Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

My Digital Hero: Jonathan Fraser, Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer. Trouble Maker

Jonathan Fraser is Co-founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Trouble Maker. We asked who his digital hero is.

Who is your digital hero?

Steve Williams. He was part of the biggest team in Hollywood working for motion picture visual effects company Industrial Light and Magic as an animator. He was known as a rogue, a troublemaker you could say. It may be clear already why he’s my hero…

What has he done to win hero status in your eyes?

Years ago, I heard a story about Steve that has continued to inspire me in my attitude towards my career and the digital industry as a whole. Steve was working with Phil Tippett, the American movie director and Oscar and Emmy Award-winning visual effects supervisor and producer, on the absolute classic film that is Jurassic Park.

One day, Phil asked Steve to create some animatronic dinosaurs – a standard working day for us all I’m sure – to present to the one and only Steven Spielberg. At this point it was still the very early days of CGI and Steve had been playing around with how the effects work and suggested to Phil he could create the dinosaurs in CGI. Phil said no to CGI as it was untested and stated it was never going to work and that was the end of that conversation.

It would have been easy for Steve to go along with Phil’s decision and only create animatronic dinosaurs like he was asked to, but he didn’t, and I love that. He did make the animatronic dinosaurs but then in his spare time he created CGI dinosaurs too. Steve knew Phil wouldn’t listen so when Spielberg was arriving to review the animatronic dinosaurs, Steve rigged up all the monitors to show his digital dinosaurs running.

As planned, the CGI dinosaurs caught Steven’s eye and the rest is history. It changed the whole film, making it what it is today, and this anecdote continually inspires me to keep pushing against the norm.

How has his heroism helped drive digital?

It has helped to show that it’s possible to break down barriers. My digital career has grown alongside the digital industry (I’m no dinosaur though, just to be clear) and I’ve seen first-hand new ideas or approaches have been rejected just because it’s not the normal way.

This is so important as I have seen so many times someone being told no because it’s not the way it’s normally done. It takes brave people to not only think outside the box, but to take physical steps to make change happen. It’s those who are troublemakers that have the ability to break down barriers and change things.

The first barrier I broke was when I was at Holler. We worked on launching the TV show ‘Skins’. Channel4 asked for a typical Billboard to be erected two weeks before the launch. I remember saying ‘no one will remember that’. We persuaded them to give us the money to create a digital and social campaign. We built character profiles on Myspace, posted little sneak peek videos of the shows, and built a following before the show. Now this kind of strategy is commonplace, but it was unheard of then. We were bold with our thinking.

What are the biggest challenges in digital we need another hero to solve?

Brands want fame, and we need to give it to them, but how? With the media landscape so fragmented with so many channels to reach an audience and everyone working in silos, it’s hard to reach consumers in mass compared to when everyone just watched TV.

Brands want content that is easily shareable for consumers. OOH continues to do this well, we’re seeing some unreal content being created, grabbing consumer’s attention and therefore being organically shared. For example, adidas’ recent campaign launching the Saudi Football kit by turning an ancient tomb into a 3D billboard generated a lot of talk on the internet providing the brand with even more fame.

Through the use of innovative content and being creative with how channels can engage with consumers, brands can keep increasing fame and produce experiences to resonate with the target audience.

What is your most heroic personal achievement so far in digital?

I am personally responsible for Alan Partridge making his comeback. Well maybe not personally…but I was part of the team! Alan hadn’t been in the spotlight for ages which I personally thought was a massive shame.

Naked, an agency I previously worked at, partnered with Fosters to commission a digital content series of ‘Mid Morning Matters’ – well before digital content was a thing. Fosters put it on its YouTube channel and it really took off. We then sold the content series to Sky, leading to the release of the popular film. Two of my greatest loves coming together, digital and Alan Partridge.