Inside the Mind Of… Russ Cohn

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Russ Cohn is Quigley-Simpson’s new Vice President, Creative Marketing and Innovation. This new role was created at a point where brand response, performance media, and media innovation are converging and gaining massive traction with clients.

LA-headquartered, bi-coastal Quigley-Simpson has, during the past 15 years, amassed an impressive roster of clients, including Chase, Yelp, Sutter Health, HelloFresh, Ritz-Carlton and WeightWatchers, a staff of 180 people, and annual billings of more than $500 million.

At age 33, Cohn also boasts impressive accomplishments.

A leader in media, digital and innovation, with roots in the entertainment space, Cohn migrated from Thinkingbox, a creative and digital production studio. He worked on groundbreaking projects with Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros, Lionsgate, The CW Network, Open Road Films and Amazon Studios.


How would you describe what you do at Quigley-Simpson?

I lead the infusion of bleeding-edge thinking and intelligence into the marketing strategies of Quigley-Simpson’s clients, through partnerships with emerging startups, disruptive ideas and creative applications of technology that drive business results.


Describe what Quigley-Simpson offers the client.

As one of the pioneers of brand response advertising, Quigley-Simpson offers brand marketers both performance and bottom-line results, but also the edge that comes from trying new channels and platforms.

In addition, Quigley-Simpson delivers, along with strong ROI, measurement, analysis and optimization – all key elements today’s CMOs demand.


Can you elaborate more about “trying new channels and platforms”? What have you experimented with, specifically, and what was that like for the client?

Earlier this year, we were tasked by our Sony/Universal Music Group client with finding a way to reach new audiences and drive retail sales of the latest Now That’s What I Call Music product.

Through investigation and insights we uncovered, we decided to partner with Snapchat to venture into new territory as one of the social platform’s first deep-link Snap Ads Web View executions.

Previously, Snapchat’s Web View Snap Ads could only remain within the app, serving users a preloaded landing page when they engage with (swipe up) the ad.

The campaign was one of the first that allowed users to exit Snapchat and open the music download or streaming app of their choice. Now That’s What I Call Music’s signature creative, which features sound bites and clips from the music videos of songs on the album, was transformed into a full-screen vertical video for Snapchat.

As they were served the video, music fans were immediately immersed in the latest chart-topping hits. When the user swiped up on the Top Snap video, they were given the choice to select iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Google Play or Amazon to either purchase or stream the full album. Overall, the engagement was extremely strong, and the clients loved the thinking.

We are working on more tests like the above for other clients as well.


Can you talk about a campaign/client that you are particularly proud of, and why? What made it so special?

I am currently working on a new business pitch strategy. Since we are a fully integrated agency, it is not every day we can have a creative strategy team and art directors and copywriters sitting in the same room as a full service media team.

It allows us to think a little differently at client problems, and bring together a full funnel, holistic approach to potential clients.

We’re starting each pitch with a strategic approach, which is common for most agencies, but we’re integrating big ideas throughout the pitches, from beginning to end.

We’re seeing a lot of great feedback from clients, and potential clients, because as the consumer landscape is getting more and more fragmented they are looking to agencies that have a holistic view on the consumer journey.

They like our ability to be nimble and strategy-minded, as we know business goals morph and change almost daily. It leads to a lot of late nights, and long weeks – but when we see the results, it’s all worth it.


Can you name something you had to fix?

I would saying something I’ve had to come in and fix in my past is reminding myself, and the team I’m working with, to not forget “the why” or, the insight.

We as marketers get so bogged down in tactical “how” programs look and “what” campaigns do, but sometimes I have to remind myself – why would a consumer do this, or be interested in this, or engage with this?

What were we drawing from when we started down this path?

Sometimes the answer is a simple, sometimes it’s more complex, but it always needs to be simplified. What is the insight? I’ve seen amazing programs fall to the wayside because brands and their agencies got too caught up in the tactics and the grandeur. They did not keep coming back to the strategic principles and the insights that got them to those tactics and answered: why?


Also, in terms of media and innovation, where do you think things are going for 2018?

The typical answer to this type of question is usually something related to native ads, artificial intelligence, or re-targeting advances, but my answer is a piece of the marketing pie we always have to think about as full funnel marketers.

I believe in 2018 brands are going to continue to blow up and blow out physical experiences.

As brands are always looking to do things that attract buzz and “earned” impressions, getting consumers to step back say “woah, that’s cool” sometimes has to be done in-person.

Physical experiences are providing not only brand awareness, but if skillfully done, they can drive consumers down the path to purchase or acquisition.

Entertainment, auto, and alcohol marketing have always included well-curated physical experiences as a must-have in each campaign, but now all verticals are spending lots of brainpower coming up with the most buzz-worthy activation at major events like SXSW, CES, or Comic-Con.

Brands are able to draft off of massive crowds, and in turn big press and buzz, when done effectively. Many events are extremely well attended, as are conferences like SXSW and ComicCon, who have attendance numbers skyrocketing every year.

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Dave Gordon

Dave Gordon

Dave Gordon is a Toronto-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in more than a hundred publications globally, over the course of twenty years. More about him can be found at