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Best & Brightest Special Report: Internet veterans go Beyond to fulfill Oracle's prophecies

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Brandon Rea, 26, and Rick Corteville, 23, might be younger than most of their peers, but they're grizzled veterans in the burgeoning world of interactive advertising.

The duo leads the media strategy group at Beyond Interactive, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based agency that concentrates solely on online advertising for such major clients as Oracle Corp., AutoNation USA Inc. and Nickelodeon. It's this singular focus that sets Rea and Corteville-and Beyond Interactive-apart from traditional agencies, say the youthful strategists.

For Oracle, the giant database and Internet-infrastructure company, the pair has pushed the technological frontier. They've created a presence for Oracle on emerging advertising venues such as wireless devices, interactive TV, Web-enabled kiosks and even ATMs. This summer, Beyond Interactive worked with Red Herring and The New York Times to place Oracle ads in their publications optimized for Internet-connected personal digital assistants. The strategists also have exploited the potential of streaming media, especially with targeted e-mail messages that include video clips.

"We're finding that the decision-makers don't have a lot of time on their hands," Rea said. "So we've been using bigger and flashier ad units. We're using richer types of messages to show people that Oracle is powering the Internet."

Corteville outlined the Beyond Interactive approach this way: Reach out to customers, intrigue them with your message, initiate a buying decision, convert the sale and retain customers for the long haul. He said many advertisers fail to "complete the loop," focusing on one-hit wonders rather than long-term branding.

"A lot of people just focus on reach," said Corteville, who has been involved with Beyond Interactive since its earliest days in the basement of a townhouse. "But it's not just about getting someone to click on your banner. You really want to convert them and build a relationship with the brand."

For instance, Oracle's online advertising rarely drives visitors to its massive corporate Web site, www.oracle.com. Instead, Rea and Corteville prefer to create expandable banners for specific products and services, such as Oracle's e-business suite, so users don't need to leave the site they're browsing.

"We want to avoid taking a print ad and squashing it into a banner and assuming it will perform well," Corteville said.

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