graduate of the place as it’s transformed from when they let me attend. Other than that I have highly developed skill of seeing any and every legitimate business reason that enables me to get my hands on decent steak-and-cheese pie. So I don’t need too much of an incentive to step off plane in Auckland.

Mark d’Arcy is member of KEA, New Zealand’s global talent community, www.keanewzealand.com

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