A Few Minutes With… Ben Taub

January 15th, 2014

To explore the wide range of experiences and opinions within the digital business world, we’re running a series of interviews, ‘A Few Minutes With…’.

Today, we’re speaking with Ben Taub.

Ben Taub is a founder and managing director of The New Black, an East London-based creative studio with a strong footing in the entertainment industries. Previous work includes campaigns for films such as Pacific Rim, Gangster Squad and artists such as Plan B and Chris Brown to name a few.

Tell us a little about your organisation’s digital activity.
We are a team of designers, developers, product managers and strategists helping companies solve their problems using digital. Sometimes it comes in the shape of a website, other times a bespoke application. With both there is always a consulting aspect to it because we never just create something without questions your motives and rationalising them. Check out our website for more info.

What digital activity shows you the greatest return?
If you mean return as in pays for the bills, then it has to be the social media work we do for brands. Because although everything seems to be social these days, it is still quite niche and not everyone does it well or knows what can and can’t be done. If we’re talking conversion then I will have to side with my business partner Jim. Although email is one of the older digital channels your ROI will be higher, because it is a direct line of communication with your customers or clients and there are less distractions. Your messages are much more likely to be read than via social media where you’re fighting for someone’s attention with their friends, family and all the other things they follow. I do however think that with a younger demographic this could start not being true. That is up for debate.

What great websites have you seen recently?
Obviously in this line of work we look at a lot of websites all of the time. Most recently I quite liked the website for Coin which is a device looking to sort out the problem of carrying too many bank cards. It’s a great idea to start off with, then in terms of the website I like that it’s responsive and has nice animations that help illustrate how you use the device. It’s not groundbreaking by any means, but left a nice impression on me.

Another site, or shall I say page worth looking at is the life-size Messi model that was created for the release of Fifa 14. There are many things to admire about it, just go and check it out. The model is eerily life-like.

What great mobile apps have you seen recently?
I thought Keezy was a cool idea, it’s sort of a mobile digital instrument / sampler that anyone can learn to use. Then another recent one was Taasky. It’s another task manager and there are tons of them out there, but this one has a really nice UI.

What do you think has been the most important landmark in the development of digital media in the last few years?
It’s got to be touch-based mobile devices, it has had a huge impact on what we do as a business and it’s also something that has changed people’s lives in many ways. You just have to look at the amount of apps there are for mobile devices and how each one of them tries to help people achieve very specific tasks. These can be related to your everyday life as well as to support your business.

Can a business survive in 2013 without a social media presence?
I think there are plenty of benefits from using social media for most businesses, but it’s not because you don’t use it that your business can’t survive. How much tweeting do lawyers do, do they need a Facebook page? Is it essential for their business? I don’t think so, and that’s just one simple example of many.

Then again you shouldn’t just use it because everyone is telling you to. Just like everything you do it needs to be thought-out, you need a strategy of some kind even if it is at the most basic level. What are you trying to achieve using social media? After you know that, you also need to commit to it and not just do it in drips and drabs and figure out how you’re going to achieve your goal.

What pitfalls do you think businesses must avoid when developing a digital media strategy?
A big one for me is probably not looking at the big picture and considering all the avenues you have to achieve what your business needs. Digital strategy is not just picking one part of it and focusing exclusively on that. If you’re going to plan a digital strategy you have to consider everything. Email marketing, Social media, SEO, Online advertising, etc.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?
I can’t give you a great piece of advice someone gave me and I can remember, but on a more personal and recent level I would say don’t let your emotions take the best of you. Business is business. Always focus on what is best for it – then you can think about how it affects you and how you deal with it. Sometimes you have to make some personal sacrifices to get to where you want with it.

What advice would you give to a business starting up in 2013?
Well done, running your own business is probably one of the most rewarding things you can do. Now the hard work starts though. In terms of advice I’ve only got some very general things to say here. Always be analytical, data should be key to help every decision you make and also trust your gut feeling.

What advice would you give to a young designer or developer starting their career in 2013?
Get yourself out there, work on your own projects share them around the web and always show a good attitude and enthusiasm in what you do – it’s infectious.

Do you see any downsides to the rise of digital media as a tool for business?
Not really, but perhaps overlooking how important human interaction is for your business. Some communication still needs to happen on a personal level if you’re looking to develop long term business relationships.

If you could change one thing about the digital landscape, what would it be?
This is something that applies to other sectors too, but for me it’s got to be standards. From a web development point of view, it’s quite a challenge to support as many browsers and devices as you can. In fact it’s not entirely possible depending on what you are doing, unless of course you really strip back your offering which kind of defeats the purpose when we’re talking about new media

With that comes the argument that you don’t want to stifle innovation, but I don’t really buy into that. There’s got to be more that can done to facilitate the creative process. If developers didn’t have so many restrictions and have to think about supporting all these different browsers, it would free up more time to spend on of the little touches that make a website nice to use.

Where do you see the digital media in 10 years’ time?
What excites me the most with digital media at the moment is how you are soon going to be able to control or monitor everything using your phone or tablet. This could be things in your house, like turning on the heating or lights remotely, or finding what’s in your fridge right now.

But then it also extends to your own body. Connected scales, heart monitor apps, all the Nike+, Fitbits of this world – these are all things that exist already, but are only the tip of the iceberg for now. Little by little digital will facilitate everything we do, be it on a personal level or from a business point of view. It’s also going to be very disrupting for some businesses, so watch out. Certain developments will no doubt completely shatter entire industries. We’ve already seen it happen and it’s only going to get worse – or better depending on how you look at it.

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