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Member Spotlight: Ed Chambliss, CEO, Phelps

Posted By Emily Hope, Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Photos: Don Lupo Photography


How did you get started in advertising? What's been your career road map?

When I was seven years old, I visited my Uncle’s post-production studio. I was fascinated by how commercials were put together - all the tools and tricks that went into creating an ad. I wanted to use those tools to tell stories, which led me to my initial career as a copywriter. While working at BBDO, I taught a series of courses in creativity at The Portfolio Center and came to realize that while I was a good creative, I wasn’t a great one. What I was great at was brand and creative strategy. So I left copywriting and enrolled in the Masters of Integrated of Marketing Communication program at the University of Colorado in Boulder. When I graduated, Joe Phelps hired me to be a mid-level account guy. Over the last 18 years I’ve pitched and led accounts, and led the agency through a succession of roles – first as chief operating officer, then president and now CEO.




What keeps you motivated? Do you have a personal motto?

I’m on a quest. And have been for a most of my career. There just has to be a better way for companies to interact with customers. When two people have a conversation, everything is relatively straightforward. The conversation flows both ways. People talk. People listen. The conversation progresses and benefits both sides. But when a company tries to communicate as one entity, it’s a train wreck. Listening seems to be optional (or at least intermittent) and speaking only seems to clumsily advance the brand’s interests. So I wake up every day, knowing deep down inside that this can be fixed. It’s a big problem that clearly can’t be solved overnight. But I think we, as an industry, can do it to the benefit of everyone involved.


What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far?

Customers are people. It sounds simple, but so many things our industry does completely ignore the fact that on the other end of our communications isn’t a “target” but an individual human being – a protagonist in their own narrative filled with pains, joys, drama and desires. We ignore that at our own peril.


What excites you most about this industry?

Thanks to technology, we’re entering an era where marketing can serve people, and we can establish authentic, equitable relationships between people and brands. As we continue to get more information about people, we come to understand how communications can support rather than interrupt their lives.


Where is advertising heading? What do the next five years look like?

We’re on the road to either distinction or extinction, depending on the struggle between convenience and quality and how we use data as a result. If quality wins, advertising will become more relevant to people than ever, because we’ll mine data to understand individual needs and create brand conversations with meaning and utility. If convenience wins, we will become little more than technicians shoveling data around, helping our clients stalk prospects with no regard for what they want.


Why are you involved with ThinkLA?

Our business is so competitive. We’re constantly trying to edge each other out of the way so that we can win (or retain) clients. We need to remember that we’re also a community. It’s important and rewarding to take a moment every once in a while to enjoy each other’s company (and war stories) and help each other overcome shared challenges. Also, who doesn’t love AdJam?


What advice do you have for those just starting in advertising?

Learn the software. Learn to code. But don’t stop there. Learn to speak. Learn to write. Learn about people, particularly what cements our shared humanity. And learn about yourself. You’ll need all of those skills to succeed.


Any closing thoughts?

The ancient Greek philosopher Epictetus said something advertising needs to live by if we’re to earn a meaningful place in the emerging world: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.

Tags:  #ThinkMembers  Advertising  CEO  Ed Chambliss  LA Advertising  Member  Phelps  PhelpsAdvertising 

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I'm Conflicted About Virtual Reality; You Should Be, Too

Posted By Emily Hope, Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Aaron Dubois 
VP, Digital

The more I play and work with VR, the more I’m awed by its potential. But my awe cuts both ways. I’m excited by what we can do with VR but worried about the unintended impact it could have on society and marketing.

VR redefines what an immersive experience can be, reshaping how we interact with people online. VR is inspiring a new generation of games, operating systems, and interactive tools, to the point of defining a completely new vernacular of digital interaction. And VR is driving the creation of virtual marketplaces for niche audiences (Facebook will undoubtedly be a huge player here) that represent treasure chests for brand connection. This will only spread as the cost differential — a Google Cardboard costs about $10 while an Oculus Rift setup costs over $2,500 all in — comes down. 

Here’s the rub: The more we feed technologies that encapsulate people and allow us to hyper-profile them, the more we risk isolation and regulation.  

VR represents a quantum leap in withdrawal from the physical world. We already divide our attention with smartphones and count checking up on the activity postings of our Facebook friends (who we haven’t seen or talked to in over 10 years) as maintaining relationships. And we compulsively maintain virtual connections while doing other things. I mean, who doesn’t watch TV with a phone or tablet handy these days? 

Now we can retreat into a bubble that replaces our reality altogether. You can’t multitask when you’re doing VR. You cut off all contact with your immediate surroundings and sensory perception attached to them, not realizing that time in corporeal reality is critical to honing your skills at interacting with other people (read: being in the world). 

Meanwhile, marketers can record every granular micro-touchpoint from your stay in a branded virtual world, and build predictive personas that will make today’s targeting look like foggy glasses. That’s an invitation to regulation which could close off the marketing opportunity altogether. 

Now is the time for marketers to put guardrails on VR — to protect the vehicle before we lose the keys. We need to pause and consider the potential ramifications of the plunge into VR marketing, including the risk of cannibalizing attention. Marketing depends on people being available and emotionally receptive — neither of which extended VR engagement promotes. The dystopian future that science fiction writers paint of entire societies hooked into virtual worlds is starting to look eerily accurate. 

Technology moves exponentially faster than our ability to know how best to use it responsibly. And every new platform hits the boundary harder. As marketers, we share a responsibility for the impact of our work, so we need to think through how we use the wondrous technology taking shape before our eyes. Before we get around to some sort of industry standard, we can all do the world a favor by asking ourselves why we’re using VR and whether we’re prepared for the tradeoff. Not every occasion will pass that test.

The original version of this article appeared on MediaPost.

About Phelps
Phelps creates and delivers integrated messaging and media campaigns for category leaders such as Bosley, City of Hope, Dunn-Edwards Paints, Learn4Life schools, Natrol vitamins, Panasonic, Public Storage and SunPower Corp. Founded in 1981 and 100% employee-owned, Phelps ranks as one of the largest independent agencies on the West Coast, and is regularly listed among the Best Places to Work in Los Angeles. Phelps is a member of the ICOM global network of agencies.

Tags:  #ThinkMembers  Commentary  Member News  Members  Phelps 

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Nine Top L.A. Ad Executives Give their Marketing Predictions for 2015…

Posted By thinkLA, Monday, December 22, 2014
Updated: Monday, December 22, 2014


 In 2014, there were amazing changes in the world of marketing – from technology trends and changing business models, to data, data and more data! But looking at 2014 is, well, old news now. As quickly as these evolutionary marketing trends hit us, it will move that much faster next year. After all, the only constant is change. To plan for the year ahead, marketers and agencies need to figure out what’s next and where to focus. So we at ThinkLA thought this would be a good time to start looking ahead to 2015. We asked nine LA-based advertising heads to share with us their predictions for 2015; and think you’ll find their insights not only inspiring, but very telling… 

What are some marketing trends to watch for in 2015?


Speed to market in terms of ideas and execution will be more important than ever as brands strive to get talked about and remain relevant with audiences who consume content faster than ever before."


Brands with character, versus brands with characters, or spokespeople, will win in the long-run.


We will see more and more content that starts in the social space and moves to paid media – advertisers will place their dollars behind ideas that earn some traction first.


Michael Allen, 180LA Global, CEO

In 2015, we’ll see increased extremism driven by the disparity in marketers' ability to embrace and operate in our constantly-consuming society. We’ll see a few breakout successes, but ultimately more waste as marketers veer between caution and attempting to break the internet.


Cathy Saidiner, BLITZ, President

1. Programmatic buying. Currently $10 billion in digital media, expected to double by 2016. Expanding beyond display to video and eventually offline media channels. Issue of transparency, viewability and impact on staffing. Automation will bring efficiency and the need for less bodies.


2. Branded content is king. Represents a way to engage brands with consumers that is less cluttered and keeps competitive separation. It will become more and more important to surprise and delight commercial - adverse consumers.


3. Mobile growth. Mobile traffic will overtake desktop this year. Location based marketing will grow allowing marketers to deliver content tailored to user wherever they are.


Zachary Rosenberg, EVP, Chief Growth Officer at Horizon Media

2015 will be the year of original content, real-time marketing and the return to analogue. Netflix has completely disrupted the entertainment industry with original content creation and subsequently paved the way for entertainers to unify every consumer in a way that brands and products simply can't. Additionally, brands like Oreo, Arby's, and Kit Kat have thrown open the doors of real-time marketing with split-second responses that support trending events in an organic way. The continual rise of real-time marketing, if done right, can be incredibly effective for connecting consumers to brands. That being said, I do also think we'll see brands go back to basics with analogue or old school tactics, like live activations, that will drive high engagement levels on all social platforms. Combine that tactic with digital marketing outlets and you have an amazing marketing combination.


Ryan Fey, Co-Founder and Chief Brand Officer, Omelet

As an independent IMC agency in LA for 34 years, here are some marketing trends we see for 2015:

1. We predict an increase in competition between ad agencies and PR firms for social media assignments

2. Clients with little to no TV budget will increasingly plan for pre-rolls on the web

3. The volume of video production will increase as a result of increasing pre-roll buys


Joe Phelps, Founder/CEO at Phelps

Accelerated Simplification. Too much time and resource is wasted just talking about how to simplify and how to reduce. This applies to all aspects of marketing and marketing organizations. The technology, information and data that has been available and at our finger tips can allow us to be much more responsive, nimble and relevant. In an industry fraught with complexity, simplification will stand out as an advantage.


Luis DeAnda, President, TBWA\Chiat\Day

1. Programmatic buying in TV. The data and technology are now ready for more broad experimentation in both local and national TV markets.


2. Improved mobile ad creative. Currently mobile ad units are more interruptive and disruptive than they should be. So efforts are underway to improve the experience and be more native and helpful - to the platform.


3. Viewability and fraud protection measurement becoming currency, disincentivizing the farming of non-viewable and non-human impressions.


Jackie Stasi, Managing Director of Investment, Initiative

We will continue to see strong and purpose-driven storytelling cut through the listicles and other click bait that awaits the average Internet user. We expect to see more content, campaigns and consumer interactions that are designed to be consumed, shared and generated on mobile devices.


We are already producing more micro stories that echo and reinforce macro brand themes for our clients. This is and will be a mix of generating purpose-driven original content and curating existing assets.


Simple has always won over complexity, but will do so now more than ever.


Alastair Green, Executive Creative Director, Team One USA

Transparency will lead the way. Brands that embrace honest and authentic engagement with customers will enjoy a truth multiple. This is the reward of higher brand loyalty and evangelism that is the by product of trust.


Lucas Donat, CEO and Chief Creative Officer at Tiny Rebellion

Tags:  180LA  AdNews  Blitz  Horizon Media  Initiative  Leadership  Omelet  Phelps  Team One  Team One USA  Tiny Rebellion 

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