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Ian Schafer

CEO, Deep Focus

By Published on .

Ian Schafer knows what he's doing, he's just not sure what to call it. Media agency doesn't quite fit, and calling five-year-old Deep Focus an interactive agency might work, only his definition differs from that of many of his colleagues.
  • Cannes-winning "Emily" campaign

  • Adept at community building for brands, for example "Entourage" MySpace page

"Our approach to media is that media needs to be experiential," says Mr. Schafer, 32, founder-CEO of Deep Focus, an agency that handles everything from interactive and grass-roots marketing to promotions. "You need to be creating a situation in which a consumer or the audience is getting something in return for spending time with the advertising. ... We do a tremendous amount of rich media and social-network and community building. "

With a Cannes promo Lion in hand for the "That Girl Emily" campaign created with ad agency Amalgamated to promote Court TV's new series "Parco P.I.," Mr. Schafer might be better off calling his talent "creative media professionals" charged with understanding the path a consumer might take to interact with a brand.

In the case of the Court TV work, that meant convincing the cable network it would be OK to omit a URL from a billboard on which "Emily" advises her soon-to-be-ex-husband to get a lawyer. Court TV had to trust that Google searches and blog buzz would help the story play out via blog, vlog, billboards and local news over the course of three weeks.

Mr. Shafer is also the man behind HBO-program promotions such as a "Sopranos" Google Maps mash-up created to remind viewers of all the mob hits and major dramas of the series before its final season. He also brought "Entourage" to MySpace by asking consumers to create -- and promote -- their own entourages. The community not only lasted for the duration of the accompanying contest but remained stable throughout the show's season and beyond.

"His ability to articulate the art of the possible is a huge benefit to his clients," says Courteney Monroe, senior VP-consumer marketing, HBO. "Entertainment is his sweet spot, so [when it comes to] the marriage of an entertainment brand and the digital space, I don't think there's anyone better at that than him."

Mr. Schafer, who spent his college summers as a Unix programmer at AT&T Laboratories, has an original video recording of the unboxing of his first computer, a Commodore 64 in 1984 at his 9th birthday party. Watch for the cameo of the Carvel Cookie Puss cake.
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