Best & Brightest Special Report: Klein's strategic branding puts parent company first

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While media strategists may be getting used to placing ad campaigns for start-ups, it's not often that they get to do so for a newly minted firm that also happens to be their parent company. Yet this year, John Klein got to do just that.

Klein, senior VP and executive media director of McKinney & Silver, Raleigh, N.C., led the strategic branding effort for Internet professional services and consulting firm MarchFirst Inc., Chicago. His team at McKinney & Silver started out by helping to name the new company, which was formed on March 1-hence the moniker-as a result of the Whittman-Hart and USWeb/CKS merger. Prior to March 1, McKinney & Silver was owned by USWeb/CKS.

Klein, 41, said the rare parent-company-as-client relationship has fostered innovation. That may explain why he felt at liberty to take a leap with MarchFirst's first branding campaign, which began in mid-June and will continue through the end of the year. The campaign was designed for a dual target audience: potential employees and what Klein calls "C-suite executives"-CEOs, CFOs and CIOs.

He focused on the notion that while both target audiences are extremely busy, they still take the time to consume content that feeds business as well as personal, or lifestyle, interests. Klein's plan: Reach them by matching up these mediums, or "cohorts of content."

Thus, MarchFirst ads can be found not only in The Industry Standard, Red Herring and The Wall Street Journal, but also in unexpected places such as Men's Journal and Vanity Fair, as well as on VH1 and during TV coverage of Wimbeldon, the Olympics and the World Series.

The campaign's calls to action urge viewers to visit the company's Web site, . During the campaign's first 90 days, the company's Web traffic increased 143% and unique visitors doubled, as did the number of recruitment calls and resumes.

The relationship with MarchFirst has opened avenues Klein is eager to explore-especially in the b-to-b segment, which often lacks the personal touch he established with the MarchFirst campaign. "We do know that something worked here," he said, "and we'd like to continue to make that emotional connection."