April 13, 2010
 

Mike Turcotte, The Long Distance Runner.

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You have to hand it to long distance runners.

What they do is easier said than done. First, you have set your goals, be consistent, don't be afraid to experiment, run often, keep a training log... and one very important tip, wear good shoes! If you ask runners why they take great pains to do what they do, you'll hear the same answer over and over again. They enjoy it!

Athletic or not, it's no surprise to those with any track record in the branded entertainment business that these characteristics are similar to what it takes to maintain your pace, on the road intersecting Hollywood Boulevard and Madison Avenue.

Similar to marathon running, there's a certain type of stamina required to pound the pavement of new media, to face the changes in the weather, the peaks and valleys on the street... and let's not forget the pot-holes, either paved-over or deepened by traffic on a daily basis!

Better fit than anyone on the editorial staff, we asked our publisher, Wendy McHale to put on her running shoes and catch up with Mike Turcotte, Associate Media Director at Beyond Entertainment in order to learn more about his training philosophy.

You may have seen Mike recently talk about one of his training tips. He relies on EyeWonder to help his client's maintain a winning pace. Wendy promptly sprinted out of the office to see what he does to stay out in front of the interactive technology race.

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Wendy: Mike, how's it going?

Mike: It's going very well!

Wendy: Before we focus on industry issues, would you please talk about how you got into the interactive advertising business? You have much more experience than many of your peers.

Mike: Sure, I had a head start! I got an internship at MVBMS in 1998 while I was in school. I was really lucky. It was one of the first agencies to have an interactive media department. After I graduated in 1999, I took a couple of months off and then one day I received a phone call from my former boss who was now at Grey. He asked me if I was interested in a job. I said "Yes". He replied, "Great, start this Monday." That was it!

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Wendy: Wow! The year 1999 was an interesting time. It's still that way, maybe more so today. What do you think?

Mike: You could say it's exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time! It's exciting because marketers are taking interactive media more seriously. There's more being allocated. It's nerve wracking because it's difficult to find people with the experience or longevity in the business.

Wendy: Is it because college graduates are just not interested in advertising anymore?

Mike: That's part of it. We had some good people back in the day, but then many left the industry back in 2001. We're starting to see a lot of movement of people coming over from the traditional side. It's great but it still presents a challenge in terms of learning. Buying newspapers, magazines and TV is a heck of a lot easier than online planning. It's a steep learning curve for some!

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Wendy: Tell me about it! What are some of the accounts you manage.

Mike: I manage Staples and the digital brands for Canon cameras, U.S. Cellular, Konami games and Kaplan test prep.

Wendy: I would imagine Staples is an ideal client to do creative executions. Their products are so immersed in office tech. What are some of the projects you're looking at? Mobile?

Mike: We're exploring it. A lot of has to do with execution. The question is, "do you use mobile as a media space or as a destination"?

Wendy: Interesting.

Mike: It is. There are two sides to mobile. We can text message offers when consumers are traveling nearby a store. We can also use CNN to reach a business traveler with a branding-based message. The key is to figure out what the pay-off and relevance is to Staples and the end user. You don't want to waste either party's time.

Wendy: Good point. The amount of buzz on UGC, social networking platforms and mobile is the next big thing is almost deafening. How do you advise your clients to use these new ways of reaching consumers?

Mike: We're watching all those elements very carefully. It depends on the marketer. Every once in a while you'll hear about a client who says, "I want to be on My Space" and our response may be, "why"? The truth is, not everyone really belongs there.

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Wendy: What new categories are making strides with digital media? Fashion for example?

Mike: Fashion is an interesting category. I think a company like H&M could use the web to demo clothes on a viewer's actual body. I expect users could upload their pictures to the site. It would create an enhanced experience. Kind of like creating an "avatar". The users could select clothes to dress up their picture and see how different outfits look. Some companies are starting to do that in the avatar world with animated characters. This would be using real images and possibly making it 3D. Think about how that would affect a company's image.

Wendy: I like it!

Mike: Many fashion companies that don't have commerce on their site can still use the web to get people to experience their products online and then go to the store to actually try them on. That's how more and more people shop today.

Wendy: I agree. What else?

Mike: We're seeing much more spending now in auto and pharma. Retailers that are in fashion and other categories like Staples are poised to increase their online investments.

Wendy: Companies that do circulars.

Mike: Exactly. You have to ask yourself, "Are people really looking at newspapers anymore". Companies using newspapers should at a minimum be testing the web to see the ROI they really can't with other media.

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Wendy: Sounds like you're familiar with presenting that option to a client.

Mike: I am!

Mike: Let's talk about your day to day experience working in new media.

Mike: Okay.

Wendy: Given your longevity in the business, you've seen all the changes in this space. What do you enjoy most and/or find the most challenging?

Mike: I try hard to lead by example and share what I've learned from my experience. This interview is a great example. The EyeWonder ads are another. I've been here for a while. Of course, no one person can change the entire industry. I really enjoy helping people. And I constantly try to think a little differently about more than the problems.

Wendy: What's it like working with many new recruits?

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Mike: Many of my co-workers are in their 20's. People who are young and grew up with this medium are the ones who understand it. They're not intimidated by all of the new opportunities that are presented to advertisers. They live and breathe online. Most of them spend more time online than any other medium, like say, watching TV. They have a great future in front of them.

Wendy: Things are changing everyday. Now how about the challenges.

Mike: My biggest pet-peeve is the lack of standardization in the industry regarding things as simple as production specs, which should have been handled by now. It's still a major headache and puts much more pressure on the creative budget, which means that fewer creative executions are produced. You have to gauge the "wear out" factor. In effect, the media plan then suffers.

Wendy: Looking down the road into 2008, have you been approached with integrated opportunities for, let's say, Staples as an example?

Mike: We're certainly working more with integrated deals with the networks than we've ever had in the past. However the networks themselves have not yet figured out the right balance. They put together upfront packages way out of line with what we were prepared to spend next year. Plus, their ideas were put forth based on a combo-spend of all our clients. That's not how clients want to be served. The bottom line is that while the networks are doing a better job offering these packages, they're are asking for too much money and are going about it all wrong.

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Wendy: I'm not really surprised.

Wendy: Ok, last question. What communication technology do you use daily? Do you IM? Are you on your Blackberry checking messages 24/7? What else am I missing?

Mike: Well I do IM, I'd say 90% for work and 10% personal for personal communication with friends and family. Here at the agency we find things so much easier to get done with IM, with sales reps and coworkers, as opposed to picking up the phone.

Wendy: How about your handheld?

Mike: You mean my "Crackberry"? LOL! It's great; Right now I'm sitting in Union Square Park having lunch. I'm talking to you and checking my messages all at the same time. I'm essentially operating in real time here as I am in the office.

Wendy: What about gaming?

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Mike: Gaming is one of those categories that get a bad rep. It's interesting because the mainstream media is always saying that the video games are going to kill kids, make them fat etc... but now with the Wii, gaming is brought to a whole other level. Our client is Konami. They produce the game Dance Revolution. These games and consoles are being used in gym classes now, because it is a form of exercise.

Wendy: That is so cool!

Mike: It's a different life for kids today, not only for kids but for those of us who are not hard core gamers.

Wendy: I agree. Mike, this was really great! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us!

Mike: My pleasure, Wendy!

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