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Hamish McLennan

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Making the Left- & Right-Brain Work Together: It's Good Business

Posted: 12/20/10 06:00 PM ET

Over the past few years, the business of marketing is being driven by two seemingly contradictory impulses. On the one hand, the digital world has helped carry the banner of accountability, with its data-driven intelligence-gathering proficiencies.

But at the same time, marketers who need to reach customers know painfully well that engaging consumers is not only what you know, but how you express it. The need to creatively connect with our clients' customers has never been stronger.

And so we have been watching the see-saw of left-brain, right-brain thinking. Digital companies have proliferated. But so have the "idea" shops. This dichotomization has been the hallmark of much of the business world.

As I look towards 2012 and beyond, it's becoming clear that the path to long-term business growth is the seamless melding of left- and right-brain thinking. Everyone needs to sit at the same table.

Indeed, using that tension of striking a right balance between the best creative and business minds from the beginning of every project is the key to success in today's ever-changing media landscape.

The Daily is Setting the Perfect Example
I believe The Daily, the first newspaper designed specifically for the Ipad -- and a left-brain/right-brain venture-- will become the fastest-growing APP ever. An archetype for future publications? No doubt. A game-changer for the business world? Perhaps.

There's lots of evidence. It starts from the top -- a truly interesting match of minds, exemplified by the partnership of News Corp's Rupert Murdoch and Apple's Steve Jobs. Both visionaries, but unmistakably different kinds of thinkers.

Murdoch brings his great passion for newspapers. Steve Jobs brings the most buzzed-about new consumer platform, the iPad. They are attracting an incredible level of talent on a daily basis.

Right from the start, however, Murdoch and Jobs have insisted on one thing. The business side is working side-by-side with the best creative and editorial minds in the business. Not on a need-to-know basis, but as an ensemble act. They know they will be better together.

Striking a balance between the left-brain and right-brain is our business model at Young & Rubicam. It is how we work for and with our clients. Just today, we helped our client, the consumer electronics giant, LG, launch an innovative, interactive digital billboard in New York's Times Square dedicated entirely to good news. LG's data showed an overwhelming majority of Americans -- 83%, in fact -- feel that they are suffering from a good news deficit, with six in 10 Americans, saying they don't even know where to look for good news.

With a brand motto of "Life's Good," LG's good news billboard, which you can tweet and text and be answered by an animated good news ambassador, is a complex and elaborate dance of innovative technology and imagination. And within the first hour that it went live, the billboard became the conduit of a marriage proposal.

What's Next?
I can't help but think that the left-brain and right-brain approach is the ideal cultural blueprint for innovative corporations around the world in 2011. The most interesting part, of course, is that there is no exact plan for executing this philosophy. Companies will have to find ways to merge the two ways of thinking that work best for them -- and that's the key to long-term success.

Hamish McClennan is the global CEO of Young & Rubicam, the youngest person to hold the post in its history, and the first CEO from the Asia-Pacific Region. Its 186 agencies in 81 countries and whole brain philosophy have contributed to its huge creative and client successes this year. The agency was #1 in the US at Cannes and #3 in the world, there. Y&R was named the Network of the Year three times and was the most-awarded agency at major regional competitions, as well.