The Agency Interview: 28 Questions for Howard Tiersky

March 28, 2017

Howard Tiersky is CEO of FROM, the digital transformation company. Previously, he worked for CapGemini and Ernst & Young as an executive specializing in media and entertainment. We asked him 28 questions. Here are his 28 answers. Read on to see what he’s binge watching, how agencies are adapting to the changing digital world, and how long he estimates he’d last in a zombie apocalypse. 

1. What did you have for breakfast this morning?

Isagenix chocolate shake.

2. What’s the last great thing you binge watched and why?

Every episode of the current season of HBO’s Crashing

3. What’s the industry buzzword that annoys you the most these days?

Words rarely annoy me. The key is to figure out—what are we really talking about?

4. How well do most companies know and understand their customers?

Companies can’t know anything, only people can. At most companies there are definitely people who understand the customers very well! Those people usually work the “front line”—in stores, call centers, etc. The question is, does this institutional knowledge of the customer get leveraged when strategic decisions get made.

5. What’s the last great book you read? Why was it great?

The Alchemist. It’s a poetic inspiration that we are all here to do something great and our job is to find out what it is.

6. What’s your favorite vacation spot?

Bonaire — love the diving.

7. What’s the biggest change in the agency business since you started?

We no longer have to convince people of the importance of digital.

8. How have you (and your agency) adapted?

Well since we are a digital agency it wasn’t hard! But the next level challenge is helping companies make the profound change that’s really necessary to deliver an elegant digital customer journey.

9. Why did you name your agency FROM?

We help companies get FROM where they are to where they need to be to win in a digital age.

10. What’s your proudest moment in business?

When I see the individual executives who brought us in achieving their career goals—getting recognized and promoted for the business impact we have collaborated with them to deliver.

11. In life?

When I see my children taking care of each other and hope/believe they will continue to do so for the rest of their lives.

12. How important do you think personalization is in the mobile age?

Personalization is one of the three core pillars of delivering on the digital expectations of today’s audience. The other two are hyper-convenience and delivering a massive value shift.

13. What’s the most important way the rise of social media, from YouTube to Facebook to LinkedIn, has changed the way companies reach their audiences?

Well I think it’s the fact that they have audiences.

14. Digital ad spending is poised to surpass TV ad spending. Is this a problem for agencies or an opportunity?

I don’t think the total size of either market matters so much as the opportunity to find ways to help brands better connect with their markets and to do something no matter how small that brightens someone’s day.

15. Is content marketing an evolution or a revolution?

I’d call it more of an expansion. The idea of using content to engage an audience and bring them into your brand is an old one. What’s happening now is that industries that hadn’t utilized it in the past are doing so now…and in a world of search, social and email, it’s a lot easier for the content to be found, delivered and shared. Content marketing is an idea that’s been a small player for a long time, and now circumstances are right for it and its moment has come.

16. You have undergraduate and graduate degrees in fine arts. How have you applied what you learned in school in your work life?

Many ways. My degree is in theatre, which is a highly collaborative art involving a blend of writing, visual spectacle, storytelling, music, and technology. In theater you also have to connect with an audience. All of these components are present in the digital world, as is the need to have strong collaboration between very diverse skills from creatives to technicians to facility operations.

Also, I was always interested in experimental and interactive forms of theater, where the audience plays a more active role, so of course that was a natural jumping off point for interactive media.

17. You taught at New York University — what was your assessment of the skills of this generation of students?

I was always impressed by the originality of thinking I saw in my students at NYU as well as their tremendous drive and commitment. Of course the Graduate School ITP program at NYU is quite a selective place and probably not representative of this generation.

18. How has the availability of data changed marketing (or not)?

Less than it should, because it’s one thing for data to be available, but you have to do something with it!

19. What is your top-secret superpower?

Changing someone’s mind by agreeing with them.

20. Who should play you in the movie version of your life?

On a good hair day  — George Clooney.  But more realistically, probably Jonah Hill.

21. Best movies ever. Go:

Scent of a Woman

22. What did you want to be when you grew up?

A veterinarian

23. What's your most annoying habit?

Interrupting people. But I only do it because I have something to say that they really need to hear right now ;)

24. How long would you survive a zombie apocalypse?

I don’t think I’d do very well. But if I get turned into a zombie isn’t that a form of survival?

25. What jobs did you have as a youth and what lessons did you learn from them that you still put into practice today?

Teaching drama classes at summer camp. I learned to always have a fallback plan in case it rains.

26. What did you learn at CapGemini that you still use today?

Tons of stuff! How to find clients, how to estimate a project, how to negotiate a contract, how to build a team, how to deal with difficulties you encounter on projects, how to persevere.

27. What’s not on your LinkedIn profile?

I don’t think it mentions I have five kids.

28. What’s the best dinner you’ve had in the last week?

Taking my 15-year old out for tacos in Greenwich Village for her birthday.

For even more insight into the changing world of advertising and marketing, download the complete “Global Agency Interview Collection” today.