"Interactive media is an integral part of the media business," says Ms. Bolger. "It really means looking at the market, defining the advertising opportunity and maximizing the opportunities as they are today. Whether it's putting clients into e-mail or rich media to drive a particular action online ... interactive media is an important piece of [clients'] communications systems."
In March 1999, Ms. Bolger as media director was one of several top-ranking executives to exit APL Digital, then the interactive arm of Interpublic Group of Cos.' Ammirati Puris Lintas. Ms. Bolger joined what is now known as Fastbridge.net as a consultant; she assumed the CEO title in November. "I had a choice of opening my own independent shop and maybe [ending] up selling it to a company like Initiative Media Worldwide [part of Interpublic Group of Cos.], or I could work with Initiative to build it from the ground up," she says. "The realization is that interactive media is part of the media business. The skills involved in media are very different from the skills, knowledge and architecture of Web-site development. And I decided I wanted to be with a media behemoth, that was my best long-term shot at success in building a truly great interactive media business."
Ms. Bolger certainly has had a taste of media life within traditional ad agencies. After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1975 and dabbling in her major (zoology), she went to New York and began working her way through various media-planning and strategist positions with agencies including Foote, Cone & Belding, BBDO Worldwide and N. W. Ayer. She briefly left the agency world to hold a marketing sales and support position with Newsweek, which she says was "a bit dull for my taste." She returned to FCB in 1992, where as part of the early interactive team, "I got a good view of the market-the problems were broader and I got to work on a number of different projects."
In 1996, Ms. Bolger was named director of marketing for Softbank Interactive Marketing's Media Sales Group. Charged with trying to attract more advertisers to the media, "I flew on airplanes" for much of the year, she says. "It was a time when the interactive market was young and a challenge on all fronts, not only determining what was the business model, but how to sell, how to package and what was the opportunity for advertisers."
But the agency world again proved tempting, and in 1997, Ms. Bolger joined APL Digital as media planner. "I surprised myself when I went back, but it was a chance to work with a wonderful agency, terrific clients and people I knew and respected."
When Initiative came calling, "it meant I had an opportunity to really look at the interactive market and have a role in defining" what the opportunities would be, she says. With billings of $50 million this year from clients such as Nextel, Home Depot, AT&T Broadband and Club Med, Ms. Bolger is helping to shape the trend of direct-response advertising and brand advertising coming together as one. It's happening first in interactive media, and at Fastbridge, there's an opportunity to build strategies and campaigns around that long-term trend, she says.
Ms. Bolger is bullish about all interactive media, whether it comes through the radio as streamed radio, wireless in all forms, or via interactive TV. As for interactive TV, it is "definitely going to happen," she says. "We just haven't defined what `it' is. Basically, we're dealing with a traditional medium that has a direct-response mechanism attached. That challenge is to figure out the advertising opportunity."
With at least 10 inquiries a week from traditional advertisers anxious to get into the interactive space, Ms. Bolger zeroes in on how she'll be spending most of 2001. "I'm looking for clients who come in with the really tough interactive-marketing questions," she says. "The challenge is to give them the correct answer, whether that's the right spending level or how online connects with offline marketing."