Jared Carneson | The Innovator 25 North America 2019

Jared Carneson

Senior Vice President & Senior Partner

San Francisco

“Innovation is an overtraded term that describes purpose-based creativity.”

FleishmanHillard—the largest of Omnicom’s PR holdings—turned in the holding group’s best performance in 2018. One contributor to this solid performance is the agency’s social innovation practice, led by Jared Carneson. His 7+ year career with the agency has centered on furthering innovation. During his two-year stint in the UAE, Carneson oversaw the creative treatment and conceptualization of Foreo's UFO launch, which combined media monitoring and social listening. In South Africa, he led the creation of a mobile game introducing the concept of  “waste into worth” to young people, helping build an understanding of circular economies. Now based in San Francisco, Carneson’s ‘intelligence engine,’ which visualizes data as well as real-time social and media listening. This resulted in a Fortune 500 IT and cybersecurity company changing its business structure. Next on his plate: building a virtual influencer. 

In what way(s) does PR/communications need to innovate the most?
I think most agency’s need to move into a space where automation takes on the more laborious, time-consuming tasks that are necessary but take energy and headspace away from other areas where these are needed, to free up resources for more impactful work.
Additionally, I believe greater impetus is needed in hiring for this field from a wider and more diverse field of talent and experience. We have a great focus on D&I at FH. I have been fortunate to live and work in some incredible offices with incredible diversity. I think a lot of agencies could benefit from accelerating the importance of diversity and inclusion initiatives, its impact on a culture of innovation can not be discounted. I am lucky to be a part of an agency that places such a great focus on diversity in so many areas.

How would you describe the communications/PR industry's level of innovation compared to other marketing disciplines?
It lags in some areas and flourishes in pockets. The need for a degree of predictability in a space dominated by uncontrolled communications has forced the comms industry to adapt novel use of intelligence as a pivotal driver of change. There are some areas particularly in relation to creative, where our contemporaries in advertising have an institutional advantage.

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
Communications professionals have an incredible opportunity to innovate across the board and have been doing so for some time, however there is also scope to take the lead on focusing on creating internal efficiencies that, for example, use ML for the automation of admin and time heavy activities for client benefit and then to consider the continuous exploration of the impact of emerging tech on how we communicate, such as the usage of voice-based search on the shift in traditional media consumption habits.

How do you define innovation?
For me, innovation is an overtraded term that describes purpose-based creativity.  Where creativity for creativity’s sakes can exist and does, there is an additional expectation on innovation to drive novel change (although innovation for innovation’s sake is not unheard of) it's safer to define as less of an act and more of a set of values grounded in resilience and curiosity, but firmly pegged to progress with a firm eye on purpose.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
There is incredible work happening all the time, so it’s hard to name just one initiative. I think there is also a lot of pressure on innovation to save the world’s problems, but some of it can just be fun and smart. Particularly where marketing builds utility and is experiential.  I love the new McDonald’s Sweden initiative where the brand has created a picnic blanket that enables accurate outdoor delivery, to drive a more personalized experience and increase mobile app usage.  I think that tech could be used for a broader app idea beyond a campaign execution.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing?
There are so many brands doing incredibly innovative work and I am fortunate to work with some of the companies that I believe are among the most innovative in the world. One that I don’t work with but hold in high esteem is Scottish innovator: Brew Dog, Martin Dickie and James Watt are some of the smartest marketers out there, from a line of Scottish beers to an empire, they have done everything from crowdfunding their expansion, giving away all their recipes, building beer hotels and airlines, changing their birth names to Elvis in response to legal action from Elvis Presley’s estate, to recently running a set of meta ads. They are provocateurs and I spend a healthy dose of time in awe at what they have achieved on the back of pure innovation and… great beer.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider innovative.
Perhaps not a moment but there is something that felt smart years ago, yet inconsequential in the moment, but that later went on to be foundational to a lot of work and thinking later. We needed a deeper understanding of media consumption habits of a demographic and were able to net out a solution that allows us to pull an accurate, aggregated set of media consumption habits in real-time. It was years ago but has led on to some great progress we have made in democratizing data in standing up an insight’s led agency.

Most underrated trait in a PR person? 

How do you get out of a creativity rut?
The best source of inspiration can be found in the people you surround yourself with and the things you fill your life with. It’s hard to shift beyond a lateral way of thinking if you are stuck in a methodology rut. I find exploring a new creative discipline in down time or spending time listening to what smart people are doing in different disciplines can really shift perceptions and provide a platform for more creative problem solving. It’s amazing how taking some time out to learn how to brew a beer or sew or sculpt can change how you look at a problem.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation?
Reward resilience, passion, and determination as much as you do brilliance. And nurture curiosity by fostering a space for smart risks and failure. I have learned far more from what I have screwed up than what I have managed to get right the first time around.

What are you thinking about most these days? 
So many things. But I think what I have most on mind is grounded in privacy and extended stakeholder responsibility, in an increasingly more “woke” society.  

If we want hyper-personalized utility-based service, the tradeoff is an infringement of privacy. Machine learning cannot reach its true potential without human intervention, but at what cost? The build on that would be, do we place an extended responsibility on creators and innovators for the unintended consequences of their innovation? How far down the supply and benefit chain does an innovators responsibility extend?

What one movie, book, TV show or podcast do you recommend someone rent, read or stream tonight?
To Read: It’s an older one but it’s a good one and possibly more relevant today than it was a couple of years ago - Dataclysm: Love, Sex, Race, and Identity--What Our Online Lives Tell Us about Our Offline Selves by Christian Rudder. It’s a fantastic study of how our biases are revealed through our online behavior, and I always keep a copy of James Geary’s We Are What We Think, a fantastic collection of the wisest and wittiest aphorisms 

To Watch: Years and Years, is amazing, it has a black mirror flavor to it, making it feel disturbingly close to home and possible. It’s a cautionary tale of a world spinning out of control on the back of unmitigated tech and power in the world today.