POV: Interview With Justin Bolognino, Founder of Learned Evolution and The Meta Agency

Justin_Bolognino_2013bwIntroduce yourself!

Typically I tell people I’m from Tralfamadore to see if they catch the Vonnegutt reference, but it’s rare at best they do. Tralfamadorians get to live in all times and dimensions simultaneously and put humans in zoos. And they have the ability to become unstuck in time. It’s kind of my ideal planet.

Tell us more about Learned Evolution and its sister agency The Meta Agency. How do the two work together?

Learned Evolution is a digital creative agency, and while our work is relatively forward thinking, the model is a pretty straightforward boutique agency. We specialize in multidisciplinary design, social media and events. The Meta Agency — and now my latest, #FEED powered by Twitter — have both organically grown out of Learned Evolution. TMA was, at first, a fake entity I created so we could represent and manage a few out-of-the-box artists, which didn’t really jive with the LE model. It quickly became clear there is a huge hole in the market for representing experiential/visual/interactive talent in the live space, so we’re working to develop both this new market and these new artists to grow in tandem. LE makes stuff and TMA represents other artists and studios that make cooler stuff. They are completely different entities but often hire each other.

Tell us about some of your favorite campaigns that you’ve worked on. What was the strategy behind these?

Brooklyn Bowl is the no-brainer here. I was blessed with the opportunity to build this brand from scratch as the first hire. I’m really proud of the “3 Years of Brooklyn Bowl” Infographic we did for them that shows the unreal story of the first three years there and all of the fun and weird accolades. The strategy was to show how interconnected design and social media are and use this to tell the story of a very unique venue. I believe the infographic has seen nearly a million page views. Jazz and Colors was a testament to our real-time chops. We used social media to drive traffic to Central Park for a jazz celebration in 30 locations around the park. Thanks to a strategic partnership with the Mobile Media Lab, we had something like 85,000 “likes” on the #Jazzandcolors hashtag in a single day.

You’ve defined yourself as a synchronicity architect? What does this mean?

The now is all there is. We live in the ever-present moment, so everything I do is geared towards optimizing the now. The idea is that synchronicity is and can no longer be a random and surprising occurrence, Rather, we can actually foster mechanisms that create and generate synchronicity — the moments we realize we are all connected on many levels. #FEED is the ultimate architecture for what’s happening now and reveling in it.

You recently partnered with Twitter to produce #FEED at SXSW, and you plan to take this concept to other events. Tell us about the event’s goals and why combining online interactions with offline events is becoming more and more important for attendees?

Digital social media is a reflection of human perspectives. The Internet is the most transparent example of interconnected consciousness manifesting itself into reality that is still outside of ourselves in the online sphere. #FEED is an ever-evolving “sculpture,” where people’s perspectives and memories are the medium we’re using. As we become more entwined with technology, people will yearn more and more for the human connection. So #FEED is really a celebration of the physical world, using technology to forget about technology and remember who we really are: everyone. I really love this idea of making art using people’s unique memories as the medium. Michelangelo used marble to sculpt; we’re using your perspective. The end goal is to create the “self-fulfilling #FEEDback loop,” where all the lines blur between online and offline and generate huge ROI for our partners rooted in our fundamental “cause” — generating awareness for awareness.

Why is artistry – especially paired with technology – so important to the work Learned Evolution creates?

It’s hard to even think of them as separate. When I was 8 years old, I was writing papers about Picasso’s Blue Period versus Cubism, so I think it’s been a life-long pursuit. Technology is an evolving set of tools used to find new modes of artistry, but not that long ago, flint stone was pretty revolutionary technology to primitive humans. It’s all — sorry to be cheesy here — “learned evolution.”

Social media has been praised as the solution for brands. Why is engagement through social media not the stopping point? What’s next?

I think it’s a vehicle and driver rather than a “solution.” If a complete marketing strategy is a car, then social media should be the driver. It all harkens back to this idea of the now: the real-time moment that we can’t escape from. My generation and the next generation will respond to no form of advertising other than experiential, so what’s next is manifesting the digital online world more and more into the physical offline world. Soon there will be no line between them, and everything we are doing is trying to destroy those lines.

As an independent and smaller agency, what advantages do you have when pitching or working with brands?

Adaptability is in our name: the ability to pivot on a dime if needed or to scale up or down thanks to a healthy network of creatives and thinkers who are always on hand to engage with is key. We’re always working hard on our structures and systems so we can continue to grow without imploding. Pitching is tough because we don’t have the resources to do spec work, which is ultimately a disease of agency culture that favors those with the resources and capitol to do so.

What emerging trend in advertising are you most excited about and why?

Real-time action. It’s very cool to see huge brands jump into the now and strategically stoke the fire of the only moment we have.

Must-read book: “The Ever-Present Origin” by Jean Gebser.

Favorite ad of all time: I’m Mr. Gal-ee-week-kits. You mean, Dr. Galakowitz?

Follow Justin on Twitter @jbolognino.

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