Vice President, Digital for Saxum advertising and public relations firm sounds like a title only few could handle. However, E. Blake Jackson uses what comes second nature to him to tackle the expanding universe of communications.
With additional experience in journalism and multimedia, Jackson has a hand in many of Saxum’s endeavors. Combining a wealth of pop culture knowledge with humility and empathy, Jackson stays on top of changing digital demands.
So, have you met E. Blake Jackson?
What does a Saxum vice president of digital do all day?
Because Saxum is an integrated agency, I spend a lot of time working with our heads of advertising and public relations on how to best help our clients communicate with diverse audiences across every type of medium. We like to say we’re platform-agnostic. Brainstorming and spontaneous “swirl” sessions are commonplace, and Saxum’s open-office layout breeds interdisciplinary collaboration. At any moment, I may be helping quality assess a website, lining out a social media strategy, diving into analytics or preparing to pitch a new client. I even toss my hat in on drafting op-eds from time to time. The best thing about working at an agency is that every day brings something new.
Word is that you are an encyclopedia of pop culture knowledge. How have you incorporated that into your job? (Does Daft Punk ring any bells?)
My coworkers are so sick of hearing me talk about Daft Punk, but seriously, how great was the promo campaign for Random Access Memories?!?!? Lately, I’ve been working on a list matching Saxum team members with characters from Game of Thrones. It’s super hard because there are only like two redeemable characters on GoT, but there are at least 40 redeemable Saxumites. Ultimately, someone has to be Cersei Lannister (sorry Houda). But I digress … Being aware of, and involved in, pop culture is important to our team because it is important to the audiences our clients are trying to reach. It’s an easy connection point for people of diverse backgrounds. If we can help our clients capitalize on pop culture moments in an authentic way, that’s a win.
What is the future of social media for businesses, and how are you helping Saxum’s clients stay ahead of the competition?
Respecting the user/viewer/consumer by adopting an attitude of humility and service in how you approach communications. I don’t mean customer service. I’m talking about fundamental empathy for the desires and goals of the people you’re trying to get to buy your product or join your cause. The brands who excel at communication do so because they lead with empathy. They don’t bark at their audience, unless they’re doing it ironically (Old Spice). Instead, they engineer their products and communications to help make the audience’s life easier or better. Saxum approaches every communications challenge through the lens of audience empathy. There are many ways that this manifests in the digital realm, but this idea can and should be a global philosophy.
How did you first become interested in technology?
I suppose I had no choice. People my age (early 30s) represent sort of a first generation of “digital natives.” I grew up with AOL Instant Messenger and LiveJournal and Napster. YouTube, Facebook and the iPod all launched while I was in college. I wouldn’t say that I’m any more interested in technology than the next person. I’ve just never known a world where technology, specifically the Social Web, wasn’t all around me. It’s second nature.
What led you to pursue all things tech in your career?
I entered the professional world at a time when organizations were looking for young people (digital natives) to help show them the way online. It’s been an exciting journey, but it’s also given me a great appreciation for things that aren’t tech at all, like craft beer and handmade furniture. I have a lot of career envy for brewmasters and carpenters.
Didn’t you live in Denver for a while? What brought you back to Oklahoma?
My wife and I learned we were pregnant with our daughter (surprise!) and we wanted to get closer to our folks. Oklahoma City is such a great place to raise a family, and the quality of life here improves every single day. Coming back to Oklahoma was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made.
Tell us about your appearance in a Flaming Lips video.
My college roommate and I saw a post on the Flaming Lips website inviting anyone who wanted to be in the video for “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1” to come to the Samurai Saki House (remember that place?) at a certain time. We were among the first to arrive and before long, Wayne [Coyne] and Steven [Drozd] pulled up in this old, brown van full of furry costumes. I got some sort of lion-bear creature and my roommate got the head of a rabbit. We proceeded to dance “like you’re on acid” (Wayne’s words) for the next seven hours with dozens of strangers in polyester animal costumes. I almost died from dehydration. Would I do it again? Absolutely.
What is the best new album, best TV show and best recent movie that everyone needs to check out?
Oh man. The pressure! My favorite album of 2014 so far is probably “Benji” by Sun Kil Moon. It’s pretty heavy and super uncomfortable to listen to. But it’s probably the most authentic thing I’ve heard in 10 years. The new season of Doctor Who looks promising. It starts airing in August. As for movies, I liked The Lego Movie and The Grand Budapest Hotel. I’m behind on cinema this year.