Media Strategist All Star: Kate Everett-Thorp, President, Interactive Advertising, AKQA

Speaking another language is mighty impressive, but creating one is an entirely different feat. Add that to the résumé of Kate Everett-Thorp, who is unequivocally regarded as an online pioneer.

Last year, Everett-Thorp shepherded Microsoft's online marketing for the highly anticipated debut of its "Halo 2" video game for the Xbox console. The online marketing needed to be precise, meaningful, and completely different than anything ever seen. This was not a time for banner ads.

So AKQA devised a simple and discrete strategy: It buried Web pages with information on the game within the Microsoft Web site. The lexicon used was a new, artificially concocted language of symbols called "the covenant," devised by the ad's creators.

"We just let [gamers] find it. It was as anti-marketing as you could get," Everett-Thorp recalls. But the strategy worked. Within 48 hours, the pages had attracted 150,000 visitors and a decoder had been published to translate the Web site. "[Gamers] felt like we knew them and we had created an environment they could participate in," she adds.

It's programs like this that illustrate Everett-Thorp's talent and flair for the interactive medium. She's already developing the second generation of Internet advertising, pushing new models for digital marketing in innovative ways, says Wenda Harris Millard, chief sales officer at Yahoo!, who has worked with Everett-Thorp for several years. "She is a very interesting combination of strategist and innovator. She is a disciplined thinker but doesn't allow that to interfere with her creativity," observes Harris Millard.

Everett-Thorp cut her teeth on online media and marketing. She arrived at in 1993 as one of its first 30 employees. Her title, The Crusader, said it all: She was charged with evangelizing the online world. Indeed, she carried that mission with her all the way to the cofounding of interactive agency Lot21 with Eric Wheeler, Andrew O'Dell, Sasha Pave, and Louise Peter in 1998. Everett-Thorp also spearheaded the founding of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the industry's trade association, in 1995.

In the late '90s, Lot21 was "pound for pound the best interactive agency," recalls Dave Morgan, ceo of Tacoda Systems, who worked with Everett-Thorp in various capacities over the years. While at Lot21, she experienced the dotcom downturn but survived it because the agency's founders wisely made a commitment not to allow revenues from fledgling companies, such as and, to exceed 40 percent. The strategy helped the company weather the storm as other dotcoms went belly up, Everett-Thorp says. She served as president and ceo of Lot21 before it was sold in 2001 to Carat Interactive, where she became chairwoman and chief marketing officer.

She stayed with Carat until her twin sons were born in early 2003, and then took time off to be with them. In early 2004, she was snapped up quickly by AKQA, where she is making her mark working closely with clients, earning the shop numerous accolades in industry publications, stepping up hiring, and opening a New York office.

Tacoda's Morgan says that with Everett-Thorp at the helm, AKQA is poised to break out and take its place among the top online shops with the largest budgets, like Universal McCann Interactive, OMD, and Avenue A. "It's clear given their track record that they are going to be a powerful interactive agency," he says. "They are one of the leaders."

Earlier this year, AKQA devised a campaign for Palm that allowed users to interact with a Treo phone via an interactive tour. That was followed in April by a marketing program in which Palm gave away a Treo every five minutes on Yahoo! for 12 hours. More than 2 million people entered for a chance to win a free phone, giving Treo a different base of people to market to, Everett-Thorp says. It's the sort of program she embraces. "[I like] creating something that no one has solidified yet," she says. "We are beginning to learn the special effects of communications and how they've changed, and how we can do a better job. These examples are better than just shouting, 'Free shipping.'"

This month the agency plans to enter the search-engine marketing business through a partnership with Performics, the search-engine marketing division of DoubleClick. AKQA will deploy the service for large campaigns.

Meanwhile, Everett-Thorp continues to look for ways to make clients like espn, Nike, and Visa stand out. So far, so good -- but really, it's been more than good.

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