Digital 40 Over 40 2017: Ian Schafer, Founder and CEO, Deep Focus

winston birch
Ian Schafer
Founder and CEO, Deep Focus

The problem with being an adman these days is that people go out of their way to avoid ads. That means agencies and brands have to create something fun to reach ad-adverse consumers. Ian Schafer’s career has been premised on the idea that there’s always a creative solution to this problem.

Case in point: Ruffles potato chips. In the early part of the decade, the Frito-Lay brand wasn’t connecting with millennials. Deep Focus then launched a campaign called #roughlife that played on the First World problem that the chip was designed to solve. (Wimpy chips that break when you dip them.) The agency, which Schafer created in 2002, created animated shorts that imagined a world in which rough life problems were solved. That campaign boosted both sales and fan engagement.

Deep Focus is also adept at newsjacking and inserting brands into real-time events. Schafer founded Moment Studio a few years ago to create custom, high-quality content to meet that need. Another project is co/star, a new company that works with recording star and entrepreneur Kevin Jonas to connect brands with influencers.

An outspoken diversity advocate, Schafer has worked hard to make Deep Focus an inclusive place to work. He has created units like DF Women, DF Parents and DF Forum to help foster a fun environment where women and parents can discuss the challenges they face and victories in their professional journeys.

That would be enough to keep most people busy, but Schafer is also something of a gadfly in the media and in Twitter. During the 2012 GOP convention when Clint Eastwood offered a soliloquy to an empty chair meant to represent then-President Obama, Schafer created @invisibleObamaSchafer said he got up to make a sandwich and 20 minutes later the account had 20,000 followers. 

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