MIMA CATFOA Preview with Genius Steals Founder Faris Yakob

Genius Steals Founder, Strategist and author of Paid Attention, Faris Yakob will join MIMA for CATFOA (Conversations About the Future of Advertising) Wednesday July 19th at Fine Line Café. MIMA talked with Faris about his upcoming presentation and visit to Minneapolis. He’s looking forward to the great summer weather, as his prior visits were in the dead of winter, as well as the opportunity to share his insights from living and working all over the world.

MIMA: It has been seven years since your last MIMA appearance – what has changed in the field of digital marketing?

Faris: Seven years ago, we were excited about the possibilities. Today we are learning what it takes to gain the attention of the public that is flooded with digital input and about the issues – what works, what doesn’t work.

Brands thought of digital marketing as another means to push more ads and bring customers through the sales funnel to make a sale. If attention is finite, and people aren’t paying attention, this approach doesn’t work. Advertising communicates the personality of your brand. It doesn’t always translate directly to a sale.

MIMA: Tim Brunelle will be hosting CATFOA with you next Wednesday, can you give us a teaser of what we might hear?

Faris: My experience living all over the world and working with agencies, consultants, companies and brands provided insight in four areas that are the same across all disciplines:

Attention Collapse: Attention is a finite resource – people are overloaded. Certain behaviors of the advertising industry threaten a brand’s ability to reach the finite attention of their customer. We need to provide value to people to capture a scarce resource. There are certain market corrections happening – Fraud and ad blocking – however opportunities exist for brands.

The Great Blur: Things which used to be discipline specific are becoming less so. PR companies doing video, agencies working with the media, consultants with ads. The ideas are expanding and blending.

Everything is PR: What we are seeing is that the advertising winning all the major awards had an impact on public relations. A brand’s impact is rewarded and more valuable in the global society when people see them in a positive light.

Integrative Branding: Agencies have had a strategy problem.  Integrative thinking – allocating resources, positioning product/services, and taking a holistic approach – is necessary. Otherwise you have a challenge producing emotional effect with your work. Brands are behavior templates.  For example, REI’s “Opt Out” branding includes closing the store on Black Friday – this gives their message substance. It is holistic and is part of the larger strategy with the brand.

MIMA: You and your wife Rosie travel all over the world, what’s it like living the nomadic lifestyle?

Faris: Originally my wife, Rosie and I got into it for personal reasons. However, we found it professionally useful. The reason our company is Genius Steals, is we are aware there are no new ideas, just new combinations. Traveling allows us to experience diversity in our collective ideas and bring them into our work. They say that resilience to disease comes from diversity in the gene pool. When you have new experiences consistently and in our case, we see similar business problems solved in different ways all over the world, there is this intersection between experience and diversity.

MIMA: That sounds great!  Ok, so for those of us who would find it hard to travel constantly, how does a person gain diverse experience?

Faris: I’d suggest getting out of the prison of your own preferences. As we get older, we learn what we like and we just keep doing those things. At one point, I signed up for Facebook events with people I didn’t know or put myself in situations which took me out of my comfort zone. Do things you don’t like or visit new places. A recent example for myself, I am not into anything horror – movies or anything like that. I think about the situations and images too much and it affects me. Recently, I accidently signed up for a podcast that turned out to be horror stories. I didn’t know what I got into, the subjects made me uncomfortable. While I still won’t go to horror movies, I benefitted from the new material in the podcasts.

MIMA: Tell me about your book, “Paid Attention: Innovative Advertising for a Digital World (Kogan Page).”

Faris: I think everyone should buy a copy of it?  Seriously, though I combined all my knowledge of different disciplines – communication theory, neuroscience, history, culture, branding, emerging tech – and applied them to the challenges we face in digital marketing. It is a book that is an ideal intersection between theory and practice.  There are lots of great case studies and real-world applications.

See Faris Yakob in person at MIMA’s CATFOA Event at Fine Line and find him online – Twitter: @faris,   Genius Steals Website and most definitely read his book Paid Attention (Available on Amazon).  Copies of Paid Attention will also be given away at the CATFOA event!

This blog post was written by marketing committee volunteer, Gina Micek.

Gina Micek


Integrated marketing strategist, writer, storyteller and adventurer. I am a builder with skills in relationship building and telling compelling stories that drive connections.