Andy Boothe | The Innovator 25 Asia Pacific 2018
Charting the future of public relations
Innovator 25 NA Andy Boothe

Andy Boothe

Head of Data Science

W2O Group
Austin, Texas

“Anything that takes a ‘new to you’ idea and acts on it to create positive change is innovation”
With a technologist’s know-how and PR pro’s ingenuity, Andy Boothe is at the forefront of using data and analytics in innovative ways to propel business outcomes. His prowess most recently resulted in W2O’s ‘Socialgraphics,’ which won the 2018 Innovation SABRE  for marketing technology. The offering, which Boothe designed, segments audiences by content-based interests. Impressively, Boothe has built every algorithm for W2O’s products that serve a broad range of clients — Warner Bros., General Mills, Procter & Gamble, Intel, HP, Red Bull, Pfizer, Amgen and Medtronic among them. 
 
In what area(s) does the PR need to innovate the most? 
Analytics and measurement

How would you describe the communications/PR industry's level of innovation compared to other marketing disciplines? 
Lagging the others

Where is the PR industry's greatest opportunity for taking the lead on innovation?
Analytics and measurement

Who most influences how innovative a brand's engagement is? 
CEO 

How do you define innovation? 
Innovation is putting net new ideas, methods or practices to work in your business to solve problems. The ‘sexy’ innovation people focus on is when a business puts some new concept into practice and it disrupts the industry, but innovation can be more or less than that. Anything that takes a ‘new to you’ idea and acts on it to create positive change is innovation.

What is the most innovative comms/marketing initiative you've seen in the last 12 months?
Unfortunately, I can't comment on any campaigns' measurement or analytics design because I work on those things behind the scenes, but here are some campaigns that I really liked: Domino's "Paving for Pizza" concept is brilliant; as an engineer, Arby's "World's Smallest Ad" geeks me right out; and #TideAd made my Super Bowl.

In your opinion, what brands and/or agencies are most innovative around PR and marketing? 
Red Bull consistently surprises me with their willingness to take risks, which is an important part of innovating. Working with Intel's marketing and research teams has always been a treat due to the sophistication of their approach to marketing.

Describe a moment in your career that you would consider 'innovative.' 
The early days of social media were a really fun time to work in data science and analytics, particularly as an engineer with experience in data ingestion and analysis. At that time, the communications analytics industry had attracted comparatively little attention from tech and analytics startups, so nothing was really figured out yet and everything was new. The part I played at W2O partnering with brands and influencers to define and operationalize online influence turned out to be very innovative, and it was incredibly exciting to be a part of.

Who do you admire for his/her approach to innovation?  
As a technologist, it's hard not to admire Jeff Bezos as a leader. He has a remarkable track record for recognizing and capitalizing on technology trends, even in places where most people would say Amazon has no business competing. If you'd told me in 2000 that Amazon would be one of the driving forces in how technology gets built in 2018, I would have laughed at you!

How do you get out of a creativity rut? 
I find that changing my environment changes my thinking. Whether my destination is a conference room I've booked for the afternoon, the coffee shop down the street, my favorite library or bookstore, or a weekend away, moving around helps me get a new perspective.

What advice would you give to the PR industry around embracing innovation? 
At its heart, PR and communications is an old, old business. That makes it rich in experience and traditions in a way that newer fields like data science are not and may never be, but it also creates an environment where it feels like everything's been tried, and there's already a known way that things are supposed to be done. But our world is changing and dynamic, and even though a method worked well last year or even last month, it may not be the best method today. There is much to be gained from partnering with clients and stakeholders to try new things and take calculated risks to communicate better. New fields like data science and analytics are particularly fertile grounds for things to try because the data environment is changing literally every day, and change is opportunity.

What would you be doing if you weren't doing your current job? 
Running or working for a software or data startup

Favorite book/movie/podcast/article that's not directly related to PR/marketing/business? 
The Lord of the Rings, by JRR Tolkien. Many don't appreciate that the trilogy is part of a broader "legendarium" that Tolkien worked on for more than 20 years. The endurance and dedication of the man, the process of the work's creation, and the incredible depth of the final product are all inspiring.