In the Trenches with Jack Dearnbarger, Account Director at Blockdot
Each week MediaDailyNews' new "In the Trenches" column will profile men and women who are making things happen in the online marketing and media world. They include up-and-coming creatives, ad salespeople, business development folks, and tech evangelists.
In our inaugural column, MediaDailyNews contributing writer Kate Kaye profiles Jack Dearnbarger, account director at Blockdot, an advergaming and Web consulting company.
After a stint selling online and print advertising for The Wall Street Journal in the mid-'90s, Jack toiled at a large infrastructure services firm. He got the chance to combine his enthusiasm for the sales pursuit with the creative aspects of advergame development.
At Blockdot, Jack handles both sales and customer service. His job is not only to lure the clients, but to keep them happy. When we caught Jack earlier this week, he'd just been to a production meeting with the rest of his colleagues at tight-knit Blockdot.
When approaching projects with clients, he follows a general template. Typically, they have a future promotion they'd like to support with a game. Based on the timeline and budget, Jack determines how best to achieve the intended outcome within those parameters.
"I have to make sure that there are no gaps in what they want between the creative, the type of game, and the results," he emphasizes.
Blockdot currently counts Mars' M&M's, DirecTV, Nokia, American Airlines, and Hewlett-Packard among its clients. Of course, clients don't always appear at the doorstep. In prospecting for new ones, Jack studies individual companies and tracks what they've done in previous advertising efforts. "I look for cutting-edge companies--ones that are open to doing new things," he adds.
In both his sales and account management roles, Jack faces common obstacles. For instance, many marketers aren't quite sure what advergaming is. And if they are, their perception of it may be jaded. Some, for example, think that games just aren't the right way to reach their target audiences. "It's hard to get somebody past that 'Oh that's just kids' stuff,'" Jack admits.
Then he backs up his pitch with solid research, like the recent study by America Online that found that U.S. women over 40 spend almost 50 percent more time each week playing online games than men, and are even more likely to play them daily than men or teens.
On the account side, the challenge comes in balancing the needs of the client with the desires of the game developers. Usually, the client wants its branding to be ubiquitous, while the creative side wants none of it. Diplomacy is critical. "It's being patient and hearing both sides, making sure they know they've each been heard and understood," Jack says.
Blockdot makes its home among the architects, photographers, and graphic designers in the downtown bohemia that is Dallas's Fair Park district. The open loft space, with its exposed brick and natural light, lends itself to Blockdot's small team efforts. Jack recalls one day when he and his colleagues (all guys) pored over teen magazines, hoping to learn something about the audience client Kimberly-Clark wanted to reach through an advergame promo for Kotex. "We all sat around wondering 'Who's Avril Lavigne?'" he chuckles.
It comes as no surprise that Jack's goal is to see advergaming more widely adopted by marketers. With the growing movement toward integrated marketing, says Jack, "I'd like to see advergaming playing a role in that."
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