As She Moves From Digitas to Beyond Interactive

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Beyond Interactive, the interactive arm of WPP Group’s Mediacom, recently named Kathleen Sheridan, 38, as its managing director. Formerly the media director of Digitas, New York, Ms. Sheridan joins Beyond as the distinction between interactive and more traditional media becomes increasingly blurred, forcing what were once very separate units within agencies to collaborate.
Kathleen Sheridan

That’s true at MediaCom: “It is imperative that we integrate all of our offerings into a single communication, and a media-neutral solution,” said Dene Callas, CEO of MediaCom U.S.

Client demand is increasing for services offered by Beyond, acquired by Grey Global Group in 1999 and consolidated into MediaCom in 2001. “Clients are expecting us to come back [to them] with a single view, of how to both maximize reach as well as consumer interaction,” said Rob Norman, director of interaction at Group M, the entity that oversees WPP’s media networks. “Having a single view of all the factors that drive consumer behavior is critical. Clients want us to do the integration.”

Mr. Norman and Ms. Sheridan met last fall at an industry gathering. “She scared the daylights out of me," he said. "Kathleen was phenomenally grounded, focused on delivery and outcome.” Impressed, Mr. Norman persuaded Ms. Sheridan to jump from Digitas to MediaCom, where she replaces Nick Pahade, who last month joined WPP rival Publicis Groupe. Here, Ms. Sheridan talks about her background, industry views and broad goals for her new job.

MEDIAWORKS: What experience do you bring to Beyond Interactive?

KATHLEEN SHERIDAN: Something I’ve said since getting involved in the online space in the mid-1990s is that having a deep exposure to all media and then being able to integrate them has been a real benefit. Most recently, I was media director of Digitas in New York. Broadly, I was involved with buying, planning, developing strategies and driving the use of technology. I led a department and also interacted with clients. I began my career as a broadcast buyer. I worked at Anderson and Lembke, a general market agency; direct marketing firm Wunderman Cato Johnson; and then was at interactive design company Nicholson as marketing and media director. I joined Digitas in 1999.

MW: Why is that experience in traditional media -- as well as interactive -- important?

MS. SHERIDAN: Online has opportunities that are in many ways a hybrid between broadcast and print. Like TV, online is a live media. We need to respond to consumers. At the same time, in online we can dive down and target against particular audiences -- the same way we can with a complex print plan. The skills I have in each of these areas will help as Beyond works more closely with Mediacom.

MW: What intrigued you about Beyond Interactive?

MS. SHERIDAN: I’ve been aware of Beyond for some time. It was on my radar as a leading competitor. Years ago at an awards show I saw some of their work on Warner Brothers, for instance, that was creative, fun and interactive. I’d always heard the leadership talk about accountability, so the two -- great creative and results -- got my attention. I’m also very passionate about interactive and where it is going. I’ve been in the Internet space since 1995 or so. It’s moving to integration. Traditional and new media have to work in lockstep. It’s not out of the realm to say we’re building a new model.

MW:How large is the group you'll be overseeing at Beyond Interactive?

MS. SHERIDAN: Size-wise, it's comparable to what I did at Digitas. In scope, it is broader. Beyond has about 100 people in New York, as well as a sizeable technology group in Ann Arbor, Mich., that deals with tools and workplace systems.

MW:What do you intend on doing at Beyond?

MS. SHERIDAN: Broadly, it is crucial for us to continue and raise our service and leadership in the interactive space. That applies to emerging channels, mobile and search. Second and equally critical is to provide real partnership with those at MediaCom, and for us to be contributing members of a holistic offering.

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