Meet Zack. Zack moved to Portland from Los Angeles two months ago. He writes a blog about USC football and The Bachelorette, is a secret film buff, and likes to make trouble on the internet.
Q: Where are you from, originally? What were you doing there?
A: I’ve been from Los Angeles for about 18 years, so I’ll call that home. I’ve worked at Saatchi & Saatchi LA, TBWA\Chiat\Day and most recently at the video game publisher THQ.
Q: How did you get into advertising?
A: I was at film school at USC and one of my screenwriting teachers worked in advertising. He had the coolest stories about what he did all day. He’d take calls sometimes during class smoke breaks and the questions he’d field were amazing. I had it in my mind that I wanted to do that someday. A couple entry level jobs in, he called me and offered me a hybrid digital production/strategy job and I was hooked.
Q: Why did you choose the advertising industry over the film industry?
A: In the film industry, you take something personal and it goes through a process of becoming corporate. There’s a story and then products are added in and marketing effects the storytelling. In advertising, it’s kind of the opposite. To me, it’s more honest–you come in with a product or a business problem, and then you try to make it personal. If you fail, you still show someone a product they may want to buy, but if you succeed, you’ve done something really cool. I’m very much a capitalist, I love products and I love to buy them. It’s nice to make someone feel good about something that they’re buying and make it more aspirational than just swiping a card. You’re ideally joining a community.
Q: You run a blog called Lost Angeles about USC football, which has won a lot of awards over the years. How did you get into that?
A: It really started out just as a place to write after college. I won an LA Weekly award that led me to start covering USC football and NCAA sanctions, kind of saying the things the university couldn’t. The media covered it one way, but they had money riding on it. I just said what I wanted to and kind of randomly I won CBS LA’s “Best Sports Blog” and suddenly it took off. Then I made the mistake of writing about watching my wife and her friends watch “The Bachelorette” and saw that there was an audience for sports-style coverage of a dating show. I’ve been covering that for a few years now and somehow I’m still human.
I also make a point to never proofread it. For clients, you have to be perfect, so it’s liberating to just have an “I don’t read, I write” attitude about the blog. It’s fun to write about sports for half the year and the Bachelorette for the other half, and between the two, it’s my belief you can reach about 85% of the population. The other 15% are probably much smarter than me.
It’s been fun and it’s grown a lot, and I’m figuring out a way to stop. One day.
Q: How did your experience running Lost Angeles affect your career choice?
A: I learned a lot with it. I started as an interactive producer, and doing the blog was the reason I moved over to be a strategist. I’d be in rooms and clients would be looking for ways to get influencers to write about their campaigns. At the same time I’d have Nike or The Standard or Jack Links Beef Jerky (long story) asking me to come to events and to write about them on my blog–it all clicked in my head, and I said, ‘Maybe I know more about this than I think I do.’
It was such an emerging practice at the time, so I started getting into more meetings about outreach and strategy. I finally decided I just wanted to work with planners and creatives to figure out how to take the larger idea and make them play on interactive platforms so people could be hands-on with it.
Growing a blog also forces you to develop a following on Facebook and Twitter, so I’ve been able to learn what works on these platforms with some scale to it. One of the hard things about being an interactive strategist is you can kind of talk to yourself a lot because you find yourself in rooms with people who have a deep understanding of why these platforms exist. It’s easy to lose sight of the way people actually use these things. So I use my audience to stay surface level and test what I think might work. When it doesn’t, they definitely let you know. With F-bombs.
Q: Finally, if you could have any superpower, what would it be?
A: After just two short months in Portland, I’m gonna go with “rainproof”.