Gerber Lands In SMV Hot Seat

If you follow the online business, you probably know that Adam Gerber has a new gig these days. He recently left his director of media strategy post at The Digital Edge for a new spot as SVP/group director, innovation and strategy for MediaVest USA. As he has for most of his career, he will work with some of the world's biggest brands including P&G and Coca-Cola. But what really excites him is where he's sitting.

"I sit right in the middle of the national broadcast group," Gerber said. "That should tell you something."

It should tell you that Gerber is right in the thick of the action at SMG. Gerber has a lot on his plate in these early days. There are the aforementioned big brands that want to access his online marketing expertise, and there's also the matter of a speech his boss Jack Klues gave in a keynote presentation to the recent iMedia summit. Klues announced in that speech that SMG is going to expand its 2003 television Upfront to include a network of broadband providers, including Atom Shockwave, Yahoo Platinum and Unicast. And finally, there are his thoughts about how online marketing will play out in the short term and long term.

Those long-term thoughts also make Gerber's spot among the Starcom national broadcast group important. The Internet, he believes, is showing its ability to morph into a different media than TV, print or radio. As that evolution continues, he said, TV and the Internet will grow more closely together.

"They will both be about addressability, and interactivity and they will both serve as an expanded engagement with the consumer," he said. "Right now the internet is a precursor to what TV will be."

And what about how TV advertising is bought? Will that share a commonality with the Internet, too? If Klues' idea of setting up an upfront process where broadband providers will be rewarded with early commitments for digital marketing, that might give TV and the Internet another common ground. Gerber called that move a signal to the marketplace that "we are willing to make an investment in these properties."

In the short term, Gerber believes there is no doubt mass-market brands must include online advertising as part of the media mix. His problem is that people tend to lump a lot of online marketing activities under one term.

"I hate it when online marketing is just one thing," he said. "It is a lot of different things. You can use one component or all components. I can say that fro brands that do not direct market or sell online, those brands that have traditional branding objectives need to have online as a viable part of the media mix."

And he believes brands that sell online have to have a website as their main storefront, with online advertising driving the traffic to it. At SMG he will be working with brands that have done a lot of different things online (P&G) and some others that have hardly made a dent (Coke). Gerber did not address any specific brands in the interview for this story, except to say that he was looking forward to working with them. But he did liken the history of some brands experience to drinking wine. Some brands who spent a lot of bad money early on the internet, he said, drank a 1995 vintage Cabernet before its time and had a bad experience. Now, continuing the analogy, he said the new vintage is better and bound produce a better experience.

"The challenge is to show e client who might have had a bad experience that ad units are much better and the Internet has better capabilities," he said. "It's a totally different ballgame. We may need to re-educate."

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