MediaPost 2006 Online All Star: Ted Moon
Sprint Nextel's Sneaky General
Ted Moon, Director of Interactive and Innovative Media, Sprint Nextel Corp.
History buff Ted Moon learned how to take on the bigger, better-funded telecom competition from a study of Gettysburg. His hero, Gen. John Buford, held off Confederate soldiers by defending the high ground before the enemy understood the terrain.
"We are in a fierce fight with our competition, and we are outspent," says Moon, 39. Instead of going toe-to-toe, it's best to "outmaneuver them and get ahead."
To help secure the next high ground, Moon guided Sprint Nextel onto TiVo this year, offering exclusive footage from Sony Pictures' summer blockbuster "Talladega Nights." The brand bought a TiVo Showcase, a long-form video format, to promote the film, Sprint Nextel, and the relationship between the two. Sprint-branded products appeared in the film.
The Sprint Nextel partnership with the NFL follows the same principle. The Sprint brand seems to be everywhere pro football is this year, from TV to cell phones. This year Moon extended the sponsorship to target gamers by devising in-game integration with Electronic Arts' popular "Madden NFL '07" game.
Sara Devine, a former colleague of Moon's who now works for Revolution Media, says Moon learned his media planning field tactics from Nextel's long-standing NASCAR partnership. "Ted has this idea that you buy to own," says Devine, adding, "And what [Sprint Nextel] buys is smart." The idea is to find promising, new, high-impact properties and bolt the Sprint Nextel brand to all consumer touch points.
Take last year's AOL reality show "The Biz." While other marketers meekly dipped their toes into basic pre-roll video buys, Moon and his team integrated Sprint phones into the show: Contestants actually used the phones during the Web series.
And Moon knows how to marshal the troops among Sprint Nextel's sports and entertainment marketing groups to pull off digital integration challenges. He is well known for poking holes in silos. "He rallies the multiple groups internally at Sprint," says Ed McLoughlin, partner, group planning director, Mindshare Interactive, the telecom's agency for several integrated efforts. "His best skill is getting people as enthusiastic about this stuff as he is."
Moon engineered a successful program with The Food Network that enabled viewers to receive such text-message content as recipes, ingredient lists, and alerts via their cell phones. Moon says the program generated many consumer trials of Sprint's mobile messaging and content packages. It also demonstrated how wireless technology can help with everyday chores.
"Demonstrating relevance" is the Moon mantra. "We got eyeballs, but they were quality impressions; they were seeing our phones at work," he says. "It's critical to partner with content [properties] to show what our phones can do."
Moon says the next great battlefield is user-generated content, viral content distribution, and branded entertainment content that enables consumers to remix, redistribute, and even reimagine brands. In a user-controlled mediaverse, the most relevant marketer is the one that "enables people to generate content," Moon says. Brands don't just use platforms, he concludes. "We provide the platform."