This Former New York Times Exec Is Taking on Her First Agency Role

Tracy Quitasol is the new director of OMD's Ignition Factory

Specs
Who Tracy Quitasol
New gig East Coast director, OMD's Ignition Factory
Old gig Executive director, product marketing, The New York Times' Idea Lab
Age 50

What are your initial priorities at the Ignition Factory?
I've always been about scaling businesses, so the first thing is to organize around bringing more scale to the Ignition Factory. We build breakthrough ideas, rooted in strategy and brought to life by technology, that tell a brand's story in a way that it's never been told before and brings results to our clients. We're not a think tank or pitch candy, so scalable results have to be the priority.

First impressions of the Ignition Factory?
I'm impressed with the caliber of talent. The power of the brand really attracts great people and the culture empowers them to share great thinking. It's also highly collaborative: We have an eclectic collection of skills and strengths and we do a great job of building on each other's strengths. That approach extends to our relationships with account teams and other specialty business units across OMD.

Is a big part of your mandate to make innovation into a profit center?
Each of the specialty business units here have different models of how they approach things, and ours is that we are factored into the overall engagement with clients. There are a number of different ways we can approach this, but obviously we help the company make a profit just by bringing clients more innovative ideas to drive business and create more organic growth.

What's it been like for you to move to an ad agency?
The biggest difference is perspective; I'm on the inside now and the service to the internal client and the external client is a much more direct path than being on the media side.

How do you bring real-world rules to an innovation playground, full of young staffers, without overturning the sandbox?
Good ideas get better with collaboration, but like a sports team you need to have the discipline to practice it every day and bring your colleagues and partners in on it. So we're trying to add a routine focus and frequency to how we organize around building ideas.

Any pushback?
The team has been very open. They wouldn't be here if they couldn't be curious and open about alternative viewpoints and how people approach things, so I've been pushing them now to think, How do you get to the furthest edge of exploring alternative viewpoints and disciplines to be able to come up with the absolute best idea for our clients? In the startup world they refer to this as pushing to the edge of competency.

What do you take away from your experience at The New York Times that's most relevant to what you're doing now?
When I got there, there were two separate operating divisions, print and digital. I helped merge them, so I learned about collaboration and if you empower everybody to win they will own it. The most important thing we're trying to do here is ensure that a few people don't own innovation at OMD. Everybody owns innovation, everybody owns ideas.

What's the future of traditionally print-driven news organizations?
Print won't go away until you lose the sense of touch. As a sensory piece your brain ingests information differently when you're touching a piece of paper. But it will take a different form. You won't have a broadsheet, you won't have any of those things. It might be personalized to what I want to read, it might come in a different way to my home, but until you lose the sense of touch, print isn't going away. It's just going to take a different form. 

 

 

Photo: Alfred Maskeroni