The future is user-driven

Andre Gray, CCO of annex88, on content as a two-way bridge

by India Fizer , AdForum

Havas New York
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New York, United States
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Andre Gray
Chief Creative Officer annex88

As a subsidiary of Havas New York, annex88 leverages the scale and power of the Havas Creative network while maintaining its positioning as an agile independent shop. Andre Gray, CCO of annex88, explains how listening to your audience and playing to the strengths of the medium chosen can lead to content becoming a two-way connection between the brand and the community.

Content is the bridge between you and your audience. How do you anticipate and then integrate the right topics for your audience while maintaining a consistent brand voice?

Brands are understood as people. So, a brand voice should be homebase. It’s something we can always go back to. But it’s not like you are expected to speak the same all the time in all contexts as a person. That being said, we have all heard what it sounds like when moms start trying to talk like the kids and clearly, that’s not the way either. When the voice flexes appropriately, the community will tell you. And it becomes a two-way bridge.


What role does branding play in content marketing? 

Everything you do as a company adds a little something to the gumbo that is your brand. Branding is about making offerings to the collective conscious and hoping they stick as things people identify, recognize, and retain. Every assignment does not necessarily require all three, but there should at least be one memorable element that can be brought back to the brand. And it’s hardly ever a logo.


Not everything can be advertised the same way, which can require a different approach across clients. How does content affect the way something is marketed and how do you pivot to treat this?

Each piece of content needs to be respectful of its canvas, the situation of its audience, and the permissions of the brand. A huge brick wall with people walking by it on a weekday can accomplish a different task than a six-second banner on a social page someone may see once at midnight. We can have the same central idea and intention, but the “job to do” needs to accommodate.


Without giving away your secrets, what are some things that are integral to your internal checklist when creating content?

“Will this make the group chat?” It’s our version of “do people really care”? This is beyond a social media sharing metric, it’s more personal.


How do you strategize for the way audiences will want to interact with content in virtual realities, Web 3.0, and the metaverse? To what extent do you involve influencers and consumers in creating the brand narrative? 

New virtual realities are really about a conceptual shift in the permissions and the agency that people have. They know now that they have been giving away their data for “free platforms and tools” and the gig is up.

The future will be more user-driven than any media before it. It’s why we brands need to figure out what we can offer and humbly ask them if they want it on their terms.