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Innovation Strategy with Mathieu Albrand - Careers Behind the Curtain

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

This is the second instalment of our new series ‘Careers behind the curtain’ where we interview people from all different creative industries to bring an awareness and understanding of their role and the endless roles that exist out there.

Today's guest comes all the way 'virtually' from the city that never sleeps, you know the one, where he works as a Global Innovation Strategist in the Futures Team at the monumental New York office of advertising giant McCann WorldGroup.

For those unfamiliar with McCann, they are a leading global marketing services company with an integrated network of advertising agencies in over 120 countries, also made mainstream known by the 2007 TV advertising series Mad Men.

They've been the creators behind world famous ads throughout history for brands such as Coca Cola, Mastercard, creators of the infamous L'Oréal 'You're worth it' line, the worlds most awarded campaign 'Dumb Ways To Die', to Snoop Dog rapping about tacos and noodles for JustEat.

Gaming, tech and web 3 enthusiast and specialist, Mathieu Albrand has studied and worked around the world from San Diego, Barcelona, Paris to New York. Starting his career in motion & design before moving into Innovation Strategy at McCann. We’re diving into his role as an Innovation Strategist, his career journey, and his advice to anyone who may find the world of creative tech interesting.

Also if you're a beginner to tech, or even if you're someone who thinks of a silk fly trap when you hear the word 'Web', don't fret, there is a tech jargon glossary at the bottom.

Selina: Innovation Strategist sounds fascinating can you give me an intro into your job title and what it is you do?

Mathieu: Yeah, so I'm a Senior Global Innovation Strategist, part of the Futures Team at McCann WorldGroup based in New York. McCann WorldGoup is a creative network that do everything from traditional advertising, production, TV, film, PR, print, to social media, experiential and everything in between. McCann WorldGroup help create synergies between all these medias and really deliver on high-profile client asks.

The futures team is a team of six people. We're global, which just means we get to work with different offices/brands/clients around the world. We work directly under the Global Chief Innovation Officer. We're kind of his SWAT team.

And we help answer a variety of needs usually from our top ten biggest earning global clients.

The way I like to describe the role of our team is like Black Mirror, but with a positive twist.

Black Mirror, (Netflix show), is all about the future, and the relationship between humans and technology and the fine line that technology, in a very possible and plausible future, can actually come at the detriment of human health, well-being and prosperity.

But we try and understand emerging technology areas, things like 5G, AI, blockchain web3 (the Metaverse, NFT’s decentralised organisations, blockchain technologies and more) and help create pathways to guide our brands, clients and our businesses to a more preferable future. So that they can harness this technology, in a positive way that's benefiting them, allowing them to grow their business, but also create meaningful experiences for their customers.

For the past few years, I've been pretty much 100% on Web3 which has been really fun because I’m interested in crypto and collecting NFTS and also being a gamer.

Selina: Can you give an example of what type of work/projects do work on in the Futures Team?

In short we inspire by co creating with brands and employees and help bring ideas to life.

So to inspire ideas, we've created a lot of products or online tools and methodologies to help people come up with ideas. So I manage a product that we call the Creative Hack. Which is a 2-hour digital, global workshop that anyone from any McCann office around the world can join, to collaborate and brainstorm together to solve a set client brief.

Before covid we used to do them IRL, we'd fly in people from across the world, invite experts and host a big session, but now they’re just online on a site called Miro.

Another ideation tool we created was the Tech and Truth online card game which mixes and matches new and emerging technologies with relevant human and cultural truths, to help you come up with ideas by combining truth and insights with emerging tech.

Once we’ve helped inspire ideas, we support teams to bring those ideas to life through our redirecting work to our innovation producers globally.

For example, if a client such as Mastercard wanted to explore how they could get their brand involved in or do an activation in the Metaverse, they would come to us and we'd co create ideas on how they could do that.

But we don’t just work with big clients like MasterCard, we also have a really robust network of start-ups, particularly in web3, that we work and have regular calls with, that we’re always seeing if there's ever any kind of synergy with them and any creative ideas we have.

Selina: What's been your career journey to get this point of your life?

I had a really weird, non-traditional path to where I'm at, I'm really happy where I ended up, but there were times where it was like such a pain in the ass doing things I didn't like.

I studied Communications and Visual Arts as an Undergrad. From a young age I always was really interested in film, I loved making short videos and editing, so I took a couple film classes in college. Also being a gamer meant I was really quick with the hot keys, so learning Adobe premiere was easy.

I didn’t really know what I wanted to do out of college, I got an internship in my senior year at a production house that worked on high end commercial work for sports brands. I would go on shoots and I got the opportunity to work with really fancy, expensive cameras, which taught me a lot.

I decided after I graduated I wanted to something new, so I moved to Paris and got a job at J Walter Thompson and was basically a Jack of trades there.
I taught myself motion graphic design, After Effects, all the main Adobe software. But I was looking towards the future, at my long term future. And I was like, I don't wanna be like editing like chocolate bar commercials when I'm 40 years old.

I decided to do a masters program called Design Management, at a design school in Barcelona for a year, which was a great learning experience and really trained me on building brand strategies.

Then I moved to New York and got my first job at a consulting firm that did market research consulting and it was just not the right fit at all. I knew a couple of weeks in. I knew it. My boss knew it. It just wasn’t creative enough for me, very research heavy.

When I left it was a good six month period of looking for a new job. I’d message as many people as I could on LinkedIn. I wouldn’t even apply. I didn't do applications. I just tried to meet with as many people as I could and try to somehow get meetings with HR departments and just try and charm them and find out if they had any positions open.

When I actually interviewed for a job here at McCann, I interviewed for a different position to what I’m doing now. I walked into the interview super excited but we both quickly realised I was not the right fit for the role at all. But she mentioned another team called the Futures Team which sounds like you’d like and might be a better fit for. Luckily there was a position open in the futures team and that’s how it worked out.

Selina: I always find it so interesting hearing about people's career journeys cause they’re never linear. I truly believe people are the key to getting places.

Selina: So if somebody was interested in this profession what would you say would be like the ideal background experience or skills or interests that they would want?

Mathieu: If I'm being honest, you don't need any type of like, prerequisite skills or knowledge. You just need to be like super curious be genuinely curious about technology.

I just love storytelling and science fiction and dreaming and imagination. I'm really curious about the future. Have a genuine curiosity about the future and have a genuine lens of empathy for improving having some type of greater societal impact.

There will never be a reality in which brands are not front and centre in the world. But there is a reality where they can provide a lot of good value to people and do it in a good, sustainable, healthy way. It's kind of our job to help guide them to that.

Tech Glossary:

IRL - In real life. (If you don't know this one, is it cold under the rock you live under?)

Web 3: Web3 is an idea for a new iteration of the World Wide Web which incorporates concepts such as decentralization, blockchain technologies, and token-based economics. (Watch for a more detailed explanation)

NFT's: NFT stands for 'non-fungible token'. Non-fungible means that something is unique and can't be replaced. By contrast, physical money and cryptocurrencies are fungible, which means they can be traded or exchanged for one another. (If that doesn't make sense, here's a video explaining).

Decentralised Internet: The decentralised web is a research program which proposes to reorganise the Internet using peer-to-peer infrastructure rather than centralised data hosting services. (Still don't get it? Here's a video explaining).

Blockchain: A blockchain is a decentralised, distributed and public digital ledger that is used to record transactions across many computers globally so that the record cannot be altered retroactively without the alteration of all subsequent blocks and the consensus of the network. (Don't get this either? I didn't at first either, here's a video explaining).

IP: Intellectual Property is the property of your mind or exclusive knowledge. If you develop a new product, service, process or idea it belongs to you and is considered your IP. For example Coca Cola's logo is their IP.

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