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Jun 22 2012

MediaPost - SapientNitro Continues Investment In Creative, Recruits Schulman As CCO/New York


By Joe Mandese

CANNES, FRANCE – In a move to expand its creative chops, especially as it relates to media innovation, Boston-based independent digital agency SapientNitro has named Alan Schulman chief creative officer of its New York office, which services some of its biggest accounts, including Target, Citi and ESPN. Schulman -- who is known for his passion for thinking out of the box with emerging digital platforms, especially out-of-home, place-based and mobile -- has a reputation for deftly straddling the worlds of “creative,” media and technology with an acute focus on how consumers experience them.

Schulman, who reports to SapientNitro Worldwide Chief Creative Officer Gaston Legorburu, began his job here this week as part of the agency’s contingent at the ad industry’s Festival of Creativity. In an interview, he said he was attracted to SapientNitro because of the agency's diversified approach to marketing, including its roots in experience design and technology, as well as its strong reputation for helping big marketers integrate their technology via what is known as “enterprise solutions.” It is also owned by big management consulting firm Sapient, which competes with the likes of Accenture, McKinsey, IBM, Bain and other organizations.

The combination of those practices, Schulman said, gives SapientNitro unique “optics” into its clients’ business operations that go beyond advertising and also influence in areas such as e-commerce and e-business. While SapientNitro has made significant inroads with its creative reputation in recent years, including winning a number of MEDIA and OMMA magazine’s awards for media and digital creativity, it still lags in the perception as a creative digital powerhouse. It is usually compared to big holding company-owned digital shops like Digitas, Razorfish, and AKQA, which was acquired with some Cannes fanfare this week by WPP Group.

To expand its creative resources and reputation, Sapient acquired Nitro, a digital shop with a strong reputation several years ago, and merged the two organizations. Schulman’s recruitment is an effort to expand on that. In 2011, Schulman was inducted as one of OMMA magazine’s Creative All Stars.

Schulman joins SapientNitro from CEO and CCO of U.DIG > The Digital Innovations Group, a digital shop he founded several years ago. He previously was executive creative director and executive director of user experience at imc2 (now named MePlusYou), and was a partner in New York-based digital boutique Brand New World.

Schulman was also the first chief creative officer of a pure-play media agency, serving that role in Interpublic’s Universal McCann unit, and was a key player in its Futures Group before diving into pure-play digital agencies.

Schulman, who is equally facile with traditional media, as well as established and emerging digital media platforms, is also known for his passion for digital out-of-home experiences that connect consumers and brands in time and space. But he says one of the things that most attracted him to SapientNitro is the organization’s roots in experience design.

“On my first day on the job, Gaston [Legorburu] gave me a book about the company,” Schulman says, noting: “It goes all the way back to Clement Mok.” Mok was the founder of Studio Archetype, one of the precursor companies of SapientNitro, who is considered one of the fathers of modern-day experience design, a practice the combines technology and design to improve consumer experience with brands, products and services.

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