As a 14-year-old, Jason Snyder created his first commercial software—a system he described as a “party line for computer nerds in the ’80s.”
“I was lucky enough to be born at the right time for the web to happen and at a place to help shape how it would evolve,” he added.
Snyder said he spends most of his free time focused on machine learning and AI “and then kind of the next click out for me is brain-to-computer interfaces (BCI).” He has always been interested in technology. In 1996, Snyder was working as the CTO of an online services guide when a recruiter asked if he’d like to work in advertising. Marketing agency Deutsch had won Ikea on a pitch to build the furniture brand’s first global website. Snyder was hired to “come in and clean up the mess”—the pitch was impossible to execute because it was “a mixture of Fisher-Price and TV.” As a result, he created the agency’s first interactive department, iDeutsch.
In 2000, Snyder led efforts to livestream the Paralympic Games in Sydney. After he found out Coca-Cola was unhappy with interactive agency Zentropy Partners (now digital marketing agency MRM McCann), colleagues encouraged him to start his own agency. He liked the Coke people, put together a presentation, pitched it and won.
“I became the digital agency of record for Coke with a company I hadn’t really incorporated yet—it was just that easy,” he quipped.
As the AOR, Snyder was responsible for all of Coke, including Harry Potter, the 2002 World Cup and Winter Olympics.
Everything went well until Sept. 11, 2001. Snyder lost his home, office and agency as many places closed from fear or threats. Many brands weren’t marketing much in the aftermath, he said: “It was a lousy time to try to bootstrap and grow a digital marketing services company. It was also the early part of the dot com bubble bursting.”
After some time leading product design in Virginia at online service provider AOL, he became a partner at an innovation firm in Philadelphia, which led to mobile advertising patents that were precursors to computer vision, AR and location services technology (like Google Glass and Microsoft HoloLens). Then, his son was born and he had to “get a real job.” He joined MRM McCann as svp of innovation in 2007 and founded a few startups like geolocation platform Gopogo before settling in as global chief technology officer of brand experience agency Momentum Worldwide and then global production shop Craft Worldwide, where he works with clients like … Coca-Cola.
“What I learned is that past is prologue, so we can apply the same rigor to understanding our future as we do to studying our past,” Synder said of his degree in diplomatic history. “So I frame my prognosticating as: identifying the possible, determining the probable, executing the preferable.”
How He Got the Gig
His pitch for Coke included texting consumers with mobile coupons—the brand’s first—during the Torch Relay, which shoppers could redeem at Walmart when the torch was nearby. Customers could track the torch in real time, too. Snyder also included a feature in which the brand shot and posted videos on its website that answered questions from viewers. This, of course, was before YouTube.
“All of that was pretty innovative for 2001,” he said.
“Some people invest in real estate or things like that. I’ve spent my time investing in these ideas,” he remarked.
Snyder’s inventions include the solar lantern Luci, a low-cost, durable, waterproof, kerosene-free lighting option for those who live off the grid, those who can’t afford to live on the grid and victims of disaster. According to Snyder, more than 3.3 million Luci lanterns have been distributed globally to date.
For Snyder, you really start to understand your true character on the third and fourth try at something. In his words: “I think it’s don’t give up. Nothing good ever happens from giving up.”