This Deutsch EVP Uses Tech to Solve Problems, Not Just for Tech’s Sake

Husani Oakley has let his instincts guide him along the way

Oakley is deeply involved in his agency’s Great Machine AI innovation studio, developing ways to use AI to humanize technology and brand storytelling.
Daniella Morrison

A well-rounded résumé is never a bad thing. With experience in fields ranging from wood furniture to startup incubators to online investment, Deutsch executive vice president and director of technology and innovation Husani Oakley certainly has that—and he’s let his instincts guide him along the way.

Oakley was in his fourth year as chief technology officer for startup online investment platform GoldBean when a former colleague and personal friend at Deutsch convinced him to rejoin the agency world. He had previously worked with Euro RSCG Worldwide (now Havas Worldwide), Omnicom’s EVB and Wieden + Kennedy. While reluctant at first, Oakley felt deep down that GoldBean was nearing its end, so he sold the startup and began the interview process. “I felt really silly when I did finally have those conversations and realized that there were some really interesting brains [at Deutsch],” he said.

Oakley has never made the mistake of using tech for the sake of tech; instead, he uses it for problem-solving and storytelling. While serving as director of creative technology at W+K, Oakley worked on “Human Twitter” for ESPN’s X Games in July 2011, a project he said was “complicated to execute” but that he “still get[s] excited about years later.” (X Games fans shared tweets with the hashtag #HumanTwitter, some of which were then spelled out by 160 people in the stands for athletes to see as they played.) Meanwhile, a favorite current project for Oakley is Hoppy, an internal corporate training application for Anheuser-Busch InBev, which helps employees across all areas of the company learn more about beer via game elements including quizzes and daily challenges.

As for the future? Oakley said the “wide-ranging flavor” of his work and past experiences give him a unique way of seeing the world, and he intends to blend this flavor with one of the biggest mediums impacting the tech sphere: artificial intelligence. Oakley is deeply involved in his agency’s Great Machine AI innovation studio, developing ways to use AI to humanize technology and brand storytelling.

“AI is a structural change in technology, and with that comes huge levels of responsibility,” he said. “I hope I am still in the mix of thinking through those sorts of problems and attaching solutions to them.”

Big Mistake

Oakley said he left one startup gig too soon. As the youngest person on the team, he was still trying to figure out who he was as a person. “I left because things got hard, and I didn’t see an end to the difficult times, not realizing that every position has difficult times,” he explained.

Lesson Learned

“Hold on longer than you think you can through the adversity, because you do get through the adversity, and you’re better off on the other side,” he advised.

How He Got the Gig

A former colleague and personal friend at Deutsch had multiple conversations with Oakley about joining the company. While Oakley was reluctant, his friend kept pushing the issue, so Oakley finally agreed to meet with some people at the company as a favor—and it turned out to be a fit for both sides.

Pro Tip

Oakley pointed out that most people outside of the tech industry don’t realize that everyday features like GPS and spell check are driven by AI. “Tech should be invisible to those using it,” he said.

This story first appeared in the June 10, 2019, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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