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Can Ad Agencies & Brands Humanize Technology?

#sxsw #humanize

Without question, emerging technologies such as Twitter and Foursquare provide new modes of utility to users…but can these technology-focused platforms be leveraged as the perfect canvas for creativity? Can these engineering-driven products be reframed to showcase the type of creativity that stirs emotions and strikes a deep human chord? Increasingly, the most daring ad agency creatives (along with their brand clients) are betting that the answer is a resounding “yes.” The rising challenge for today’s ad industry (and the brands that hire them) is to imbue digital solutions with the same emotion-driving potency – the same humanity – that a hilarious or tear-jerking, award-winning TV campaign has. But how do ad agency creatives approach this challenge? What do startups think about this outside approach to their native platforms and APIs? And do brands like Mars and GE really think tech platforms can drive emotion, and sales, like broadcast TV can? Come find out.


Adam Bain Pres, Global Revenue Twitter

Adam oversees Twitter’s worldwide monetization efforts and the rollout of its advertising platform. Prior to joining Twitter in 2010, he served as President of the Fox Audience Network (FAN), a role in which he oversaw a division that includes one of the web’s largest advertising platforms and a team dedicated to monetizing News Corporation’s web properties and hundreds of third-party online publishers.

Previously, Adam served as Fox Interactive Media’s original Chief Technology Officer, and helped spearhead acquisitions of MySpace, IGN, Photobucket, and Scout Media. He began his career with News Corp running the technology and product divisions at, and previously served in several roles within the online news industry, including stints at and In September 2012, Adam was listed as #1 in “AdWeek's 50” ranking of indispensable industry talent. He serves on the board of the Ad Council and is a member of their Executive Committee. He is @adambain on Twitter.

Debra Sandler Pres, Mars Chocolate Mars Inc

Debra A. Sandler is President, Mars Chocolate, North America. Prior to this recent appointment (April 2, 2012), Debra was Chief Consumer Officer of Mars Chocolate, North America, a role she has held since joining Mars in November 2009. Debra’s responsibilities include leadership of the Marketing function as well as the cross-functional Business Management Teams (BMTs) for M&Ms, Filled Bar (Snickers, Twix, Milky Way and 3 Musketeers), Dove, the Seasonal business and all brand Innovation. Debra is also accountable for leading the work on the Health and Wellness platform and for driving Consumer Insights and Communications (internal, external and crisis) across the business. Debra is also accountable for two exciting startup businesses Dove Chocolate Discoveries and My M&Ms.

Prior to Mars, Debra was the Worldwide President of McNeil Nutritionals, a division of Johnson & Johnson. Debra joined J&J in 1999 as Vice President of Marketing in charge of the launch of Splenda no calorie sweetener. Debra was a founding leader in building the Nutritionals Division into a profitable business unit within the Consumer Group of J&J. She was also the Co-Chairperson for the J&J Women’s Leadership Initiative, representing the views and needs of women across the globe within J&J.

Debra started her career at Pepsi- Cola and spent 13 years at PepsiCo in a number of Marketing leadership positions in the Beverage and Restaurant businesses.

Debra holds an undergraduate degree in International Business from Hofstra University, an MBA from NYU, Stern School of Business and an Honorary PhD from Long Island University.

Debra is a Trustee of Hofstra University, a Board member of the Ad Council and of LEAD. She is a member of the Executive Leadership Council.

Debra has received many awards and acknowledgements amongst them:
2011 Fast Company Top 100 Most Creative People in Business (#23)
Advertising Age Top 25 Marketer
Black Enterprise Most Influential Women in Business
Black Enterprise Person of the Year
Network Journal Most Influential Women
100 Black Women Trailblazer Award (Long Island Chapter)

Debra was born in Venezuela and grew up in Trinidad and Tobago. She loves tennis, vacations on the beach and traveling around the world with her 14 year old daughter, Kiah. Debra and Kiah recently relocated to NJ where they live with their three dogs, Ebony, Ivory, and Sommer. Debra is engaged to Derek Faria and is excited about becoming a step mother to Derek’s two sons Jarrod (26) and Kienan (24).

Gregg Heard VP Brand Identity & Design AT&T