Josh Spear, 23, Was Born Digital

If you’ve been wondering who Josh Spear is and how he went from a college drop out to a jet setting trend analyst and brand consultant with a hugely popular online presence, this video of his talk at Zeitgeist Europe 2007 will help.

Spear’s talk is 18 minutes long. If you don’t have that kind of time to invest, I’ll take the liberty of condensing his key points to this: young people love their cell phones–it’s “their center of gravity”–and they feel naked without them. Of course, this isn’t news. Spear adds value via the details. He explains how digital youth use their phones and services like Twitter and i’m in like with you to interact with their friends.
Here’s my favorite soundbite from his presentation:

When it comes to reaching or selling anything to Ally or to digital youth, it’s not about finding her–there are unbelievable researchers that can tell you exactly what they’re doing–and it’s certainly not about interrupting her, we know that, we learned that a long time ago. It’s about creating content and functionality that she’s going to seek out, use or interact with on a day-to-day basis.

Spear likes to climb rocks, so naturally he’s based in Boulder, CO. And yes, Alex Bogusky has him on speed dial.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. theo kie says:

    All well and good, but there is the question of making sure your content and “functionality” has a relevance to actually selling your product. If you don’t do that, then you’re not an advertising – you’re simply providing entertainment.
    There are numerous examples of marketing that engages consumers to carry on a regular “relationship” with the brand, yet produces no increase in sales. Bogusky knows this first-hand, although I’ve yet to hear him speak on the fact talk-value has no value if only generates talk.

  2. When a brand “simply provides entertainment” they are advertising.
    If you look at something like Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, the entertainment provided doesn’t need to support the brand ojectives in any overt way, it just needs to appeal to the right audience.
    If I was the brand manager at Mutual today, I’d spend less on my “Begin Today” campaign and more the kind of advertainment that made the brand famous.

  3. theo kie says:

    You mistake my point, David. I’m not saying branded content isn’t “advertising”. I’m saying if that content doesn’t help increase sales it’s failed advertising.
    An example…you pay a company to produce entertaining, online branded content with AdPulp as its sponsor. After six months, you’ve invested a generous amount to keep the content coming. You’re getting lots of views of the content site. Yet you see little or no increase in traffic to AdPulp. Your content is advertising, but is good advertising?
    This is a attitude I’ve seen first-hand with various online agencies and consultants (not all, for sure). They espouse the belief that getting noticed and having lots of click-throughs equates to success. Yet no financially responsible client would agree to this supposition. As much as brands need to be liked, increasing sales it the true bottom line.
    Some old-fashioned rules of marketing still hold true. One is this: spending money without seeing a return on investment is bad business.

  4. This is an age old debate in our business. Are we here to create awareness or sales or both? The whole “branding thing” that’s taken the business by storm over the past decade or so, in my opinion, removes the emphasis from sales and puts in on awareness. Naturally, clients want both awareness and sales. Given that we serve at their request, we ought to deliver both.