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POV: Interview with Rony Zeidan, President & Creative Director at RO NEW YORK

Rony-headshot-2Welcome to The Agency Post. Tell us about yourself.

My name is Rony Zeidan. I am the founder and chief creative officer of RO NEW YORK, a full-service, modern-day luxury branding agency based in New York and conceived in January 2009. Prior to opening shop, I was the global creative director vice president for Ralph Lauren Fragrances and L’Oreal, where I acted as the creative gatekeeper of the brand — working directly with Mr. Lauren and his executive creative team in translating Mr. Lauren’s vision into the world of fragrances. Prior to that post, I held a series of creative positions at eluxury.com (LVMH’s first online e-commerce experience), Donna Karan and Kraftworks, where I oversaw 13 accounts and ran the creative department of the agency. Most of the recognizable work I have created during this journey includes The ALDO/ Youth Aids Campaign, Wonderbra’s 10 year anniversary “the wonder is you” campaign, Ralph Lauren’s Big Pony fragrance collection and Chopard’s first e-commerce website that launched in October.

Tell us more about RO NEW YORK and the type of work you do there.

RO was created with the passion for wanting to live, work and breathe creativity and to surround myself with bright and inspired multi-faceted innovators. We act as brand partners and boosters for entrepreneurial entities, as well as established companies. RO NEW YORK is a modern day branding agency whose philosophy is centered around creative intelligence. We work primarily with high-end brands in luxury, fashion and beauty. Our range of services includes advertising, packaging design, digital, merchandising, event design and coordination, identity development and video concepting and production. We have created identities for startup luxury brands such as “title of work” and “Thale Blanc,” designed the first e-commerce website for Chopard in the U.S., created a full print and digital program for Swarovski, — which is launching mid-January — conceived and produced brand videos for Amore Pacific and built conceptual rooms for Ralph Lauren Fragrance.

RO NEW YORK has created luxurious brand aesthetics for many fashion and beauty brands like Ralph Lauren, Chopard, Swarovski, Amore Pacific and Madonna. As “taste-makers,” how do you continue to innovate in design to give each luxury brand its own unique look?

Being in New York City and having the pulse on the amazing energy and creativity that surrounds us, we stay in tune and run with a global sense of aesthetics that is always fresh, different and unique to our clients. Our team has the discerning eye and intellectual capacity that connects with our diverse clients and captures their values.

Where do you find inspiration?

We are true believers of “form follows function.” We start every client meeting talking about business, not creative. We need to understand what they really need to achieve, and then we provide feedback, help them adjust their strategy and identify what is necessary to do and develop. Then comes inspiration, first as a form of vision in our head — a clear picture that appears — and then we get inspired by our environment visually, intellectually and virtually.

How is the rise of social commerce and tools like Favery and Pinterest helping or hurting fashion retailers?

I don’t think that social media tools hurt companies — they are an added benefit to all brands in directly reaching out to their consumers and admirers. I personally love Pinterest; we use it as a research tool sometimes, and we encourage our brands to share it — especially in the luxury category. A visual says a million words, and that is invaluable. It helps generate brand awareness, which will ultimately result in a sale.

Many luxury brands are diving into publishing (i.e. Tory Burch and Burberry). Should brands be making the move to publish more original content? How can this help to further future online engagement with followers?

Creating original content is a good strategy. It’s another way for brands to immediately and directly engage with their followers and therefore control and share their own voices when there is so much online that can be interpreted or created. However, creating too much original content could hurt your brand. Brands need to ensure that content development is on par with their own values and those of their community. The strength of the content itself will fuel the engagement with future online consumers.

What future possibilities do you see for advertising on tablets and mobile? Do you think the proliferation of e-readers will be enough to revitalize the publishing industry? Which (if any) current advertising models are working for e-pubs?

I believe that the best form of online advertising for tablets and e-pubs is the development of original content. Users of tablets go to their tablets to enjoy browsing and reading at their own pace, their own time and leisure. They don’t like to be talked to in an advertisement. They enjoy the element of discovery and feeling that they have found something cool that appeals to them.

Do you think online retailers like Zappos and Overstock.com dilute the brand equity of higher-end fashion, or should brands embrace the accessibility that comes with the online shopping experience?

I don’t think Zappos does, but I do think that Overstock.com does. It depends on how the brand has been embraced and how the consumer perceives it. Sites like Zappos, Gilt and Rue La La help brand awareness and usually sell the previous season’s merchandise. However, there is now a big movement online in which full-price retailers such as Moda Operandi, NET-A-PORTER and MR PORTER do very well because they please two ends of the spectrum: brands who want to sell their favorite pieces to consumers, and people who then want the designer’s favorite choices in their collection. Moda Operandi brought to life the concept of trunk shows, and consumers are responding in millions. The trend has shifted back, and that’s a reflection of the economy.

Where do you see fashion marketing headed in the next three years?

My answer today will probably be different than in a few months. Until now, the fashion industry has been slow to move and evolve from a marketing innovation perspective. The energizing digital and social media landscape has opened up a huge opportunity for brands to market directly to their consumer in a very personal way, different than running glossy magazine ads.

I think there will continue to be a marriage between the fashion and tech industries in the next three years. And as a result of advancements in social media, we will see a tighter connection between brands and their consumers, and a direct connection to consumer marketing.

Mentor: The amazing and brilliantly talented photographer HIRO.

Music that gets you in your zone: The Chromatics, Empire of the Sun, Alexander Ebert, Dirty Gold, Mr. Little Jeans and Bonobo to name a few.

Must-read book: All-time favorites: “From Beirut to Jerusalem” by Thoma Friedman and “Just Kids” by Patti Smith.

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