Q&A: Michael Hayes

Interactive marketing pioneer Michael Hayes was recently tapped by Initiative North America, a division of Interpublic Group, as vice president, interactive marketing. Most recently at 10th Degree and The Walt Disney Company, Hayes has been involved with online media since its birth, which offers him with a wealth of insight into the future. OMMA's Lynn Russo reports.

OMMA: What ideas do you have to grow Initiative's interactive group? Hayes: One capability we're adding is advergaming. My belief is that the gaming business is now bigger than the motion picture business, and in 2006, it's projected to overtake books and music. It's a perfect business to be in and we're beginning to work with clients such as Carl's Jr. and Hardee's quick-service restaurants, whose core audience is 18- to 34-year-old males. As media fragments, part of that audience is moving to gaming, so it makes sense for us and for our clients.

OMMA: What kinds of burning questions keep you up at night? Hayes: One that will affect the entire industry is the elimination of cookies and cookie technology, because a lot of technical functionality we use to target consumers and generate reports is based on cookie technology, including ad serving and search engine marketing. I don't think it would be the death of online advertising, but I do feel an effort needs to be under way to either come up with an alternative, or ensure that cookie technology is not eliminated.

OMMA: What burning questions keep your clients up at night, and how are you helping to solve them?

Hayes: More than anything, it's meeting revenue or sales projections. Virtually every call is about metrics and what's happening this week. And they're demanding accountability for their media spend, regardless of media type. That's not revolutionary, but in the early days of the Internet, companies spending money online were direct-response focused; now, large blue-chip clients are demanding it. So we've built and expanded our infrastructure to measure, track, report on, and optimize to meet our clients' needs.

OMMA: What challenges do you face in trying to grow clients' interactive media budgets, and what is your strategy for overcoming those challenges?

Hayes: We have a two-fold process: The first is education; the second is using real-life examples to see how media is consumed. The latter was a tipping point for Carl's in our advergaming business. We told them to go home and watch their 18- to 34-year-old sons who eat burgers and see how they consume media. They turn on the TV, turn on the computer, play games, and instant message their friends, so multi-media consumption is happening. It's not that companies like Carl's are moving dollars out of broadcast, but to be relevant to their audience they need to be in multiple channels. In Carl's case, it resulted in a large Yahoo! Games sponsorship, making them one of the top interactive spenders in the quick-service restaurant space.

OMMA: Do you think the way online media is sold today is as efficient as it can be  and if not, what would you do differently? Hayes: I think it is pretty efficient. There is an effort to standardize terms and conditions, and that is an excellent push in the right direction. But a lot of publishers aren't ready to accept standards. Also, the industry is moving so fast it's always a living document, and that makes it cumbersome. But I love the way it's priced. I prefer that every time I walk into a negotiation or buy, there are a variety of opportunities. We love to think out of the box, and the Internet is good for that. We're trying to yield-manage our clients' business and publishers are trying to yield-manage their ad inventory, so it doesn't lend itself to having a structured environment like in print. It's harder to manage, but it makes it a lot more fun.

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