OMMA's Rising Stars 2005
Alpert Casts a Wide Net
Director of Digital Marketing, Avenue A/Razorfish
To Daniel Alpert, 33, teaching his clients about the possibilities of online marketing is like the legendary fisherman's story about "the one that got away." Alpert, the director of digital marketing in the Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. office of Avenue A/Razorfish and an avid outdoorsman, recently struggled for the better part of a day to land a 60-pound Goliath Grouper in waters off the south Florida coast.
"It took me hours to drag this big fish out of its dark cavern. It was an intense fight," he says. Alpert released his catch, an endangered species, but the thrill of that tug-of-war left a lasting impression.
It turns out there are a lot of parallels between coaxing reluctant quarry from a dark, familiar environment and educating unenlightened marketers.
"So many of our clients just don't understand the long-term potential impact of embracing integrated digital marketing. It's my job to help them do that," says Alpert.
Take International Speedway Corp., for example. The Daytona Beach, Fla. company that owns a dozen Nascar-affiliated racetracks hired Alpert's team to help it figure out how to improve online ticket sales. "We never really embraced our brand before in our online initiatives. To us, it was a Web site. To Daniel, it was a whole new business opportunity," says Matt Collwell, director of Internet marketing for ISC.
Alpert suggested incorporating imaging technology the company was already using for other purposes into the ticket-buying process. Buyers could choose a seat at a given track and immediately get a three-dimensional panoramic view of what they would be able to see from that seat. Collwell says a lot of fans figured out they could see a lot more from a $100 perch than from a $60 one.
"Now we are selling a lot more of those higher-priced tickets. The impact has been huge," he says. ISC will soon launch its own Alpert-designed ticket portal to compete with Ticketmaster.
Alpert tackled another challenge for Carnival Cruise Lines, which noticed that many visitors to its Web site were checking out information and pricing for cruises to Alaska, but not registering or booking online. Using sophisticated behavioral modeling, Alpert's team devised a way to serve relevant Carnival ads to the site's visitors as they surfed unrelated online venues.
"They might be checking their stocks on Yahoo! Finance and suddenly there is this ad that says 'Alaska cruise, one day sale.' They click and the page dynamically changes, immersing that customer in the Alaskan cruise experience. That's going to help [Carnival] sell some cruises," he says.
Alpert also directed cross-functional teams that rebranded and relaunched Carnival's Web site in 2004 and is often cited as an expert in the field of online marketing for the travel and leisure business. Some of his other clients have included Hotels.com, Club Med, and Steiner Leisure.
Alpert grew up in Chicago and attended the University of Florida, where he says he spent a lot of time listening to Jimmy Buffett music, along with studying advertising and marketing. After graduation, he took a job as a copywriter with Fahlgren Benito Advertising in Tampa, where he worked with Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines. Impressed by his efforts, the cruise company hired Alpert as a marketing manager, a job he held for six years.
During his tenure, Royal Caribbean became the first in its industry to launch Internet cafes on board its ships. It was that kind of creativity that caught the attention of Shannon Denton, a senior vice president at Avenue A/Razorfish.
"His ability to put together thoughts and think outside the box is exceptional. He's one of those visionary types, a very innovative guy," says Denton, who snared Alpert in 2000.
Having adopted Florida as his home, Alpert spends as much time as possible soaking up the sun. In addition to fishing, he's into scuba diving, water skiing, camping, and boating. On the road, he lugs along a portable Web cam to keep up with his wife and 5-year-old daughter.
Alpert is bullish on the future of interactive marketing and media, especially as more advertisers catch on to its potential to drive long-term consumer behavior.
"I love to help companies build new businesses online," he says. "I could not be more passionate about the opportunities that exist out there." Lee Hall
Keeping His Cool
Senior Vice President, Palisades Interactive
Others might have had cartoon-like puffs of smoke blasting from their ears, but not Arthur Chan. When his client, Miramax Films, asked him to change all of the ads it had running across the Web to promote an airing of "The Making of Sin City" on The SciFi Channel, Chan was unfazed. "That's the thing about Arthur," chuckles Francois Martin, marketing director at Miramax Films, "He's a really cool, laid back guy."
You don't have to grow up in Hermosa Beach, Calif. to be this smooth, but it helps. Chan still frequents the seaside town outside of Los Angeles where he was raised. As senior vice president at Palisades Media Group in Santa Monica, he launched the agency's Palisades Interactive unit nearly eight months ago.
"The Sin City campaign was almost like a guerrilla campaign in the beginning," Martin recalls, "and Arthur created a lot of pre-awareness with targeted sites in our core demographic." Chan was charged with getting buzz going for the flick among 18- to 34-year-old guys. It wasn't much of a stretch for Chan, 30. "Arthur was able to reach them at sites he chose that we may not have thought of otherwise," Martin notes. "They're very finicky. He was cool in being sensitive to that." Chan paired the "Sin City" campaign with hipster lifestyle sites like Viceland.com and gamers' paradise IGN.com.
"The most important thing I look for and appreciate is what provides me with the most utility," Arthur says. In other words, he continues, "What is it that won't piss me off?" Prior to the release of "Sin City," fans of movies and comics who were chomping at the bit to catch the graphic novel-inspired flick could submit their ZIP codes directly within rollover ads. Then, about a week before the film's release, they received text messages featuring movie show times. How's that for a utilitarian, a.k.a. non-piss-off-able approach?
"I try not to think of the audience as a target or a consumer," says Chan, who instead likes to "put a face on it" by thinking of individuals. A bit more unorthodox, Chan tries not to look at media or creative briefs before he and his colleagues start to kick around campaign ideas. "It's very free-form. No idea is too wacky or absurd," Chan notes. That philosophy pervades his personal life; he shed his suit this year to play guitar at the South By Southwest indie music extravaganza in Austin, Texas with his band, The Meeting Places.
Chan likes to toy with the commonly held notion that creative and media are somehow separate entities. In doing so, he hopes to establish Palisades Interactive as a "creative media shop." He insists, "Creative media is not necessarily about just doing a placement. The most important thing in media is it has to be creative; it has to have utility; it has to be something that grabs someone's attention in a positive way." Chan points to a Crispin Porter + Bogusky center-spread print campaign in which orange staples were used to represent cones for the Mini Cooper to zoom around as if on a downhill ski run. "Is that media, or is it creative?" Chan ponders.
It's no fluke that Chan has a penchant for creative. "I was always into creative," he says, admitting that most people who gravitate towards advertising are eye-candy junkies. But, he concludes, landing on the media side of the fence doesn't necessitate a creativity-free gig. "Really, getting into media was the best thing for that. Being in media, you have an edge when you are creative. You have more resources and utility to get those ideas across."
Starting out in print in '96, Chan reminisces about an old computer with a dial-up connection that was relegated to the back of the Saatchi & Saatchi offices he worked in. A few years later while working with Team One Advertising in L.A., Chan became "fully 100 percent immersed" in interactive. That's when he found his calling. It's no wonder when Team One scored a Gold Lion in 2001 for its "Create Your Own Commercial" Lexus IS300 campaign, Chan was on board.
He remarks whimsically, "Print is just print, right? TV is just TV. There's no other medium [except interactive] that blends media and creative, so that both are so intertwined with each other. It's a blank canvas." Still, the TiVo-crazed Chan recognizes pre-conceived notions about media are rapidly becoming obsolete. "Overall in the way I consume media now, I take a singular thing I'm interested in and get every angle, because I can. I'm agnostic in terms of the medium."
In the end, he suggests, "Creativity disseminates to all media... It always finds its way." Kate Kaye
Aiming for the Top Shelf
Assistant Media Director, mOne Worldwide
Many young people dream of working in media, their fantasies stoked by high-flying images of glamour, beautiful people, and ultra-urban cool. For 32-year-old Jeff Cole, assistant media director for mOne Worldwide, though, the road to a career as a media strategist began a little closer to the ground - in the stock room of a drug store on the Southside of Chicago.
"What got me really thinking about media and marketing wasn't really the glamour stuff," he recalls. "It was really quite the opposite. It was working at Osco Drugs back in high school in my hometown of Chicago. What fascinated me was watching where things were on the shelves and how that seemed to affect sales. It was really interesting to notice that goods on the bottom two shelves never needed to be restocked. But if you took the same product and placed it just one shelf up, it'd be a great seller."
"Marketing became for me an amazing puzzle, a very hands-on thing," Cole adds. "It's shaped how I've envisioned the marketplace and how placement works within it ever since. Whatever medium or message I've worked with, the challenge has always been to find exactly the right environment for my product, to find out how to get it on the equivalent of the top shelf."
As media supervisor for mOne, Chicago, where he has been since 2002, Cole is responsible for overseeing online media activity for the entire line of Unilever HPC products and Kimberly-Clark products in Chicago. "My method is to keep it simple and to educate clients about how the online piece can advance their wider goals and what they're doing in other media" he explains. "The most important part of that process is de-conditioning them from the notion that online is just another place to slap their logo down. The key to online is that you have the chance, and really the obligation, to create and customize your own unique environment."
When Unilever enlisted mOne to give its Axe deodorant brand a more contemporary sex appeal within its core market of 18- to 25-year-old males, Cole and his team jumped into action, coming up with some memorable and innovative ways of showcasing Axe through sponsorships and live events with World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and Playboy Enterprises. The agency used both the WWE Web site and print magazines to promote the Axe "Touch Dark" party, a VIP-only mega-party held at the New York City mansion of Penthouse founder Bob Guccione. Visitors to both the Axe and WWE Web sites could enter a sweepstakes to get passes to the party, with the winner getting to escort two WWE "divas" to the event.
Axe also teamed up with Playboy magazine and Playboy.com to promote college party events at Playboy's "College Bar of the Month," as well as arranging celebrity photo-shoots with Axe's icon "Quinn the Mannequin" and a Playboy Playmate.
Axe product and promotion were integrated into several of the hottest video game titles on the market including "Need for Speed Underground," "Burnout 3," and "Def Jam: Fight for NY." As Cole explains it, "It was a natural extension of our brand message into a medium our guys own. All our studies showed the Axe guys were sacrificing traditional media for games and online."
Cole's vision and style have made him a champ at Unilever. "Jeff's signature trait is integrating our brand's online efforts across media, PR, and promotion channels to truly surround our target customers," says Mary Beth Berkson, Unilever's senior channel planning manager for hair care, deodorant, and antiperspirants. "His leadership and strong strategic thinking have been key to increasing our Chicago office's online spending by 300 percent since 2002."
Cole's originality and vision extends beyond his demographic target to young women. For example, he helped Kimberly-Clark's Kotex brand gain a greater following among women 18 to 24 when mOne developed a game called "Poppitt" on Pogo.com that treats menstruation irreverently and humorously. He also helped devise a "most embarrassing moments" competition on Bolt.com.
"Jeff moves with the greatest ease between brands as different as Axe body sprays and Kimberly-Clark's Huggies for infants," observes Rich Giannicchi, group media director at mOne Worldwide. "His campaigns have used a wide variety of online technologies that are helping to redefine media as we know it." For Cole, the possibilities of media integration have barely begun to be explored.
"A big change the advertising world is going to be undergoing in the next few years is doing away completely with the outmoded idea that there's a turf war between different mediums to see which is getting a bigger slice of the pie," Cole explains. "There's a new kind of consumer out there who's already way ahead of us. Kids today don't distinguish between media and are constantly multitasking between them. Advertisers need to become much more adept at multitasking on their own and in delivering their message more fluidly across channels." Phil Leggiere
Ahead of the Curve
Media Planner, Beyond Interactive
She may be young, but Elyse Estrada isn't green. In fact, after just two years in the advertising business, the 23-year-old media planner knows more about reaching kids online than some of the agency vets she works with at Beyond Interactive. When her colleagues in other departments need tips on attracting the teens and tweens, Estrada and her comrades at Beyond Entertainment, the agency's youth and entertainment division, step in. But this self-motivator seems to lean on herself the most, whether creating media strategies aimed at kids for Hasbro and 3M Kids, or at young adults for Warner Independent Pictures and H&M. Estrada took the lead in developing a wireless text messaging campaign to promote H&M's tailored menswear line to 18- to 24-year-old males.
"She really immersed herself in the brand," affirms Steve Lubomski, advertising manager for H&M USA. "She made several store visits and required from us a lot of background information on the company, a lot of things other people overlook."
Estrada helped orchestrate a campaign that was unlike anything the trendy apparel store had attempted before. Ads placed on Google, as well as on style and job recruitment sites, were targeted geographically only to users in and around the five H&M locations offering the new men's line in Boston, Chicago, New York, and Washington, D.C.
The tech-savvy audience was invited to receive text messages featuring a sales offer. The offer was sent directly to consumers who entered their cell phone numbers and ZIP codes within the ads. In the first week, H&M sent over 3,000 messages to style-conscious respondents. As an added bonus, notes Estrada, "people were sending them to their friends."
You'd never think of Elyse as a rookie, ensures Lubomski, who applauds her professionalism. "She handles everything with a mature approach."
Soon after achieving her B.A. in public and private sector organizations at Brown University, Estrada headed to New York where she had lined up an assistant planning gig at Beyond through the assistance of her older sister, an agency executive in Los Angeles. Like many young go-getters in the ad industry, her average 10-hour work days leave little time for vegging in front of the tube.
"I'm so busy that the Internet is the one medium I'm always on," says Estrada, who does just about everything online from listening to streaming radio and shopping, to indulging in one of her favorite guilty Web pleasures - reading zany news on Fark.com. Adds Estrada, being constantly connected to the Net "makes me more of a believer in online."
Evidently, that trust in the medium has rubbed off on some of her clients. Since Estrada started at Beyond in 2003, both H&M and the first client she worked with, Hasbro, have increased their online ad spends. The Internet is becoming a more viable medium through which to attract kids' attention, Estrada emphasizes, especially now that more parents are digitally recording tried-and-true TV shows like "Barney and Friends" and "Blue's Clues" and fast-forwarding through the commercials. Although just a few years ago, moms and dads were far more skeptical of the Internet, these days, says Estrada, "kids and parents are online together."
The goal of many Hasbro campaigns is to entice children to try out new games online. In developing media plans for such efforts, Estrada has no trouble tapping into her inner kid. "I try to put myself in their mindset. I go online and play those games... I try to get an idea of what they want."
Estrada admits that even she is swayed by interactive advertising from time to time. When she got sick this winter, she visited WebMD, and spotted an ad for a Tylenol cold medication. Later that day, an ad for the same product showed up in her AOL Instant Messenger account. Without thinking much about it, Estrada found herself at the drugstore on the way home, scouring the aisles for that same cold remedy. In that case, and in many others, Estrada stresses, "Context is key."
At this point in a blossoming career, not only is Estrada comfortable with her clients, she feels a sense of loyalty towards them and her company. The fact that she's stuck with Beyond since her industry induction makes her an anomaly in a field that's plagued with job turnover. Concludes Estrada, "I don't know that I'd have this much responsibility somewhere else." KK
Anything Can Be Media
Interactive Media Specialist, Crisin Porter + Bogusky
Kristy Fulwider was flipping through Advertising Age when she spotted a story about how Crispin Porter + Bogusky landed the American Legacy Foundation's anti-smoking campaign. "I wondered what would happen," she remembers. "Historically it's very hard to speak to teens." Fulwider, who started working in digital media in 1998, became impressed by the agency's "Truth" campaign, and its ability to speak to teens in a way that would resonate with them. "It was less talking down to, and more talking with," she asserts. "It was more one-on-one communication."
Now that Fulwider has moved beyond the role of agency admirer to interactive media specialist at Crispin's Miami headquarters, she's able to apply her own insights to initiate entirely new conversations between brands and consumers. The South Beach-based 28-year-old has the luxury of working with brands that get the industry chattering, too, like premium home care product company Method, automaker Mini USA, high-tech cycling component firm Shimano, and Virgin Atlantic Airways.
A recent campaign for Mini has people talking back, literally. The "Counterfeit Minis" campaign mimics Rolex and Gucci brand knock-offs, using print and TV ads to spur interest in the mysterious phony Mini phenomenon. Classified ads in car magazines such as Auto Trader offer Minis of suspect authenticity, while direct-response TV ads sell DVDs describing how to spot a fraud, advising concerned viewers to contact the Counter Counterfeit Commission for more information. Not only are people ordering the DVDs (yes, they actually exist), they're calling the Counterfeit Mini hotline to report allegedly ersatz Minis.
Fulwider cracks, "People are leaving hilarious messages like, 'I have this guy who lives next door, and the snow on top of his roof looks like a Mini. You guys should come check it out.'"
But the real counterfeit coup is in the campaign's complementary Web sites which must be sought out by intrigued investigators. Rather than give away the promotional reality, Fulwider and her colleagues insisted on a truly under-the-radar approach that could dupe even the savviest online sleuths. "The media behind this is mostly Web sites people can find through searches," Fulwider says, adding. "This is even more underground than search ads."
The covert Counterfeit Mini sites exemplify what she believes we'll see more of in the future. "The Internet will become more of an anchor to a campaign," Fulwider predicts. "It will tie into what we're doing elsewhere." Fulwider strives to create unique environments and experiences for brands and doesn't get bogged down with media divisions. "Anything can be media," she suggests. "It doesn't have to have specific dollars attached to it. It can be as simple as a micro-site." Even a fake one. "'Subservient Chicken' started as an idea for a TV commercial," Fulwider says, alluding to Crispin's breakthrough campaign for Burger King which relied solely on a micro-site.
Working with brands willing to take risks allows Fulwider to explore alternative sites and online niche areas. Instead of placing ads on broad-reaching sites, she often matches her clients' brands with Web destinations that reach a more unconventional audience, like Salon.com, Slate, and discount travel site, Sidestep. She also keeps tabs on what influential forum visitors and bloggers are saying about client brands. "We use that information to help create new content or react in a certain way," she explains.
Targeting for brands like Mini and Method is based less on demographics and more on mindset, Fulwider says. "I'm looking for certain types of people, rather than a man who's 25-years-old and makes a certain amount of money."
"Kristy is a bulldog when it comes to planning our online media," declares Ralph Bershefsky, brand marketing manager at Virgin Atlantic Airways, who appreciates her in-depth knowledge of the interactive landscape. "We ask her to make $10 seem like a $100, and Kristy is always up for the challenge, and she delivers the results." Adds Bershefsky, "Kristy is always on top of the latest trends and the buzz in the online industry."
But that doesn't mean she's a fad-follower. While Fulwider is up to speed on behavioral targeting and advergaming, she steers clear of using something merely for the sake of its novelty. "For new and emerging media, what's best is to step back and let it evolve and take a look at how people are using it," she insists. "As an industry we focus too much on the next big thing...We have to focus on what is great and make it better." KK
New Planning Metrics "Jedi"
Account Superviser, Carat Interactive
There is nothing new-agey about Mike Gantz. With a putting cup never far from his desk, this former promotions guy for Chicago's WGN Radio is a Cubs nut, dog lover, and has a new home in the suburbs that's still waiting for a paint job. But Gantz, 28, is kind of busy right now.
The unassuming account supervisor for Carat Interactive is ushering in a holistic approach to media buying, harmonizing the once-incompatible disciplines of brand development and direct response return on investment metrics. "It's what I have been devoting all of my work to for the past several years," Gantz says. Material ephemera like house painting will have to wait while the young Jedi masters a new force.
By drilling deeper into the performance metrics of clients like Orbitz and E-Loan, Gantz crafts highly calibrated media plans that leverage brand awareness into higher and higher quality direct response. Sure, a fixed media buy for E-Loan on a cable network might spike his "cost per" front end in ways that would send direct response guys running for cover. And yet, by precisely tracking the customer acquisition funnel, Gantz can monitor that branding buys increase awareness and consideration metrics that run deeper than a "cost per."
Overall, Gantz has found that "the average loan size increased, and the cost per funded loan began to shrink and conversion rates increased substantially," he says. Gantz's approach has earned him plaudits; he won the Carat Sphere Planning Award in 2002 for his work on Orbitz, and again in 2004 for E-Loan.
By monitoring brand and direct response metrics concurrently, Gantz is calculating a higher kind of return on investment math. "As the industry moves forward, it's not going to be as much about GRPs [gross rating points] as it is the quality of customers. "It's not just buying GRPs or focusing only on cost per, but getting the most valuable customer and lifetime value, and that is going to happen through a mixture of both."
"Mike has moved this into another realm," says Susan Rowe, executive vice president, integrated media, Carat Interactive. Gantz is finding undiscovered performance from minor cable networks and is able to distinguish between the direct response performance off of live sporting events versus sports news shows. "He branches it out into areas that surprise us, capitalizing on more direct response friendly cable networks and using that as a means to manipulate [ROI]," Rowe says. "He looks at it as an entire landscape of tools he could use to bring greater ROI to clients. He looks at things holistically."
At the core of that holistic vision is technology. "These tools ultimately will give planners immediate desktop insight into the client's business, how pulling and pushing specific media buys widens the customer acquisition funnel and gooses the ordering process," Gantz explains, adding, "Optimization will occur on the fly and across all media with demonstrable results... That's going to be the next battle ground - the real time analytics of things and the future of media planning is going to be about using these emerging tools to shift and re-route customers into the places where companies can build relationships."
Gantz says that interactive tools, customer relationship management techniques, e-mail marketing, and direct response TV are merging, "I don't think that anyone now even has their head wrapped around how powerful this is," he adds.
Gantz is a glass-half-full kind of Jedi. Where others see media fragmentation, he sees new tools for accessing customers more efficiently. "The PVRs [personal video recorders] of the world and VOD [video-on-demand] are only going to improve the way we measure things," he argues.
Whatever is lost in reach will be gained back in greater interactivity and understanding of the audience. "Every time you interact with a TiVo, it sends a signal back," he says. "It is reporting on what you are doing. It knows what you like." And those signals are gold to Gantz, whose buying strategy already has the same characteristics as a fragmented media world. Steve Smith
Online Spelunker Never Caves
Senior Media Planner, Moxie Interactive
Olivia McKinsey's hobby, spelunking, is a lot like her job.
After spending countless hours at work trying to probe the inner workings of the consumer's mind, McKinsey sometimes unwinds by donning a helmet and a headlamp to explore another arcane world. One might refer to her passion for cave exploring as the ultimate "down" time.
"Sometimes we have maps, but not always. You really get down into the muck and the mud and you crawl around trying to find your way. It's a huge adrenaline rush," says McKinsey, a senior media planner at Moxie Interactive in Atlanta.
When she's not exploring caves, she oversees the agency's biggest account, Verizon Wireless. McKinsey, who turns 30 this year, approaches her work with the same passion she displays in her underground lair. It's that kind of enthusiasm that led Joel Lunenfeld, Moxie's vice president of media services, to bring her on board. McKinsey had been working on search engine optimization with clients at Bennett Kuhn Varner, a direct marketing shop in Atlanta. The job, she says, was tedious and often downright boring. Even so, Lunenfeld says she didn't let on during their initial interview. "She never spoke a bad word about her employer and never said anything negative about the job," he says. "I figured if she could get that excited about SEO work, then we might have something that could really turn her on."
Lunenfeld offered her a media planner position. In little more than a year, McKinsey scored a promotion to senior planner in charge of Verizon's national customer acquisition account.
McKinsey took a somewhat circuitous route to her current job. A native of Annapolis, Md., she headed south to college and studied music at the University of Miami. A series of uninspiring sales gigs left her looking for something more significant.
"I even did that nasty door-to-door sales thing, where you have that little card that you pawn off on people for 20 bucks. Decided that wasn't me," she says.
McKinsey caught a break when a friend who worked at BKV brought her in as an assistant media buyer in 2002. "About six months into it, they needed some help on the interactive side and I said 'ooh, take me, take me,'" she says.
Call it interactive immersion. At BKV, she studied up on search engine marketing and how to create a keyword media plan. When the agency's buyer left, McKinsey stepped in to work with clients like EarthLink, After Hours Formalwear, and Register.com. She headed the media side of a team that overhauled an internal third-party ad serving system.
"I ended up understanding more about tracking and coding than I ever wanted to," she says. And, she was hooked.
McKinsey has already made a name for herself in her creative use of online media. Last summer, her team at Moxie created a unique campaign that employed two parallel skyscraper units on either side of Yahoo!'s home page. It was the first and only time Yahoo! lent itself to the format. Earlier this year, Moxie kicked off a new campaign for Verizon's V CAST service. One execution uses PointRoll's BadBoy floating format to deliver a video stream that looks as if it emanates right out of the phone.
"She's not afraid to take risks and get outside of her comfort level if she thinks that doing so will ultimately benefit her client," says Marcus Startzel, regional sales director at Advertising.com, who has worked with McKinsey on the Verizon account.
McKinsey also wants to become more involved in brand strategy and development, as well as new product launches. "When she applies her ideas to some other campaigns that are maybe a bit more 'sexy,' I think a lot more people will start to notice her," he says. "She's on the fast track to stardom."
Married with two young children, McKinsey tries to keep work and home life in proper perspective. Though not a TV junkie, she admits to being a fan of "24," "Survivor," and "CSI." Unlike many of her colleagues, she says she has no use for TiVo. Her old-fashioned VCR works just fine, thank you. LH
An Open Mind Comes Standard
Media Supervisor, AKQA
Studying marketing in college, Suzanne Schneider knew something was missing in the textbook picture of the advertising world. "I knew I was interested in advertising but the way it was presented never seemed right," recalls Schneider, 28, now a media supervisor at AKQA. "The world they described was one in which the artists they called 'creatives' did their work, and the media planners and strategists were all about analysis and doing everything by the numbers, as if there were rigid formulas that applied to every case, and planning was basically just paperwork. That never felt quite right to me. And that wasn't what I wanted to be in advertising for." Luckily she wound up in a place where others agreed. After Schneider graduated from the University of Arizona in 1998, she headed for San Francisco during the first full flush of excitement about the online "revolution."
"For people of my generation, especially those in media," Schneider says, San Francisco in the late '90s was the place to be. It was fun and also full of new possibilities. There was a real idealism. With online, everything seemed new because everything was new. There weren't any formulas because what worked was still a matter of discovery. I knew a friend who worked in media planning and buying and, as he described it, it seemed like a natural fit for me."
Schneider acknowledges that learning the business, first at McCann-Erickson, then later at Zentropy, and living through the dot-com bubble and meltdown, has added a layer of pragmatism to her idealism. "In the dot-com days," she recalls, "the technology was awesome but the process and the discipline was lacking. No one really knew what they were measuring and why. Those of us who've matured with the medium have learned that it takes more than just keeping up with new technologies and tools. At the heart of every decision is how each element in the plan, the message, the placement, the analytics, relates to client needs."
Nonetheless, she also is convinced that online media really has changed the nature of the job of a media planner.
"What working with the online medium has taught me," she says, "is that you have to approach every plan with an open mind. If you want to be successful, you have to aim to make the planning team as creative as the creative team. ...You have to constantly seek out new and different media opportunities for the creative team to work with. It's not enough in this medium to drive users to a site. You have to engage them in a meaningful way."
Schneider put these ideas into practice at AKQA, where she is responsible for interactive strategy, media planning, and buying on the Visa USA account. She led design and execution of the "Ideas Happen" campaign, an integrated effort designed to involve young adults with the Visa brand. It invited 18- to 24-year-olds to submit ideas in three categories (entrepreneurs, community, and self-expression), to a customized Web site. Peers and panelists voted for the best ideas in each category. Winners received a $25,000 grant to help realize their ideas.
"Getting the message out about the program involved an integrated campaign using not only the online space, but magazines like Rolling Stone, college newspapers, and MTV. In each medium we focused on activating young people with the message that Visa is helping young people to live their dreams," Schneider says. The "Ideas Happen" site registered nearly 25 million page views over the course of the campaign averaging over five page views per user. Over 13,000 visitors submitted ideas and over 150,000 votes were cast. The number of young adults who described Visa as the best credit card increased by 13 percent.
The "Ideas" effort and the extension of Visa's NFL sponsorship of fantasy football helped establish Schneider as an "interactive media pioneer," according to Jon Raj, vice president of advertising for Visa USA. "Suzanne takes each campaign as a chance to stretch her creativity and every Visa dollar to its fullest," Raj says. "When I refer to great creatives in advertising, I not only speak of great copy writers and designers, but also add innovators like Suzanne." PL