Fusing Brand & Product with Cedric Devitt, CCO of Big Spaceship


By Assemble

February 1, 2023

Cedric Devitt is the Chief Creative Officer at Big Spaceship, a New York based independent agency with a client list that includes JetBlue, Starbucks and Google. Cedric is an industry veteran whose accolades include helming MRY as social media agency of the year and also founding the US Air Guitar Championships.

In this episode, we talk about the importance of resiliency as a creative thinker, finding the magic in the room through reduction, and the necessity of fusing brand and product.

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Nate Watkin: Welcome to our show, Cedric.

Cedric Devitt: Thank you for having me. Great to be here. Very exciting to chat with you.

Nate Watkin: Absolutely. Yeah. Looking forward to it. And so I always like to start off just learning a quick background about you, your childhood, where you came from, and what you wanted to be when you grew up.

Cedric Devitt: Yeah. you know, I I I grew up in, in Dublin in, in the seventies. And you know, moved to America somewhere like, I don't know, like 19 90, 19 94 I think it was. So, you know, I had a, you know, grew up in Dublin went to school there, went to college there, and then, you know, got a, ended up getting a, a green card sort of fortunately got a green card, was able to get outta Dublin and come to New York. And, you know, ended up in advertising sort of in a, you know, by, you know, happenstance a little bit. And and here I am.

Nate Watkin: Looking back, you know, on your earlier years, whether that was before college or after college, like when did you realize you were a creative person or know that you wanted to be in a creative career?

Cedric Devitt: You know, I don't know that there was any real moment that I realized that I wanted to be a, a creative person per se. You know, I, I think that like in, in my kind of experience of sort of growing up, I went to a boarding school Dan and Limerick in the sort of Dan the kind of west of Ireland, and it was run by Benedictine monks. It was a very sort of strange place. And, you know, one of the, one of the kind of things that you sort of realize in boarding school is that you to sort of survive, you have to kind of figure out how to, you know, operate in sort of groups of people. You know, you're, you're never really alone. You're, you know, I was sort of in boarding school sort of eight weeks at a time, and then I got to go back to Dublin.

But in that process, I think, you know, looking back and realizing sort of the culture sort of agencies and understanding how to kind of operate within an agency environment is very similar to sort of, you know, being in boarding school, you're constantly around a lot of people. You have to kind of figure out how to kind of handle yourself in sort of conference rooms. How do you get sort of people to listen to you or, you know, if you have an idea, how do you kind of pitch that idea? So I think that that was one of the things that probably allowed me to succeed in some ways in in an advertising kind of agency environment. Maybe that was sort of probably at the beginning. I mean, I think, you know, the world of the agency life has changed and, you know, obviously, you know, since Covid and we're all remote, that's kind of changed a lot ever since. Not sure would ever go back to that. But I think that was sort of, you know, one, one of the ways that I started to be able to kind of figure out who I was. And then I, I was able to, I spent a lot of time kind of doing debating in, in school, and I think maybe that was you know, another sort of skill that I sort of brought forward into kind of my, my advertising career.

Nate Watkin: And so, sounds like you really learned how to sell an idea through these experiences.

Cedric Devitt: Yeah. Yeah, I think that did. You know, I, you know, I wasn't, you know, I sort of have a, you know, a copywriter background. You know, I liked telling stories. I think sort of growing up in Ireland, you, you know, you sort of learned that kind of gift of the gab of how to tell a story and how to kind of command people to sort of attention and sort of what a, what the arc of a story is and you know, what a punchline is and, and that kind of thing. You know, I used to kind of write a good bit but never with a view to sort of ending up in a, in a, pursuing a creative career. That was not something that I really thought I could do or really understood that that was even possible, you know?

It wasn't until I sort of came to America and that I sort of started to sort of dip my toe in the advertising world. And then I sort of, once I got into it, I realized, oh, wow, I really loved this. And, you know, never, didn't, never sort of looked back, you know? Yeah. once I got to America I really didn't, I wasn't quite sure, you know, what I wanted to do. I w I, you know, I arrived in America with a sort, a history degree from Trinity College. And, you know, in retrospect, I kind of think that the, that was a really smart and great degree to have in, in lieu of having a, you know, a a degree in fine art or in communications or anything like that. Cause I think that sort of gives you perspective on the world, and you start to sort of see those sort of repeatable structures.

But, you know, I arrived in New York and you know, really didn't quite know what I wanted to do. I actually ended up as working as a doorman on the Upper East Side. And actually then subsequently on the Upper West Side that was sort of an interesting sort of entree into New York. You know, I, like, I liked to joke that it was like an entry level position. But, you know, I sat around all day just sort of reading books and, you know, giving people their packages or their dry cleaning, that kind of thing. And then one day, one of the tenants in the building was sort of, you know, was friends with somebody who owned a temp agency. And, you know, I sort of figured, okay, you know, maybe I'll do a temping temp job, whatever. And I ended up at Gray Advertising answering the phone for, you know, a newly minted executive creative director there, I call Mark Schalka, who, you know, over the, you know, course of sort of three to six months was sort of realized, all right, you can't just sit there.

And he started to give me sort of radio briefs or, and things of that nature to write. And so he really taught me how to kind of write copy. I would go in and sort of show him these radio scripts, and he would sort of cut the, the top off and say, I'm assuming, you know, you, you should start here. And he was usually right. And you know, definitely he was old school in his way of advertising and thinking about advertising was that sort of old sort of Bates unique selling proposition. And through him and through that, I kind of relearned how to write copy and write advertising.

Nate Watkin: That's a pretty crazy story. Immigrant doorman, temp agency, and then cracked into the ad world without ever expecting to looking back, is it does that path seem a little bit crazy to you of how you ended up where you are now?

Cedric Devitt: Not really. I mean, I think I, I guess in the context of today where, you know, a lot of people are sort of, you know, you know, almost exclusively folks are coming in through on the, on the creative side anyway, coming in through kind of art schools and they go to Miami Art School or ad school or sba or one of these kinds of places which is great. People have these really polished portfolios. You know, I never really had a portfolio. It was sort of weird to say that, I mean, I mean, you know, as you know, a couple, like a decade or so later, I, I had an online book, but you know, never something as polished as you're sort of seeing coming out of art school today. So yeah, definitely a different way of doing it, but I think that was sort of how people did it, you know?

Nate Watkin: So how did you work your way up the ranks and, you know, eventually get into this creative director role that, that you currently are in now?

Cedric Devitt: Yeah, I think that that the big moment for me was sort of realizing that, you know, you know, gray wasn't the place for any real young creative at that time. You know, it obviously kind of evolved and changed many years later under kind of tied Montague and folks like that. But back then it was, I remember talking to a recruiter and they were sort of saying, look, I can get you outta jail, but I can't get you outta Gray <laugh>. Great people are gonna hate me for saying that <laugh>. But you know, what I did, I, I ended up sort of jumping and sort of switching over to digital, you know, and that was sort of a, you know, I, I guess it was 2000, like that was kind of a big move. And I, and my, I got a job at tribal D D b or D DB Digital at the time, and, you know, was, it was kind of a crazy time, you know, that kind of.com thing.

People were sort of, you know, still sort of building websites and driving people to websites and through these sort of really fun immersive sort of flash-based experiences and things like that. So, you know, I did that for about nine years, actually, kind of quite a long time, sort of through the, kind of the heyday of Tribal P db sort of becoming kind of agency of the year and sort of winning a lot of awards and all that kind of stuff. So that was great. And part of that, and during that kind of experience I ended up sort of becoming a creative director and, you know, just sort of, you know, trying to kind of figure it out and, you know, managing teams and managing people and selling work and new business and all the rest of it, you know. But it was it was very different to back then, I sort of feel like, you know, we, we were having fun and we were, you know, we would sit around and have ideas, and then we would sort of make the presentation and we'd sell the idea, and then we'd make it, you know?

And now things are very different. You know, you just sort of, you gotta make a lot more decks. And there's, you know, the, the, the landscape has become fragmented and complex, and there's a lot, you know, a lot more sort of approval processes. You know, organizations are sort of that much more matrix. So it's pretty tricky. But back then I think it was it was a little easier, to be honest.

Nate Watkin: Hmm. That's interesting to hear because you think, you know, nowadays, like these brands need to produce so much content and, and so mu so many things, but you think it's actually more difficult now than it was back then in the early days of the web to, to sell these ideas and get them through?

Cedric Devitt: I think people were a little, they were, they were less fearful of sort of making things than they just sort of, I think things are just way more scrutinized now where, you know, the, the, the, the sort of chain of command and, you know, as you are looking to create something and then subsequently sort of spending a lot of money with media to sort of put behind it, things are just a lot more scrutinized and people are paying a lot more attention. And that process comes with many more hours of many more rounds of revisions and so on. So yeah, I do think it's, it's it's, it's considerably harder or feels harder to me. Yeah. And it feels, it feels like it's a, it's a, it's a more laborious process. And I think that you, you know, the game's kind of changed from, you know, trying to come up with a great idea and just making that, to now it's about sort of coming up with a great idea and nurturing that idea and sort of protecting that idea from sabotage <laugh>. But, you know, you know, things are complicated, you know, in every aspect of the world these days. Right.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. And what do you think has, has driven that? Like do you think it's just because there is so much data out there and analytics and you know, these brands have gotten more sophisticated in, in terms of measuring these campaigns, so everything just has a, a, a microscope over it at all times, or is it something else?

Cedric Devitt: Yeah, I think that's exactly right. You know, I think performance is a big part of it. You know, we are are looking, you know, at the work, and we are sort of testing it so much more now, and, you know, we have sort of a pretty good idea of, you know, how the work is going to perform, and we know what the metrics are. So yeah, that sort of complicates things. And you know, there, there aren't that many surprises in some ways. Right. or you're more surprised when it doesn't work.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. On that note, you know, would love to hear your philosophy on resiliency in the creative process and maybe any, any tips or advice you have to other creative directors out there in getting your idea created in this new world.

Cedric Devitt: I, yeah. Yeah, I think, you know, I I, I've sort of talked a little bit about resiliency before, and, you know, that's sort of, I've always sort of felt that that's a real key tenant and something I sort of look for in creatives. Is there sort of ability to kind of get back up? I mean, know, it sort of goes back to, you know, this idea of sort of making, you know, decks and decks and rounds and rounds before you can actually sell an idea. But I think that, you know, the, the really sort of great creatives are the ones that you know, are, are confident and know that, you know, if, if, if five ideas got killed, they're, they're, they're happy and confident enough to kind of show up the next day or the next week with five more. And that's what I, what I really mean by resiliency. Being able to sort of, you know, as you kind of get a little more mature and a bit more experience, you, it's like, it's shaking off the, the disappointment of, you know, that idea that you love and you fell in love with and sort of shaking off the, you know, the, the death, if you will, of that idea and moving on and creating more and falling in love again. You know? Yeah.

And I think that that's yeah, that's, that's, that's what resiliency is about. And I don't think it's a, I think it's really, it's not about sort of like holding onto things and trying to kind of revive them and, you know, seeing if they can live in another way. I think you just have to let go and, you know, start again. And I think most of the time we're always sort of happy we did that. And, you know, if, if, if you look back at all those sort of older presentations, you go, oh, my, you, you know, we, you'll see the journey that you've been on to sort of get to that kind of the better outcome.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. Having a short memory almost. Yeah. to let those Yeah. Let kill your darlings, right?

Cedric Devitt: Yeah. Like goldfish

Nate Watkin: And do you have any, any stories of, you know, a time when this sort of resilience worked out for you and helped you achieve success?

Cedric Devitt: I, you know, I don't know that I anything really super specific. I think that when you, it's more, you know, I, I, you know, working on bigger kind of global campaigns is often the case that, you know, I certainly remember sort of doing Olympics work with Coca-Cola for a number of years, and, and that was it. You know, you just sort of had to kind of, you know, stay the course and, you know, build those ideas and sort of sell them up through the kind of the food chain. And very often you get to the top three months later and then it gets killed, and then you're back going again. But, you know, at the end of the day, the Olympics doesn't move and it happens and you end up with something, you know, something great. And you know, that's, I think that's, it's like you gotta just keep your eye on that, you know, the clock does run down and you do get to kind of make the work.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. And so you worked at lbi after that, you moved on to become Chief Creative Officer at mri, or, sorry, let me restate that. You moved on to become Chief Creative Officer at r y which one Social Media Agency of the Year. Looking back on that time, what did you do at M R Y that was innovative or game-changing in the social realm?

Cedric Devitt: Gosh, it's a, it's, it's <laugh>. It's, it's, it's so long ago. You know, my, my goldfish memory <laugh>, you know, I think, I think back then we were, we were sort of shifting from this sort of the idea of sort of always on and organic social to something a bit more robust. You know, it was sort of in and around the time where, you know, social was kind of evolving. It was moving from, you know, being a kind of a, a unpaid media to something that, you know, Facebook changed it up and said, okay, you wanna post on Facebook, it's gotta be, you gotta put media behind it. And in doing so, the relationships kind of changed and we started to shift into doing thinking, you know, a little bit more about, you know, the work to the lens of sort of advertising and marketing and versus away from, you know, sort of that organic social work.

And in doing so, I think we started to think a lot about data and testing and thinking about, you know, what was really going to work, what was going to be shared, how, what were the conversations that were gonna be pushed around this stuff. And then at the same time, we had in, in the creation of sort of r y we had merged Mr. Youth with lbi. So you had a kind of a, you know, sort of a brand meets product kind of sensibility. And that was another of piece of the puzzle where you were sort of bringing some of that product thinking into kind of that social space. And something that we do think about a lot today at Big Spaceship where we, we kind of, we divvy up sort of the business and think about the, you know, you know, what that kind of a modern brand is today through the lens of sort of stories, systems and communities.

So, you know, you've got those sort of big brand stories, you've got sort of the product work sort of, and then you've kind of got, okay, well if you're gonna build this thing or you're gonna tell stories about it, it has to be pretty interconnected where sort of brand is product and product as brand. And then understand, you know, how are people gonna interpret this? What are they gonna do with it in social? How will they share about it? How will they create stories around it? And so on. So I think it's all sort of fairly connected and sort of linear in my mind on that journey of going from sort of LBI to M y and then to Big Spaceship. I think the things that I learned in sort of building websites and to the lens of sort of campaigns and building immersive experiences and then thinking about how they, you know, people are shifting around sort of culture and communities and then has sort of brought me to kinda a good space with Big Spaceship.

Nate Watkin: Yeah. And I'm super interested on that topic. You know, we, I I run a product company, being a, a technology entrepreneur, and I know you've talked about the importance of product thinking and how brand and product are fusing. Maybe you could take us through a little bit of your philosophy on that and what your outlook is on that.

Cedric Devitt: Yeah, I, I, I, you know, I think that in this day and age, you know, it used to be that you could just sort of, you know, put, you know, put a campaign out there and say these things about stuff. But, you know, people sort of, you know, they figured it out. You know, they can see behind the, the curtain now and, you know, they can look, you know, at your website, they can look at the app. They, those things have to be sort of interconnected. And so I really do think that, you know, when you sort of think about you know, a lot of those sort of brands out there that, you know, we do a lot of work with sort of JetBlue, we do some work with Chase, and in both instances and also sort of Starbucks where, you know, suddenly, you know, these brands, especially enduring Covid where, you know, Starbucks sort of, you know, stopped sort of for a moment, stopped kind of selling coffee and then became very much about a technology company who was teaching people, well, if you wanted to get coffee, you had to do it through mobile ordering.

And so suddenly they become a kind of a, a tech com a smart tech company, and it's not just about, you know, a reward. There were an app that is, you know, built around rewards, but it's you know, really about sort of like, how can, you know, how can products sort of meet that customer where they are, you know, through a really smart app experience. I think that's very true, again, around Chase, you know, where, you know, whilst we're doing a lot of work with making content for those guys it's still at the heart of it, you know, the window into that brand is through that Chase mobile app. So those things are sort of interconnected.

Nate Watkin: Got it. So when you're talking about product and brand fusing, you're talking about taking the traditional campaign, you know, commercial or whatever sort of marketing and advertising assets you would create, but fusing that with an actual like digital product experience that connects with the customer and, and gives them a portal into the brand. Is that correct?

Cedric Devitt: Yeah, I think so. I think that, you know, at a very sort of basic level, when you look at sort of Nike, they've done, you know, a pretty good job of that with, you know, Nike ID and Run Club and all those kinds of things where, you know, they sort of created these kind of new behaviors through those app experiences that sort of connected back to, you know, the bigger stories that they were trying to tell around the brand. So I think, you know, more and more brands are sort of beginning to see that, and you know, when they have a product that can sit at the heart of their brand, those things have to be sort of interconnected and intertwined. And to not do that is probably sort of missing, missing a trick.

Nate Watkin: That's true. And, you know you know, of course now Nike's getting 10 fts, they just acquired that NFT company, and it's, it's strange to think you, you can almost think about Nike as, as much of a tech company as they are a shoe company in a weird sense.

Cedric Devitt: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. I think that's that's absolutely been the case for a while probably with Nike. You know, going back to sort of thinking about fuel band and those types of things, for sure.

Nate Watkin: What do you think the future of this looks like? Like where do we go from here in 10 years? Any technology that you're excited about that you think will really impact this industry?

Cedric Devitt: Yeah, I mean, you know, I think I, I'm, I get very excited about technology. I think people are sort of, you know, obviously AI and chat gpt is, you know, super topical at the moment. You know, a lot of people say, oh wow, you know, this is, you know, as a writer you know, that's sort of, you know, a lot of people are sort of, you know, quite nervous about that kind of thing, or, you know, will, will all brands have the same tone of voice or something like that? I don't think so. I think I think it's going to, it's gonna be really exciting. You know, I love the idea that with, you know, something like chat G B T, you know, you never start with a blank page anymore. You know, you've, you've, you've, you're gonna start from a different place and, you know, creativity might be a bad sort of, you know, what are the prompts you write or how well an editor you are, or, you know, I think it's pretty exciting.

I heard somebody kind of join the parallel to like, you know, imagining, you know, what it might must have been like to write with them, you know, a, a quill, you know, that must have been pretty tedious instead of then long came the pencil. So, you know, I think though, it's just about the tools, the tools are sort of getting better. They're allowing us to move faster, probably. And hopefully, you know, you take a lot of the friction out of creation and creativity that we can just sort of, you know, concentrate back on sort of what those ideas are and so on, you know?

Nate Watkin: Yeah. Yeah. It's a super exciting space. Although I can, I can say that from using chat g p t in these tools enough, I feel that I can spot it now. You know, I was, I was scrolling through LinkedIn the other day and somebody wrote this long LinkedIn post, and I could just see that it was chat written by chat G p t <laugh>. Have you felt that way?

Cedric Devitt: I definitely in the, I haven't played around with it exhaustively, but you know, it does have sort of a tone of voice that gives you kind of a, a, a vanilla kind of flavor. But, you know, I think, yeah, you know, it'll evolve and it'll get better. And I think as, as, as you're able to give it different prompts, I think it's fun to say, okay, we'll, you know, try it you know, with a bit of wish, add a bit of this flavor, add a bit of that, you know, it's, it's, it's gonna be, you know, we're all gonna become kind of like shafts where we're at sort of adding, you know, a little cumin and a different, some flavoring, see what happens. I dunno, I'm, I'm excited about it. I think it's I think it's gonna be really interesting. Yeah, I think it's gonna be interesting as well, when you look at, you know, the, beyond just the sort of writing, I think just, you know, how it can help customer service, you know, how, you know, you can get to better answers in searches and all that kind of stuff, you know?

Nate Watkin: Definitely. Definitely.

Cedric Devitt: I think we've only sort of, we've only, I mean, suffice to say, we've only really sort of tipped, it's like the tip of the iceberg.

Nate Watkin: Yeah, I agree 100%. And I think that there's a lot of interesting places it can go. You know, I think that potentially brands may train their own ai, you know, their own model based on their own internal tone of voice or their own way that they look and feel. And, and that becomes a proprietary piece of technology that, you know, is unique to just that brand and can help them generate content and ideas that are unique to that brand. So yeah, I think the, especially the iterative process in the training of these models and everything is, is gonna get really interesting over the next few years.

Cedric Devitt: Yeah. Yeah. No, it's, it, it'll be, it'll be fascinating. But, you know, I just, you know, I think at the end of the day, like, like you said, you, you'll be able to spot it. There'll be different sort of fail safe sort of introduced, you know, in the same way that sort of, you know, colleges are able to kind of spot plagiarism, you know, so, you know, can't wait to see where it goes.

Nate Watkin: And so tell us about Big Spaceship. First of all, what made you excited about this company and made you wanna join the team? And just tell us what's unique about the company.

Cedric Devitt: I think, you know, you know, without getting, you know, to Sally about the agency, you know, I think the, you know, the, the thing that I love about Big Spaceship and the thing that, you know, immediately attracted me to the place is, is first of all, there's a culture of the place is, is really unique you know, for, for a long time. And, and to this day, you know, really there's, there's this sort of culture that, you know, you know, everyone is creative and there's no, there isn't, you know, we, we've worked pretty hard to not have sort of departments and not have this sort of creative department that sits over there that is, you know, on the hook for the, you know, the output of the agency. So we've done a lot of work over the years to try and make sure that everybody feels like they have a say in the creative output.

And I think in doing so, that's sort of changed the culture a lot where people, you know, feel like, you know, the teams feel like they, they're can support each other in very unique ways. They're a little bit different to more kind of traditional agencies that are sort of set up in these sort of heavier kind of silos of, of departments sitting in different places. So the team dynamic is very, is very different as a result of, you know, having everybody sort of feel like they are you know, that creativity is, is a sort of a vocation in the, in the agency. It's not something that's sort of written on your business card. The second thing I think that is kind of interesting and I think that makes us sort of uniquely different is, is that we, we really look pretty closely, we do a really good job of looking a trend and culture human behavior and sort of cultural intelligence and, you know, what those kind of innovations sort of mean, you know you know, it's, I think the easiest thing to think about is like, you know, when the iPhone kind of came along, we didn't sort of bolt on mobile but we started to kind of think about sort of gestural design, you know you know, we, we did a campaign a few years back for Converse where, you know, it was sort of a back to school campaign where we were, you know, supposed to kind of make this sort of a piece of content to film, but we didn't, we created kind of a gift library because we understood that, you know, that target like that back then, you know, whatever was a few years ago, that was how kind of teens were expressing themselves.

So we always like to kind of lean into culture lean into frame. One of my favorite pieces recently was working, that was something that we did for NFL that we called Twitter Confetti, which was the kind of was you know, with an idea where you could write tweets of support for, you know, whatever team you were supporting in the Super Bowl. So the idea was that you would then that, that the tweet of personal support would then be showered down on the players during, you know, the final whistle. And, you know, that was a kind of, you know, very kinda unique way of sort of taking, you know, kind of a behavior that was happening on Twitter instead of putting it in that physical space. And it was pretty successful, so much so that it's now a part of their kind yearly piece of programming. So I love that stuff. I like the fact that we're able to kind of play in those kinds of spaces pretty consistently. But at the same time, you know, not really worrying about the, the vehicle of the idea or what sort of media space is going to occupy, and just sort of thinking about, you know, what would, what would work well in culture? What would this sort of fan base look like? And, you know, why would they care?

Nate Watkin: Yeah. I love that. And going back to what you were talking about where ideas can come from everywhere within the agency, I'd love to hear like what that means specifically and, and, and how that functions in practice.

Cedric Devitt: Yeah. I think that, you know, we, we've got these sort of core values that we sort of stick to pretty pretty consistently. And, you know, one of those is this, this idea of speaking up where, you know, when you get, it's like, it's one of the things that I think that a lot of people sort of, when they join the agency, they're sort of like, oh, wow, that's, that's a little bit you know, there's a, the, the calls are a little longer, the meetings are longer because we try to create space for everybody and anybody to, you know, speak up and share their opinion. I think in doing so, you make sure that whatever those ideas are or whatever, somebody kind of speaks up and, you know, says what they want to say or if they've got an idea or what have you, you know, they're, they feel very free to kind of be heard.

And I, and I like that. And I think that, you know, that's, you know, as, as, as creative directors or those types of people in, in those rooms or those times, you know, our job is to sort of kind of be that, you know, to really listen very acutely. And you know, the answers are usually there, you know, you just gotta kind of like cut through the noise and be able to kind of like pick it out of the air. I was just listening to an interview with Rick Rubin. He just released his, that new book where he describes himself as a producer and not a producer. And I think, you know, I, I love that because, you know, it, it, it reminds me a lot of sort of the role of kind of the creative director, if you will, who has to sort of, you know, cut through the clutter of the noise of around an idea. And very often that is people wanna build and build and build on the idea, and it sort of becomes a little bit unrecognizable. And I think that, you know, when we allow people to speak up there's a sort of, you know, you want to kind of build on those ideas, but you wanna be able to kind of make sure that you're, you've got that the ideas being you know, a little bit sort of protected at the same time. It's about kind of reduction and clearing the way for those ideas ultimately.

Nate Watkin: But it takes a bit, you know, the, what you described, everybody can speak up, everybody can contribute ideas. I think that as the creative director, you then have to have a little bit of a lack of ego, right? To be able to take all those ideas in and parse through them, rather than just saying, I'm the creative director, I have the best ideas in the room.

Cedric Devitt: Oh yeah, absolutely. I, you know, I don't know that there are, you know, super successful creative directors anymore who are sort of really truly believing that, you know, they're the ones who are kind of marching into the room with the big idea, and that's it. I don't know that that's the way it works anymore. Sure. I'm sure, you know. Yeah, it probably does, but it's not how I'm sort of seeing how things are sort of coming to bear anymore. That's not to say that people don't bring ideas into the room, you know, and they should, and sometimes they're great. And that's it.

Nate Watkin: And so, getting off the agency track a little bit, I want to take some time to learn about one of your other ventures which is really cool. But you actually co-founded the Air Guitar World Championships. Tell me what inspired you to start that and how that story unfolded?

Cedric Devitt: Yeah. the US Air Guitar Championships that, yeah, that was a sort of an inter interesting chapter. Back in, I think early two thousands or whatever it was, I was, you know, pitching a lot of you know, reality TV shows. And I think, you know, it was back when sort of like hold on, let me just think for a second. Oh, yeah. Okay. Lemme yeah. The US Air guitar, yeah. It was somewhere sort of back in the early two thousands, I was, you know, and with a writing partner, we were pitching a lot of sort of reality TV shows. I think it was kind of on the back of American Idol where, you know, we were sort of thinking about what a you know, a no town thir would look like. And we ended up with this idea of an air guitar competition.

And then subsequently, we sort of looked around online and we realized that there was a World Air Guitar Championships that had been happening sort of for four or five years, but America had never competed. So we it happened in Finland. We went to Finland and, you know, got the rights to host the American chapter of it. And we started you know, we'd also sort of sold the idea to VH1 at the time. So, you know, we had sort of, you know, attached a kind of production company to the whole thing as well. And we ended up sort of, you know, launching this thing and then subsequently vh1, you know, canceled the idea. So we were left sort of, you know, with this, you know, air guitar competition, but, you know, it immediately kind of took off. I think Howard Stern talked about it a lot in the buildup to the, you know, the finals and, you know, the things sort of just took off from there and kind of created, sort of became its own little kind of cottage industry of fandom.

And, you know, a lot of fun for many years. We actually ended up doing a, a documentary about it called Eric Tarnation. That was nationwide release was kind of cool. And yeah, very, very interesting time. I was still sort of working at tribal d d at the time, and it sort of, you know, it taught me a lot about kind of fandom and, you know, how people were responding to kind of, you know, these, this sort of pockets of culture and how those things kind of, kind of suddenly kind of just explode into culture and, you know, become these sort of very tangible things out of nothing. So that's sort of, no pun intended there.

Nate Watkin: I was curious to know, like what you learned from that in terms of like community and culture and if any of that influenced the creative decisions you make today.

Cedric Devitt: I think in the making of the, of the documentary, I, I certainly, you know, learned a lot about longer form editing and storytelling and, and that kind of thing. And that's sort of, that was, that was, that was great. As far as, you know, again, I think, like I said, just sort of going back and we, we worked on YouTube for a long time, and it was very similar sort of thinking about, you know, you know what YouTube is, the people, like, there's pockets of YouTube, you know, no matter who you are or you know, what you're into, there's a place on YouTube for you. And, you know, I think, and in some ways, sort of like air guitar is a sort of a microcosm of that, you know, there's like all these sort of weird and wonderful people sort of showing up who come from different walks of life who just sort of wanted to get on stage and, you know, put themselves forward and, you know, just sort of, you know, forget, you know, who they are for 60 seconds and perform. And I think, you know, that's just sort of a, you know, interesting human behavior that I think has I always found sort of fascinating and still do to this day. You know, you know, why do people, you know, get on stage and do anything, you know,

Nate Watkin: Yeah. Tell me about just learning about you personally. You know, would love to know, like what is something that you are incredibly passionate about?

Cedric Devitt: Yeah, I think, you know, I, I'm a, I'm a huge sports fan. You know, this is, you know, I, I love, you know, premier League football. I obsess about that a lot of the time.

Nate Watkin: American football or classic football,

Cedric Devitt: English Premier League.

Nate Watkin: Got it. Who's your team?

Cedric Devitt: I'm a I'm a Tatum fan for my sins long suffering. It's been been a kind of, it's been a, it's, it's like, it's like supporting the Jets, I think

Nate Watkin: Got it. Very cool. Who were you rooting for in the World Cup?

Cedric Devitt: I was, you know, I was definitely sort of rooting in for the finals. I think I, I was, I was for sure rooting for Massie. I think most people were, I think, you know, everybody was like, you know, looking to kind of just settle the debate between Massie and Ronaldo once and for all. I think, you know, that Davis is

Nate Watkin: Mm-Hmm, yeah. Controversial opinion <laugh> here on the podcast.

Cedric Devitt: Yeah, I know.

Nate Watkin: But yeah, no, it was, it was great to see, see Messi finally is World Cup. I'm, I'm a Brazil fan, so, you know, we've got a bit of a rivalry there, but yeah, still good to see. Good story. And so looking back into your career, if you go back to the very beginning, I suppose, you know, when you first came to America what advice would you give to your 20 year old self looking back?

Cedric Devitt: Probably, you know, if I was to think about my twenties and you know what I did, I probably just stayed in bed too much. You know, I think life is short. Don't spend your weekends in bed. <Laugh>, that's, I, you know, I wished I did more on the weekend. I wish I'd sort of not slept in as much <laugh>.

Nate Watkin: Hmm. Very prescient advice for young kids. I think that's so true. And I, I, I suppose as you get older, you probably look back at those younger years, I'm getting older myself, and I wish you had gotten more out of them.

Cedric Devitt: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, listen, I mean, I've got kids now and it's who are, you know, beginning to get into their teen years and which is great as a, as a parent, you know, now I get to sleep in. Are all phases we go through, right? Yeah.

Nate Watkin: You earned it. You earned it. But yeah. Well, great. Thank you for joining. Really enjoyed the conversation. And appreciate appreciate your time joining the podcast.

Cedric Devitt: Thank you very much. It was wonderful talking with you. You as well.

Bonus Read: If you'd like to read an interview with our host Nate Watkin, read a recent interview with him here.

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