5 questions for Elizabeth Izard Apelles

Chairman and CEO of Greater Than One

Earlier this summer, messengers trumpeted the news far and wide that Elizabeth Izard Apelles had ascended to the throne (read: chairman and CEO) of independent digital agency Greater Than One. It was a move well-earned - Apelles, whose favorite Web site is, naturally, (insiders only), cofounded the company eight years ago. Under her direction, GTO has grown to encompass 70 employees and a second office in Madrid. But in a true test of her leadership prowess, OMMA asked if Apelles can name each and every one of her employees, rapid-fire style. Well, sorta, she assures us: "Almost all - and while I may not know all the names, I have everyone's IM screen name on my list!" We'd advise the employees at GTO to change their current iChat status messages to "Working hard and I just can't get enough!" ASAP.

What changes in the digital space have most surprised you since cofounding GTO?
Frankly, that there hasn't been that much change in the integrity and independence of the Web. I love the fact that it is still very personal, that a small group still can make a difference and that it continues to evolve at lightning speed. Because of this dynamism, it is very fun to work in this space and will always mean that independent agencies like ours will thrive.  

What is the story behind the creation of GTO's Children Come First project?
Children who need help have always been my passion. Three years ago, I was asked to coach a basketball team for the 78th Precinct in Brooklyn, where I live. It is a very competitive league, so I found a gym to practice in during the week, and, in my first year, we won the championship. This is how I came to know Camp Friendship, a youth center in my neighborhood. Camp Friendship is a great local center for underprivileged kids but it had no fund-raising source or strategy to raise money. So it gave me the idea to launch Children Come First.
Children Come First is our name for pro bono efforts to provide local kid-centered organizations with a resource to disseminate information about themselves and raise money through local advertiser-supported sites. Essentially, we provide the tools and support to let these organizations help themselves by creating sites about their group and selling ads to local businesses. We've donated two Web sites to date, and our plan is to have 20 sites up and running by the end of 2009. As our network grows, we'll work toward gaining the advertising
support of large corporations that want to make a difference locally.

What's next for digital media?
Social media is the biggest trend right now, and marketers are only beginning to figure out how to utilize its power. Many teenagers these days live on Facebook and rarely use e-mail, so marketers have to learn how best to communicate with a generation of consumers that will interact completely differently.  
Three coming big trends: First, there are several emerging tools that let consumers link their various social media together so they don't have to visit a bunch of different sites frequently during the day. Second, as mobile technology evolves to enable more functionality, like video, enhanced Web surfing, etc., consumers will leverage its portability at a rapidly increasing rate. Marketers will have to adapt to communicating via the small screen. Third, interactive TV has been touted and promised for years, but new technology will soon make this more feasible.

What online trend irks you the most?
Fortunately, annoying pop-ups have greatly declined in usage, but spam is getting far more sophisticated so that spammers now use individuals' computers and address books to generate more spam.

If you were not working in this industry, what would you want to do?  
I'd be leading a huge initiative to help underprivileged children get the help they need to live productive and fulfilled lives ... and I still may do that.

Next story loading loading..