Debra Benkler, Digital Creative Architect and co-founder

Her repertoire includes many years of agency experience designing and creating branding, graphics, and user interfaces for projects including web sites, kiosks, experiential marketing systems, and mobile apps, across diverse B2C and B2B industries. She is especially focused on usability and the utilization of consumer metrics to gauge project results. Deb has had a critical role in every design award SPIA has garnered and provides both creative and business guidance for SPIA's clients.

Starting with a BA in Art History and then an MBA in Marketing, Deb has taken the best facets of a classic education and melded it with contemporary media tools to create clear and effective business communications. In addition to a slew of MarCom projects, Deb has taught innumerable corporate classes in digital arts to others in the field. Her most recent concentration has been the incorporation of analytics into mobile and experiential projects, in ways that are penetrating, yet easily grasped.

Deb is a co-founder of the HUM:Ex project.

A Quick Q&A With Deb

How much will mobile change marketing and advertising in the next few years?

Incredibly. Drastically. Mobile will be the equivalent of a personalized TV station in your pocket, with content and advertising that you accept, completely tailored to your tastes and interests and available whenever and wherever you want. No form of media in history has done that, so all the marketing/advertising models and thinking of the past will be rebuilt or discarded. In fact, the media itself will probably get more sophisticated as new technologies create even further changes and enhancements to mobile and all media. Marketing and advertising will keep adapting.

How do people react to interactive smell and taste?

It's an amazing thing. There's probably no easier way to put a sincere smile on a person's face short of giving them a bunch of money or showing cute baby or puppy  photos. We've witnessed it with scent for a long time and taste is just as pleasing. People are blown away that we can deliver a scent at the touch of a screen, the shake of a phone, or timed perfectly with a video presentation. Taste or smell - they always get excited, tell us they've never experienced it before, and then they can't wait to share it with others.

What's the most exciting part of your job?

Starting a new project. The thinking, creative, and overall planning are always front-loaded in the projects we do, so when we get something new underway, it gives us a chance to put our minds into overdrive. It's also an exciting time to be working with the client because at that stage, they are usually most focused and open to unconventional ideas.

What is the one thing that you believe makes SPIA unique?

Exactly what it says on the web site: "experiential marketing utilizing ALL five senses". There are lots of great agencies out there and plenty bigger than us. But, none that we're aware of has all the technology that we offer and the integrated marketing. There are bits and pieces of things here and there, but, you'll be hard pressed to find interactive taste and fragrance anywhere, let alone all five senses in one place. We really respect the work of many people in the industry and the innovative projects they've done, but we have our niche.

What is the biggest challenge for SPIA in the next few years?

Well, we've run out of senses to make interactive... HUM:Ex is a huge project that will keep us occupied for a while to come. Much of the technical capability is there now, but it's a big challenge to pull it all together and make it work easily and seamlessly for everyone. So, we'll be working on that while doing everything else we do for clients.

When you're not working, what do you like to do?

Eat french fries!!!!!!!!!  All joking aside, I study singing and perform any chance I get. It's a very personal experience for me and I'm passionate about it. It's so incredible to be able to really get to the heart of a song and feel it through and through. Sharing that with an audience is like nothing else. I always hope that they enjoy the music as much as I do. I love singing at open mics in NYC and look forward to the next opportunity.














Deb Benkler


SPIA is a 2012 UX Award Winner!