5 Questions With… Adam Cahill

Adam Cahill is the Chief Digital Officer at Hill Holliday, where he is responsible for identifying emerging trends, encouraging innovation among clients, and helping foster success in the adtech start-up community.

Question 1: How do you define ‘digital strategy’? 

“I define strategy (digital or otherwise) as the rationale for deciding what to do and what not to do. The ‘what not to do’ part comes from Peter Drucker who wrote about the need to purposefully abandon activities that no longer make sense, and I think this is especially important with digital. Because things move so quickly, it’s very easy to continue to take on new initiatives, but unless you stop doing things that no longer add value, you’ll lose focus.”

Question 2: What are the three most significant digital trends that will define 2014?

“I don’t know that these will define 2014, but I’ll share with you three big themes that my colleagues and I are committed to, and are organizing our digital offering around.

Agility – I try to stay away from the clichés around ‘real-time,’ but I do really believe that for every brand we work with there are opportunities that exist in the short term that can either be captured or missed. We have built out an offering of tools and processes that are designed to capture short-term opportunity, whether that’s in terms of revenue or cultural relevance.

Prototyping – We’re very focused on building digital products and services for our clients that have the potential to contribute to their businesses in meaningful ways over a long period of time. The majority of this work is focused broadly on the connection between the physical and digital worlds, such as, tapping into the ‘Internet of Things’ movement. Also, we concept and ship one new product every month.

Experience Design – Somewhat related to our commitment in creating digital products and services, we’ve built out an Experience Design team who thinks about how the brands we work with can create systems that add value to people’s lives, not just interrupt them with messages.”

Question 3: What kind of mobile device(s) do you have, and what are your three favorite apps?

I’m an iPhone person, and my go-to apps are Twitter, Feedly, and Pocket.

Question 4: What do you think of the emergence of the Chief Digital Officer role?

“I think it’s a transitional role that makes a lot of sense for the particular era we’re in right now. I believe it would be hard to think of a business that isn’t being transformed by digital, and it’s useful to have someone on the hook for helping the business be as prepared and successful as possible. At some point down the line, maybe the role becomes outdated, but it’s right for this moment in time.”

Question 5: What advice do you have for aspiring digital professionals?

“I have two pieces of advice. The first is to learn how to code. When I think about the most talented young people I work with, no matter what their particular discipline is, they can all get their hands dirty and make things. The second is to read books. Everyone reads the same bits of information about trends and platforms and the like, but far fewer people have an interesting point of view on things. You can get information in the feeds, but not in perspective. Over time the people who have an interesting take on the world always separate themselves from the pack.”


For more information about Adam Cahill, follow him on Twitter (@AdamCahill), check him out on Linkedin, and visit his website

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