Publicis Sapient appoints John Maeda as chief experience officer

Publicis Sapient: Vaz and Maeda
Publicis Sapient: Vaz and Maeda

Maeda is author of books including The Laws of Simplicity and Creative Code.

Publicis Sapient has hired John Maeda, an author and global of head computational design at Automattic, as chief experience officer and the "tech whisperer" who will help creative and technologists collaborate.

It is the first major hire by Nigel Vaz since he became chief executive of Publicis Sapient three months ago and relaunched it as a single unified brand.

Maeda is a former academic, who was  a professor at MIT Media Lab for 12 years, and is an internationally known speaker and author. His books include The Laws of Simplicity, Creative Code and Redesigning Leadership and he entered the marketing industry in 2013 after resigning from the Rhode Island School of Design. 

Speaking to Campaign at Cannes Lions today, Maeda described a "schism" between the marketing industry and the tech industry: "Marketing is about developing and selling things through ideas and creativity. Technology is focused on creating a great product and then scaling it with tools and code. This means there is a language barrier and I we need to make sure these two worlds talk to each other."

In practice, this will mean agency practitioners will be expected to be more "iterative" in their approach, which is the approach tech giants such as Google and Facebook adrop, Maeda added. He accepted that he would be seen as a "tech whisperer" within Publicis.Sapient.

It is a change in direction for Meade, who has never worked in a similar business. Maeda joins Publicis Sapient from Automattic, where he is global head of computational design and inclusion. He was previously design partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and held board positions at Wieden & Kennedy and Sonos. 

He is tasked with taking Publicis Sapient’s performance in product, design and experience "to the next level", meaning advancing how the company partners some of the largest brands in the world on their transformation journeys through powerful storytelling and technological innovations that marry Publicis Sapient’s design and engineering capabilities.

Maeda will be based in Boston and replaces Donald Chestnut, a Sapient veteran who joined Mastercard as chief experience officer at the beginning of the year. 

However, Vaz told Campaign that Meade's appointment was not a like-for-like replacement and reflected how Publicis Sapient needed to be more "future-facing" in response to new challenges for clients, particularly as parent company Publicis Groupe more encourages more collaboration across agencies. 

Vaz said: "We need to move people from thinking about physical design to computational design. John's role is crucial as he sits at the interaction of tech and creativity.

"Now we have to create work that is iterative and responsive. The question is now: 'what does the future of this look like and how does the way we think about design impact that."

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