TeQ Magazine - July 2016


/  Hey David, quickly tell us about your background and your key accomplishments to date.

Let’s start with accomplishments, a powerful answer to grab everyone’s attention–we’ve really moved the needle for our clients, cracked the gauge even!  With our friends at the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC we re-imagined the digital publication and marketing of their amazing research.  Results = increased funding from partners and massive improvements in engagement with their target audiences... and that leads to public officials being more informed above vexing societal topics!  At Darmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine we created the fastest growing social media community of all Top 50 medical schools, increased applications by a rate 4x the national average, saw all specialty program rankings rise nationally, generated a sizable ROI, won four awards, and received accolades from President Clinton and Secretary Clinton in the process.  The app work we’ve done for Rijuven landed them a massive, international pilot program for their cardiac care technology while also, literally, saving a life half-way around the world.  And budding PTC-superstar’s Safety4Data have seen a 600% increase in business inquiries from our content marketing work.  … and that’s just 2015.

As for background, I started my career in web and interactive work back in the mid-90’s at Carnegie Mellon.  Over the last decade I’ve intertwined that expertise with a passion for content marketing.  The confluence of those two disciplines together are what makes LeftIris unique; we don’t just build websites or app… we take a holistic, user-centric approach to all things digital that consistently increases engagement and retention metrics for our clients.


/  Tell us more about your latest venture Left Iris Communications. What compelled you to start it?

After many years working for a mid-sized agency–leading its digital division–the entrepreneurial bug bit me in 2012, and in 2013 I started what has become LeftIris.

Years of seeing first-hand the challenges of running a mid-sized agency–being creative and innovative, affording excellent talent that can adapt to the rapid changes in technology, and doing it all while remaining profitable–I saw an opening for a model that could do it all better.  As PTC showed in its “State of the Industry” report, the future of digital agencies lies in smaller, nimble organizations that have unique expertise and collaborate with other nimble organizations that have unique expertise of their own.  The model redistributes expensive overhead into a better source, one that clients really value… excellent, reliable talent!

What would you rather have, a team of all-stars or a roster limited by a salary cap?


/  Back when you appeared on TechVibe Radio KDKA 1020 AM over the winter, you mentioned quite emphatically that the marketing agency is dead. Tell us what you mean by that and where can we send flowers?

Send the flowers to LeftIris–they are such a nice relationship builder!  We’ll gladly return the gesture, maybe a fruit basket.

Yes, the traditional “full-service” agency is dead.  I’m not sure a full-service agency ever really existed to be honest.  Small and mid-sized agencies have, for a long time, been labeling themselves with this false narrative.  It’s dishonest sales tactic that really means “we can construct a solution using our internal team, staffing solutions, partners, and contractors (but we won’t tell you that)”.  Truth is, we ALL outsource work, even the biggest agencies out of New York or L.A. or London.  There are just too many unique disciplines.

LeftIris turns the “full-service” model on it’s head.  Digital strategy, user-experience development, content marketing and content production are our sweet spots.  To create a truly all-star roster we have partnerships with every type of expert in the digital space – app development that’s helped to build Hulu, software engineers with the talented to build HIPPA compliant medical solutions, and more.  We’re proud of these partnerships and our clients couldn’t be happier with the results.


/  How has technology leveled and intensified the playing field for effective marketing strategies?

Great question!  One particular technology, maybe more so that any other since the dawn of the internet, has been the big game-changer—smartphones.  Did you know that in the last decade we’ve double the amount of time that we spend consuming content each day... mostly thanks to smartphones?  We spend, on average, nearly 6hrs per day with video content alone, about a quarter of which is online.  Let that sink in.  Thanks iPhone!

And smartphones not only helped to double the amount of time we spend consuming content, it’s widened the audience to people and markets, both in the U.S. and internationally, that never would’ve had access to these communications channels and its content.  I’ve seen first-hard how tech has impacted countries on the other side of the world.  Here in the US, people that couldn’t afford a computer, that may have only used one at a school or library, now have the entire internet in their pocket!  That phenomenon is tied to the inverse correlation between income and mobile browsing; the result is there are more people to tell stories to, and with more stories comes exponentially more competition for the attention of all users.

There are so many nerdy, quantifiable ways to answer your question, but I’ll wrap this answerwith something a little bit more inspirational, one anecdote about how smartphone technology has changed civilization.  One of our clients has a brilliant, FDA cleared medical device called CardioSleeve.  In the US, CardioSleeve has the ability to revolutionize healthcare.  But in India the technology literally saved a life recently; the first of many I’m sure.  The mobility of CardioSleeve and its app (that LeftIris developed) was used to detect a life-threatening cardiac condition for an Indian gentleman who lived in a very remote village, without access to great healthcare.  That serendipitous diagnosis led allowed the man to get the urgent care that save his life.  How’s that for intense?


/  How do you keep on top of the constant change and accelerations of technology. Especially as it underpins marketing?

We approach change like any great professional – athletes, musicians, physicians, and technologists – should.  First, we must always have the courage to be innovative with our clients and their projects when opportunities are presented to do so (which is not the same as doing something trendy just because it is a tactic that made some Top 10 for 2016 list).  Next, we are always learning!  More than reading Content Marketing Institute or Digital Marketer, or following thought leaders like Seth Godin or Kare Anderson, learning requires applying earned experience wisdom behind the scenes, practicing.  Last is to surround ourselves with other great thinkers… some of which are partners of LeftIris; we can’t be experts in everything digital, we don’t care to be, but the brilliant minds at a shop like Flipside Media are like a portable hard drive, it’s like having a plug-and-play brain.  They make us better at what we do.


/  What keeps you and LeftIris Communicatons in Pittsburgh? What's in the future?

I’ve personally had the great fortune to travel the world, but Pittsburgh is home; I was raised here, I went to Carnegie Mellon, and stayed in the region in spite of tempting opportunities in New York and DC.  Also in Pittsburgh we have some of the most brilliant minds in technology and medicine thanks, in part, to schools like CMU and Pitt.  LeftIris’ office is at new Nova Place on the North Shore; the innovative ideas coming from those entrepreneurs and their tech start-ups are remarkable.  I’ve heard Pittsburgh called Silicon Valley east… so who wouldn’t want to be here?!?  But I’m biased.

As for the future… the first three years have flown by, so much in fact that we didn’t have the time to work on our own brand while we helped our clients improve theirs.  That’s why many people reading this might have never even heard of us.  But while we were in the tall grass working on the achievements we discussed earlier, LeftIris grew to a team of six, deepened partnerships (some of which are now over a decade rich), and moved to a beautiful office on the booming North Shore.  So what’ s in the future… that you’ll be hearing a lot more about LeftIris as we help organizations tell their stories.

Want to learn more?  Drop us a note and say hello.