Q&A: Andreas Combuechen CEO, Chief Creative Officer, Atmosphere BBDO, New York

Andreas Combuechen, CEO and chief creative officer of Atmosphere, the New York-based digital arm of BBDO North America, has been building the agency's client roster and garnering accolades since the unit launched in 1999. One of the top 50 interactive agencies, Atmosphere represents blue chip marketers including America Online (AOL), Cingular Wireless, Frito-Lay, General Electric, and the New York Stock Exchange. The agency's work has been recognized by the One Show and AD:Tech, and received Andy, Effie, and Cannes Festival honors. OMMA's Lee Hall spoke recently with Combuechen on a variety of topics.

OMMA: Atmosphere has done a lot of work for AOL over the last few years. How has that relationship evolved as the online environment has changed? COMBUECHEN: The complex and changing dynamics of the AOL business have been a terrific challenge from a marketing perspective. Our initial work for AOL several years ago was heavily weighted on acquiring new members and/or first-time Web users. Today, there are fewer "newbies" to source from, and as a result, our acquisition work is more geared to a "switching" audience. Today, there is also equal focus on retaining existing members and migrating them to additional products and services.

Additionally, AOL has compelling solutions for dial-up, broadband, and wireless usage. This requires another layer of sophistication to the marketing to ensure that we are offering the right solution to the right customer.

OMMA: Dave Lubars, the new creative czar at BBDO, clearly understands and supports the interactive realm. What synergies have you created with him? COMBUECHEN: David is really helping to broaden BBDO's thinking and pushing everyone to think outside of the box. Just recently, in a note to BBDO, New York, David spoke of the need to think beyond the 30-second mindset and get comfortable in the new world of content [by] embracing new ways to reach consumers. This obviously will create more opportunities for Atmosphere to play an even more important role in clients' marketing efforts. OMMA: What are some of the projects that Atmosphere and BBDO are currently working on together? COMBUECHEN: We are collaborating on many BBDO client relationships. Among these are GE, Red Stripe, Cingular, AOL, U.S.G.A. [United States Golf Association], and Masterfoods, to name a few. OMMA: What are your most significant account wins in the past year? COMBUECHEN: In 2004, Atmosphere BBDO won new account and project work from Citibank Citicards, Masterfoods, GlaxoSmithKline, the U.S.G.A., E*Trade Financial, and HBO.

OMMA: How much new business development does Atmosphere do on its own? COMBUECHEN: We are always seeking out business relationships with like-minded clients, either as part of the BBDO agency network, the larger Omnicom network, or independently. There are natural synergies and advantages to sharing clients with our general agency counterparts, but we have had equal success outside the network as clients are looking to engage best-in-class interactive agencies.

OMMA: What is your feeling on pre-roll? COMBUECHEN: Advances in streaming media technologies, coupled with growing consumer adoption of broadband Web usage, certainly make a strong case for digital marketers to consider this approach. Now that this streaming media marketplace has significant scale, the key question we strive to answer is what type of content will engage consumers to the point where they will actively seek it out.

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