Impact Series - Cassandra Gagliardi

Cassandra Gagliardi has been crafting innovative experiences for audiences globally since her graduation from the University of Guelph, where she earned her Honours Bachelor of Applied Arts in Media Studies. Shifting from television production to digital production, she is currently Jam3’s Senior Manager of Client Partnerships. Cassandra manages clients such as Complex, TikTok, adidas, Google, and Facebook while also overseeing new business initiatives. Cassandra’s tech-focused expertise has instilled confidence in her clients, helping her win numerous awards for work she’s produced, including a Bronze Digital Craft Lion at the Cannes film festival and contributing to Jam3’s Gold win for 2020 Campaign US Digital Innovation Agency of the Year.

The Sponsorship Space had the opportunity to speak with Cassandra to learn about her professional journey, the shifts within the industry during the pandemic, and the path forward for Jam3 in 2021.

Q. Tell us a bit about yourself and your journey into client partnerships. How did you end up working at Jam3?

My career journey is not at all a linear one (and having a non-linear career path is okay!). I studied media production in university with the intention of pursuing a career in sports journalism and broadcasting. While in university, I took on a handful of different jobs to gain as much experience as I could in both TV production and sports broadcasting because I was sure that was what I wanted to do with my life.

Through cold outreach, I found opportunities interning on live television production sets like Big Brother Canada and Canada’s Got Talent. I volunteered at my local TV station, Rogers TV, as an on-air broadcaster reporting for the OJHL league and covering two teams: the Newmarket Hurricanes and the Aurora Tigers. I interned at TSN (think of this as Canada’s ESPN) managing their social channels, writing for their website, and supporting production needs on the morning shows. I took on a part-time gig with my university’s athletic center, curating their game-day programming and being their in-arena host. I spent 5 summers working at Toronto Blue Jays games as an in-seat server inside the TD Clubhouse, with the intention of meeting and networking with as many people as I could.

However, it wasn’t until my fourth and final year of university that I realized the industry wasn’t as glamorous as I had dreamed it up to be. Working in sports was competitive and Canadian television didn’t exactly have the highest budgets. One of my senior mentors who had been working in the biz for over 20 years had just been laid off and that was extremely discouraging for me. My gut instinct was telling me to rethink my career and my future if I wanted to be ahead of the curve.

A friend who had similar career goals as me was working as a digital producer at Jam3. In all honesty, I’d never heard of Jam3 at the time - but through conversations with her, she mentioned the skills I’ve gained through my TV and broadcast experiences were transferable to digital production and this industry was HOT. She said if I was willing to learn and be open to it, I would be a great fit for the team. She introduced me to their talent team … and the rest is history!

I began at Jam3 on the production team but eventually got pulled into Jam3’s business development and growth efforts. Today, my day-to-day involves having early and strategic conversations with clients like adidas, Google, Facebook, and Complex to name a few, advising how and where to best spend their marketing dollars, integrating innovation and digital strategies into their marketing efforts, and bringing ideas to life with our insanely talented team of designers and developers.

Having made the pivot from television production to digital production, I’ve actually been able to satisfy the same objective for why I studied media in the first place: to create experiences that will entertain, inform, or educate audiences in uplifting and meaningful ways. If something I’ve worked on can put a smile on your face, give you a moment of surprise and delight, leave a lasting impression or simply distract you from negative energy even for a second, I’ve fulfilled my career mission.

The good news is - I get to do this (and I get to see this reaction to our work!) everyday.

Q. In your words, what is Jam3 for someone who may not be familiar with the company?

Jam3 is a design and experience agency that partners with forward-thinking brands to build the unthinkable. We help the world’s top brands launch products and design new customer experiences in digital and beyond. Think, interactive websites and platforms, apps, AR and VR experiences, installations and events, storytelling, innovation, and R&D.

What I love most about working here is that with each larger-than-life idea we dream up, we’ve actually technically vetted and user-tested them too - so clients can feel most confident to execute their next big project with a team who’s done their homework and checked it twice. We’re usually at the edge of our seats to launch the damn thing because we’re so excited about each idea and how it will perform!

Q. What are your experiences with Augmented Reality and how do you see that technology expanding moving forward?

Football fans - did you know the first notable instance of AR in modern history was in the NFL? We’ve seen it in every game since 1998, where they digitally place coloured lines on the field during gameplay. Fun fact!

Jam3 has been building experiences in AR since 2015. We execute AR experiences in a few different ways: through native apps, in a web experience, or on social media platforms such as FB, IG, Snap, or TikTok. Most people have experienced AR in Snap or FB/IG Cameras - mapping filters, effects, or objects in selfie mode or in your worldview to build a digital layer of surprise and delight into your IRL environment. For brands, it's about building an interactive experience and engaging your audience where most of them already exist (coupled with each platforms’ respective technical capabilities).

I’d say the most successful business use case for AR in a pandemic world is the “try-before-you-buy” and exploratory experiences. AR can transform the world around you into a completely different scene. It can also place an object in your view or allow you to see how a certain look can appear on your face, which in turn, can be a great tool of influence to prompt a sale.

We’ve seen very successful experiences in the automotive industry (how does a car look in your driveway? How would you navigate the features? What does it look like when you sit inside of it?) and the beauty space (how does a certain makeup shade look to your skin tone? How do those sunglasses look on your face?). With technology advancing, the business use cases continue to become more creative and compelling, too. I’m excited about its future!

Q. Tell me more about your business with ComplexLand. Why does that partnership stand out as one of your favorites?

Working with the team at Complex has been one of the highlights of my career! Aside from their team being absolutely amazing and true partners, we’ve gotten to know them and their brand really well too. When the pandemic hit, Jam3 pitched Complex ideas for how we could make ComplexCon fully virtual without losing the essence of what their IRL event, ComplexCon, was all about. They completely obliged our big ideas and trusted us to deliver a never-been-done-before WebGL experience with confidence. I worked closely with Complex’s sales team to co-concept and co-sell brand sponsorship opportunities. I was naturally integrated as part of their team to the point where it almost felt like I was employed at two companies at once! Building strong relationships with client partners is so important. When you truly feel part of the same team and reaching for the same goals, this is how the best work in the industry gets done. Take note!

Q. You mentioned that Jam3 won an award in 2018 with adidas at ComplexCon. What made that project special? What lessons were learned during that time?

adidas @ ComplexCon was a first-of-its-kind brand activation that solved many problems ComplexCon exhibitors had faced in previous years. I might be biased but I truly believe the project was so creative and innovative that it set the bar high for our industry. Even the CEO of Complex shouted out the experience on his own Twitter feed! For those who don’t know what ComplexCon is, it’s basically the mecca for sneakerheads and streetwear aficionados. Each year, big brands show up and release exclusive merchandise. People line up nights in advance to be the first to get their hands on exclusive merch (that will usually resell for ~3x (or more) its retail price - recap video here).

Instead of adidas having a traditional booth at the event, we installed 5x giant cubes throughout the conference center and integrated functionality within the Complex app that notified event-goers about adidas timed product drops. Attendees were then prompted to surround one of the huge cubes, and once the product dropped, they were told to scan the marker on the cube with their phones to unlock the opportunity to purchase the product. The purchase happened directly in the app and the product was available to pick up in smart lockers outside the event grounds. This solution eliminated long lineups, the need for a physical booth and brand ambassadors, and gave attendees their time back to explore other happenings at ComplexCon.

Q. What do you look for when you look at potential clients? How does Jam3 look to grow?

Jam3 partners with forward-thinking brands who are as eager as we are to explore new ways of doing things: whether through leveraging emerging technologies, never-been-done-before user experiences, or implementing moments of surprise and delight to elevate existing user experiences (and make our clients stand out and be memorable!). We have an internal innovation team that is constantly researching, prototyping, and user testing the latest emerging technologies and then applying creative use cases for the technology. Through this ongoing R&D and innovation, we are then able to educate and sell through big ideas that help us scale and grow.

Q. It seems that many of your clients are younger brands or attract younger audiences like TikTok, Disney, Levi’s, and Facebook. What do you do to ensure that you are aligned with those brands’ audiences?

Similar to my answer above, the brands we partner with have an openness and a willingness to be untraditional with their marketing dollars. They need to trust us to think outside the box with us. We love to be involved early and often with our clients to help them define and shape their briefs in a way that ensures the most optimal outcomes. We often run innovation sprints with our clients to dive deep into their objectives and KPI’s, understand their audiences and how their consumers are consuming their brand today, the pain points, and how we can optimize through the best innovative and meaningful user experiences and solutions. We basically help our clients make reeeeeally cool shit that will give them the business results they're looking for.

Q. What is one challenge that Jam3 faced during the pandemic and how do you/ the company persevere?

When the pandemic first hit in March 2020, Jam3 definitely felt the repercussions. Everything we thought we knew of society, culture, user behaviour, and experiences were rapidly shifting. A lot of the strategy we had built for new client projects were no longer relevant. We saw clients pull out of projects because of their own financial uncertainty. Because I sit on Jam3’s growth team, all eyes turned to my team for refuge. We needed to generate new revenue to make up for the lost revenue and so we wouldn’t need to furlough or make pay cuts. Through strong networking and relationship building prior to the pandemic, my team and I filled our workdays with scheduling “catch-ups” with our clients to check-in and have honest, real, human-to-human conversations with them. Jam3’s strong suit has always been in digital, so clients who were once reluctant to take a leap of faith in the digital space with us pre-pandemic, finally waved the white flag and embraced our talent and services to help them pivot in this new normal. We’ve since been very lucky to be busy ever since, and as a result, we are currently growing our headcount to be able to keep up with the demand.

Q. What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Well, Toronto has been under stay-at-home orders ever since I moved into a new apartment in the city several months ago. Living on my own for the first time (and during a pandemic) has forced me to learn how to enjoy my alone time and fill my off-hours with mindful activities (otherwise, I’d probably continue working through the evenings). I’ve subscribed to a food delivery service which keeps me disciplined on closing my computer at 6 pm most nights and cooking for myself. I’ve had more time to practice the guitar my best friends bought me for my 16th birthday 🙂. I go for long and meditative walks or runs and explore new areas of the city. I’ve finally been able to catch up on old TV series I’ve been meaning to watch for years (I’m currently on Season 3 of the OC, Sandy is the best TV dad/husband ever, prove me wrong 🙂).

Q. Do you have one piece of advice for younger professionals looking to get into a similar role as yours?

I cannot stress enough the importance of networking! Be open-minded, be curious, be positive, leave lasting impressions and be memorable. Make an effort to meet new people every day, every week, every month to expand your network. Even if you cross paths with someone who you feel might not have relevance to your career path, you’d be surprised at how varying industries intercept with each other in business and in life. Always have the conversation. Make connections. Plant seeds for your future self. You never know who people know, and where, and how they can support you for future opportunities even if not immediate.