Mark Stephens is truly a pioneer of Internet media strategy. In 1995, he was using the nascent Web to build Intel into a ubiquitous, global brand as the VP-group media director of Euro RSCG DSW Partners, Salt Lake City. Today, as director-media services at Lot21 Interactive Advertising Group Inc., San Francisco, he’s still pushing the limits of interactive ads and building memorable customer experiences.
Stephens’ driving mission is to immerse Internet audiences in marketers’ branding and sales messages, whether they take the form of pop-up windows, micro Web sites or e-mails.
"One of the things that is so powerful about this medium is that it allows the customer to gather information about a product or category and transact business, and it allows the advertiser to communicate the information a person really wants," he said. To create a richer experience online, Stephens works with multiple media platforms to reinforce the digital message.
For Adobe Systems Inc., he created what he calls "lush, beautiful" micro sites, using Adobe design software, to demonstrate the power of the medium and the ability to reproduce print magazines digitally. Print ads, placed by Young & Rubicam Inc., are a companion to the micro sites, but Stephens believes the digital medium is the campaign centerpiece.
"I’ve always had the point of view that once the Internet reaches critical mass, it should be the center of the marketing universe, and everything else revolves around it," he said.
Stephens, 42, got his start in the industry working in the mailroom at McCann-Erickson Worldwide, San Francisco, after graduating with an MBA degree from the University of Chicago. "They liked to have MBAs in the mailroom," Stephens joked.
He quickly rose through the ranks to become assistant media planner before leaving McCann to join a smaller agency, Transphere International, which specialized in technology accounts. There, he initially ran a one-person media department, working on accounts such as Fujitsu Microelectronics Inc., Cadence Design Systems Inc. and Conner Peripherals Inc., which was later acquired by Seagate Technology Inc., one of Stephens’ current accounts at Lot21.
Stephens broadened his experience further by joining Dahlin Smith White, working on global multi-media campaigns for clients including Intel Corp., Iomega Corp. and Sybase Inc. He was responsible for placing the highly regarded Intel Inside "Bunny people" campaign. One of the first advertisers to embrace the Internet as a marketing tool, Intel used the campaign as a vehicle to make people aware of the power of the microprocessor.
Kate Everett-Thorpe, founder-president of Lot21, successfully enticed Stephens to join her fledgling interactive agency in 1998. Since then, he’s built strategies for many major clients including CNet Networks Inc., Seagate Technology and Adobe Systems, and has netted several top industry awards for his work.