Monte Lutz | The Innovator 25 2016
Charting the future of public relations
Monte LutzThe Innovator 25:

Monte Lutz  

Global head of communications and digital marketing

Activision  

 
"No matter how many people we have creating content in-house or at our agencies, we will never be able to come close to the sheer voice, volume, creativity and passion of our community."

 

Under Monte Lutz's leadership, Activision has developed a remarkable track record of memorable, smart campaigns that seem to truly speak to its core community — Hack in Black and Marshawn Lynch Answers the Call of Duty were among the work that has garnered results and praise across the industry. All the while, Lutz continues to push the industry to expand its boundaries on both digital and content ownership. 
 

Describe what you do.
Celebrating the best games in the world, including Call of Duty, Destiny and Skylanders, and sharing the experience with our fans.

Where are you from/hometown?
Houston, TX

Where are you based now?
Los Angeles, CA

In what area of marketing/PR do you see the most innovation?
Creative storytelling & Content. One of the most important questions we can ask ourselves as marketers is, “Are we in control enough to let go?” Are we willing to share the stage with our communities and our customers? “Absolutely.” There’s no other way today.
We create 10 times more pieces of content for our brands than we did just a couple years ago, including unique, native content for each platform and channel, and screenshots, gifs, and iterations for every asset we have, as well as BTS views for perspective and livestreams with additional info for context.
But no matter how many people we have creating content in-house or at our agencies, we will never be able to come close to the sheer voice, volume, creativity and passion of our community. We work with 500 influencers who generated more than 2 billion views of content about our games last year – not for money but for the love of the game. That’s an order of magnitude above the views on our owned channels, and we have some of the biggest channels of any brand on the planet. We are lucky to have incredibly engaged audiences. But we also celebrate the community and give them the platform they have earned by their fandom. We share our games.


How would you describe the communications/PR industry's level of innovation?
About the same as other marketing disciplines. It all depends on the team, the individual and the agency - and their willingness to deeply understand what a business and its customers actually need. Having been on the agency side for more than a decade and then moving in-house, I think the communications discipline needs a deeper understanding of the businesses we work in. I didn’t realize how little I knew about the business of the business until I was inside, living and breathing it every day – and Activision was already my client. I’m generalizing, but I think PR, as a discipline, doesn’t deeply immerse itself in the business insights data or spend enough time with the C-suite to become fully immersed in the nuances of the business and understand what’s driving business decisions. It’s difficult to arrive at a thoroughly disruptive idea without immersing yourself in the depths of the customer, the company and the industry. How well do you know the customer? Have you charted the customer journey? How often do you use the brand? Have you been in a retail environment to see how people choose that product? Have you observed somebody use it for the first time? Do you attend the focus groups, or read the CI reports? Do you know who the 100 most influential people are in the space? Do you follow them on Twitter? Have you imbedded yourself in the client’s office? Are you listening to every earnings call? Have you read the transcripts of customer complaints? Have you met the leads of all the teams, not just the team you work with? When I started at Activision, I met with 50 people in 50 days across the business to gain a deeper understanding of the business from different perspectives and priorities. I don’t think you need to be an employee to follow this edict. Agencies should onboard this way too.

What is most important for the PR industry to do to foster more innovation?
Change the industry culture

How do you define innovation?
Who you are as a company is defined by the meaning you have in a customer’s life, not by the products they buy from you. Innovation is fueled by committing to that relationship wherever it takes you. To borrow from Peter Diamandis, even though George Eastman started Kodak with the edict that he wanted to make photography as convenient as a pencil, Kodak sealed its fate when they forgot that they weren't a photography company or a camera company - they were a convenience company. Kodak developed the first digital camera in the world, 20 years before anyone was talking about them at consumer scale, but they were too blinded by their dominance of the physical film and camera market to understand the potential of their invention, and failed to see that “instant” didn’t have to mean something you can hold in your hand. Invention didn’t lead to applied innovation. Many adults, including me, are on the verge of being Eastmans ourselves - obsessed with saving our digital pictures permanently on our devices, cloud or social platforms, but the next generation worries less about memorializing an experience with an image and more about sharing the experience on Snapchat and moving on immediately, or purging Instagram every couple months and starting fresh. Finding the next business model for this truth is innovation waiting to happen.

Most innovative PR/comms campaign you've seen in the last 12 months?
Mr. Robot. I want to ride that Ferris wheel, jump in the unmarked van, immerse myself in the VR world, play in the app, wonder if that ad was real (and skip the HP spot that isn't Esmail enough), scour the site for Easter eggs, question the guy in the hoodie and wonder what's next.

What brands and/or agencies are most innovative when it comes to marketing/PR?
I’m fortunate to work with an incredibly innovative and creative team here at Activision.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider 'innovative.'
One of the things I love about working at Activision is that we have the most engaged communities of just about any brand in the world, so when we get our fans excited for an experience, they go all-in. Every major beat is a chance to do something that’s never been done before at an epic scale thanks to the incredible commitment and excitement of our fans. Last year, we revealed Call of Duty: Black Ops III by hacking our own game and inserting a Snapchat code into a fan favorite map in the previous game, Black Ops II, which influencers quickly discovered and chased to get teasers for the next game, watching the cryptic teaser videos more than 40 million times. This year, we revealed Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare by updating the current game with characters and messages from the upcoming game. But we didn’t stop there. We also embedded parts of a code that fans needed to work together to break into the game and then called on them to team up and interact with a Facebook Messenger Bot for the lead character of the game to unlock exclusive rewards related to Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. Fans traded 6 million messages with the Messenger Bot in 24 hours and asked the Bot every question you could imagine, from Call of Duty to basketball predictions to Game of Thrones. Little did they know, Kit Harrington was about to be revealed as the villain in the game.

Something — not PR/marketing related — that is innovative.
Space X piloting a floating drone ship anywhere in the world to land a reusable rocket on it instead of picking a landing site and having to steer the rocket to a precise point based on fixed orbital patterns. It’s a remarkable way to flip the thinking on 50 years of space travel in a way that could radically reduce the cost of space entry and significantly shift the event horizon for what is possible in space.

Please give our readers an idea of something that can inspire innovation — this can be a book/movie/podcast/activity/article.
A long commute. It sounds like hell - and in LA traffic it is often hellish - but the drive also gives me an hour a day to listen to books I've been meaning to get to. The trick is switching from the audio book to dictating a note so you don't forget that spark of an idea by the time you pull into your parking space.

Least favorite time of day?
This month? Two seconds after I finished episode 8 of Stranger Things. And two seconds before I dove into the subreddit, which opened up entirely new worlds to explore.

Most innovative place in the world? This could be a city, a venue, a neighborhood, etc.
Watching how my daughter interacts with technology and instinctively understands the norms of communities and platforms without needing to ask anyone about the rules. And if she doesn’t like an app, she deletes it and moves on without hesitation.

#FirstSevenJobs
Bus boy, math tutor, grateful unpaid intern-by-day/waiter-by-night, radio host, non-profit marketing, PR phone jockey, political fundraiser.