ONLINE ALL STARS For Media Announced
All of our Online All Stars will be honored at a reception in New York on Sept. 24 , the first day of the OMMA Conference and Expo.
A Techie At Heart
Executive vice president, chief digital officer, Starcom MediaVest Group
How ironic that competitive cycling is one of the driving passions of the man who plans much of General Motors' media buying.
But Curt Hecht, executive vice president and chief digital officer of Starcom MediaVest Group and GM Planworks, says bike skills come in handy when steering the U.S. auto industry through a challenging media and sales environment.
"I am used to going down mountain passes," he says. Hecht has positioned one of SMG's most important clients as a leader in managing the auto brand across Internet and TV screens.
Hecht helped spearhead the now-legendary "Google Pontiac" campaign, which not only blended the two brands in TV and online spots but charted new terrain in developing cross-platform ad models and metrics.
As the chair of AAAA's Digital Video Innovation Committee, Hecht already explores that next generation of old and new media integration. The "GM Showroom"--a dedicated VOD channel on Comcast, Cox and Time Warner--is that first step toward integrating online disciplines of search, video and behavioral targeting with the big screen.
"People doing research with their TVs is not farfetched," Hecht argues. "This is a TV equivalent of KBB.com. It's a new marketing platform."
One mountain pass he is most proud of blasting through is SMG parent Publicis' acquisition of Digitas, which he thinks will make possible a tighter marriage of creative, technology and planning strategies.
"Whenever your company makes an acquisition you want to show a seamless integration, and we have seen a benefit to the client," he says. Search engine marketing, content development and media buying are "working as one and have brought great integrations," he says. New colleague David Kenny, chairman of Digitas, says: "Curt found the way for GM to make digital advertising the backbone of their brand and retail efforts."
Beyond GM, one of Hecht's core missions at SMG is making digital a backbone for all agency endeavors. His unofficial job description is to apply what the company calls a "digital mindset" with every thought leader. He sees digital as a key strategy to expanding almost any brand's reach in these media-fragmented times.
Throughout the organization, Hecht is credited with staffing up digital talent and pioneering search, analytics and mobile platforms that will position the agency for the next wave of integrated marketing.
"Curt is expert at managing the demands of very large, cautious brands against the opportunities of the digital realm," says Federated Media chairman John Battelle, who also recalls his friend being among the first to champion blogs and emerging platforms in conversational media.
The former Leo Burnett IT guy retains a techie's resourcefulness. Build, don't wait, is Hecht's approach. "Everyone is looking for an answer right now and people have forgotten they can learn a lot of these new things on their own and create it themselves," he says. "Those who sit on the curb and wait for others to tell them [what is next] will be left behind." --Steve Smith
Manager and Mentor
Senior vice president, director of digital communications, Universal McCann
Few digital shops are as closely associated with a single client as Universal McCann's Los Angeles arm is with Sony Pictures.
The theatrical group, the home-entertainment group, the TV group and more--UM handles All Things Sony Pictures in the digital space. In the last year alone, the agency has rolled out huge--not to mention hugely well-regarded and received--media campaigns for "Spider-Man 3," "Casino Royale," and most recently, "Superbad."
Elias Plishner, UM senior vice president and director of digital communications, oversees the account. He arrived at the agency as a young 'un, with only a single other professional gig to his name (a stint at an ABC affiliate that he deems "not even worth noting").
Nearly 10 years ago, he founded UM's digital group with two peers who left the company shortly thereafter. "I learned by being forced into things," he jokes. He also learned the more traditional way, getting his M.B.A. at USC at night while building the digital practice during the day.
UM snared the Sony Pictures digital business a few years later and hasn't looked back, growing into one of the larger digital agencies in L.A. As its head, Plishner counts several firsts to his name: Sony Pictures was the first studio on YouTube, and he played a large role in UM's push to combine its broadcast and digital upfront efforts.
Plishner credits his 15-strong team for the digital team's successes. "I try to spend 50 percent of my time with my people. I take managing them kind of seriously," he says. This manifests itself in first-thing-Monday meetings that are more community klatch than hard-core strategy session. "They're very skill- and industry-specific, as opposed to client-specific. We do negotiation exercises, talk about whoever Google's buying that week and how it will impact our business--things like that."
At the same time, Plishner lauds Sony Pictures and UM's other clients for their open-mindedness, "no matter how goofy" ideas may be. "Our clients are incredibly willing to take chances, which is a dream situation for us," he says. "New programs and ideas don't get held up in political red tape. The attitude is 'Let's try it. If it doesn't work, then we'll learn from it.'"
In turn, Dwight Caines, executive vice president of worldwide digital marketing at Sony Pictures, would follow Plishner into battle: "He does things the right way and he does right by his people."
Caines also praises Plishner's grounded-in-fact approach to online media buying. "Most of the people we talked to at first came in with this degree of arrogance--'we know the space, here's what you should be spending.' Elias, from the beginning, made decisions based on data and the facts. I appreciated that he wasn't just basing things on his instincts."
Plishner clearly loves his current role: "UM is really the only place I've known. It's in my blood." That said, he hopes eventually to parlay his digital facility and business acumen into a gig as the head of marketing for a Fortune 500 company. "I've spent a lot of time this year focused on other media besides digital--on creative, on publicity, on promotions, on international marketing," he says. "But I still think people in digital have a humongous advantage. We know where media and marketing is heading, and I want to be a part of that."
Business Driver, Agency Leader
In an age when many marketers and ad agencies are eyeing digital media as a way to connect with consumers and boost revenues, Carat President Scott Sorokin can be quiet on the subject. It may come as a surprise considering the digital prowess at his agency, where the menu includes CRM, mobile, media planning and buying as well as creative.
"It's not about being traditional or being digital," he says. "It's how does TV affect search, and how does social networking impact the total mix? And when do you stop using one and start using the other? The trick is going to be to get all these different channels--from TV to search to social networking--to talk to each other."
A veteran of direct and integrated marketing, Sorokin sees an agency's mission as helping drive business, not just addressing marketing issues. To those companies who just want someone solely to execute their plans, Sorokin says they just don't have the right agency.
"We want them to go from 'I don't care about them' to 'I couldn't live without them,'" says Sorokin, whose agency is the country's fourth-largest media shop with $7.06 billion in billings.
Sorokin came to Carat as president of Carat Fusion--its digital and direct marketing arm--in April 2006 from McCann's MRM Worldwide, where he ran Intel Corp. A year later, he was appointed president of Carat.
The strategist managed Modem and Digitas' West Coast office after co-founding Grey Interactive Worldwide. There, he helped build Dell.com. At the time, site revenues were less than $20,000 a day. When he left, he says, they topped $50 million every 24 hours.
With clients Adidas, Reebok, Pfizer, Wachovia and Procter & Gamble, Sorokin says Carat--part of Aegis--can change how business views marketing and media. It's not just in terms of the millions spent on media placement, but in how products infiltrate a consumer's mindset--from awareness to purchase. --Hillary Chura