Ian Hulme on experience and design

Dentsu Creative Aotearoa’s new Head of Digital Experience, Ian Hulme, is drawing on his extensive career to add cross-discipline experience and creative expertise to the agency’s leadership team. Here, he speaks on how he got his current role, lessons he’s learnt over the years, and shares the best piece of career advice he’s ever received.

Before accepting a role Ian considers three things. Will he get to make things? Will he be working with people who want to do world class work? And will he get to do work that benefits society? Dentsu Creative ticked all three boxes.

“When I was interviewing for [this role], CEO of dentsu Aotearoa Rob Harvey said that what I’d described sounded very similar to “Sanpo Yoshi” (a Japanese phrase meaning ‘three directions of good’), looking at work in terms of your customer, your business, and society. I was stoked to hear that I had some values that fitted the values of the organisation I wanted to work for,” Ian says.

Having previously worked for IBM Consulting for five years and before that at BNZ as Head of Digital Marketing, Ian brings with him the ability to offer creative solutions to new problems with his team. Ian also has a wealth of experience in creative agencies where he met a number of his current dentsu Aotearoa colleagues.

“We often use the phrase ‘discovery is a team sport’. There is always a lot of teamwork taking place in marketing so you’re never on your own trying to solve problems,” he says.

The most pressing issue currently facing marketers who are aiming to stand out from the crowd, is the homogenisation of the digital experience.

“Five or six years ago, there was a mad rush to use technology in the marketing space. A lot of marketing dollars were redirected away from creativity and spent in new fields like marketing automation, which I think has created a problem for brands. If you look at an industry like banking, they are all trying to satisfy the same customer needs and to some extent, they are all using very similar technology platforms to do that.”

To get around this, Ian encourages marketers to understand that creative thinking needs to be applied to an experience to ensure the brand stands out. 

“For me that’s probably our biggest challenge – trying to encourage marketers, who have invested a lot of money in the technology, who are wanting to get the most out of that investment, to also consider creativity in what we are looking to do.”

Earlier on in his career, Ian was part of the team that sold an exciting idea to ASB that came to market as Clever Kash. This project was about reimagining the plastic piggy bank for the 21st century.

“Immediately it was a rich territory in terms of a physical device that could bring the best of digital but delivered in a way that was easy for children to want to use. We were also fortunate to have a client who was up for this kind of work.”

This project succeeded because the client and the agency really came together as one team, Ian says, while
also working with a broader ecosystem of experts such as industrial designers, character designers and
electronics engineers.

“It was the first time I’d ever had to design an experience where a mobile phone was interacting with a physical device, a device that had never been built before.”

It was through this work that his values became clear and now it’s these values that help to guide and filter opportunities presented to him further along in his career. Working with great people on these opportunities is what Ian is most excited about.

“I’d like to think I have a lot to offer in terms of my experience. I’ve been very fortunate to have worked in agencies, consulting, and client side, which I think has made me better as I return to agency.”

Ian’s work at IBM was in experience-led business transformation, which he believes gave him a better perspective on all the other areas of the business.

“I think I can bring that thinking to what I’m doing here at Dentsu Creative Aotearoa, share my knowledge with others and encourage them to think beyond marketing.

“When I look at the talent that we have in this building, and I look at customer problems, I think we have a compelling proposition that can achieve better outcomes for our clients as a result.” 

This article was originally published in the Dec/Jan 2022/23 issue of NZ MarketingClick here to subscribe.

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About Bernadette Basagre

Bernadette is a content writer across SCG Business titles, The Register and Idealog. To get in touch with her, email [email protected].

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