3 July 2014

Creative Talk With Matt Townsend


Matt Townsend is a lover of digital and an experience enthusiast.  He is also the Strategy Director at Union, a progressive digital agency based in Auckland.  Matt tells us about the digital (r)evolution that is Hyper Island and gives insight into what’s driving digital in New Zealand.  


What's your digital philosophy?


Digital has changed the world.  It is a part of what we are now, and it will become more and more so.  Digital gives us the ability to connect like never before, and with that comes amazing opportunity but also incredible challenges.  More than anything I believe we need to embrace digital to enhance our lives, to make our lives simpler – rather than creating more complication and more clutter.


Who have been your biggest creative inspirations?


I love Len Lye for what he did with technology and sculpture.  I love Radiohead and Thom Yorke for what they have done with technology and music.  In a digital sense there are too many people doing great things but the guys at Makeable (formerly Poke) seem to get it pretty right.


Who is the one individual who has influenced you most professionally and why?


I recently attended my second Hyper Island Master Class, and we talked a lot about Clay Christensen.  It’s too early to say if he is the person who has influenced me the most, but right now, for what I do, his philosophy and approach is perfect.


What are the some of the main differences between a large network and an independent agency like Union Digital?


We can respond more quickly to change, we can be more lean when we need to be, and we try to treat our team like family.  Obviously there are plenty of challenges about being an independent too, but for me these things are important.


What characteristics do you look for when hiring digital creative talent, either freelance or permanent?


They need to be a good sort – if they can’t take a bit of stick then they won’t fit in.  They need to be able to problem solve and have a bit of spark.  They also need to have a really good understanding of the entire process from concept through to technical implementation – it’s no good having something that looks pretty but doesn't work…


Is it imperative that the creative hires you make have prior industry experience?


Yes, without a shadow of a doubt.


What was your rationale for bringing Hyper Island out here a month ago (and who are they)?


Hyper Island are a Swedish based digital learning organisation – they focus on helping businesses develop a strategic understanding of the impact and opportunity for digital.  We brought Hyper Island to New Zealand because we feel one of the biggest things holding New Zealand businesses back is the understanding of how digital can truly enhance what they do.  We wanted to find an independent organisation who could help tell this story to New Zealand businesses, and bring them on the journey.


What was the main thing you learnt from the Masterclass that other digital practitioners need to know? 


The “Jobs To Be Done” approach, which is a tool for evaluating the circumstances that arise in customer's lives and understanding the way they see the world.  We've already used it at Union Digital on several occasions with different clients and it's very powerful.


And where do you see the digital industry in New Zealand heading in the next decade?


Through the roof – there is so much opportunity here and we need to start catching up.