Since 2000, Smith led Digitas strategy teams for clients including AARP, The Home Depot, and Turner Broadcasting, among others. He also led the agency's Live Channels practice, serving clients globally such as American Express, General Motors, Pfizer, The New York Times, and L.L. Bean.
Leaving a major commercially driven agency for a boutique firm focused on public policy presents Huard with a unique set of challenges and opportunities.
"MindShare's strategy is less about building brands, and more about building awareness and a community around a specific issue," Smith explained.
"We set long-term goals with our clients," he added, "starting with engagement, building and then sustaining a long-term relationship with people."
MindShare Interactive Campaigns, established in 1997, has offices in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, DC. Clients have included Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, Hewlett-Packard--when the company needed help generating support for its merger with Compaq in 2002--along with eBay and Anheuser-Busch to help those companies dissuade lawmakers from taxing the sale of online goods and beer, respectively.
That the firm helps corporations, associations, and governmental entities accomplish complex communication objectives--through the use of creative, technology, user experience, media, search engine marketing and measurement--is evidenced by its recent string of diverse hires, including Smith.
In April, MindShare Interactive appointed Sue Woodward--formerly director of direct response fund-raising at the national headquarters of the American Red Cross--to direct its fund-raising practice. In March, it hired David Rapp, former editor and senior vice president of Congressional Quarterly, as a senior consultant in its editorial services practice. And in February, it brought on Jason McQueen, an interactive media and search expert with a core background in search engine marketing, paid search, email strategy and interactive media management.
As a whole, the public affairs industry has begun to embrace the Web as a necessary communications and engagement tool, according to Dan Solomon, CEO of MindShare Interactive.
"The Web has emerged as the most efficient and cost-effective way to engage with your audience," said Solomon. MindShare Interactive, he said, is doing about $18 million to $20 million in yearly billings.
MindShare Interactive avoids working with political campaigns directly because they can have a polarizing effect on employees, according to Smith. The firm is, however, working on several timely campaigns for the '08 elections, like one initiative to make education a top priority of presidential candidates.
Just before leaving Digitas, Smith also created the internal training and staff development program for the Strategy & Analysis practice, where he developed courses in digital media analytics, predictive modeling, campaign test design, and other foundational skills.