Zenith Optimedia's New Digital Guru: Andy Sims

Says Consumer-Created Content Is One of Many Tactics to Lure Marketers Online

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Andy Sims is Zenith Optimedia's new senior VP-director of interactive, charged with growing the Publicis Groupe-owned media network's digital practice. Mr. Sims, 33, joins from Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners, Sausalito, Calif., where, as a partner, he worked with marketers like Converse and Coca-Cola's Sprite. On his first day at the new job, he took some time to talk to MediaWorks' Matthew Creamer about how to define engagement and what's on his MySpace profile.
Andy Sims has a MySpace profile for his camera-phone pictures. But just try to find him.
Andy Sims has a MySpace profile for his camera-phone pictures. But just try to find him.

MediaWorks: What are your goals?

Andy Sims: Basically, it's to grow the interactive practice and get more creativity into the process, really infuse creativity through every single person in media group. We want to look at interactive media to be a creative driving force and work with creative agencies more closely to do more tightly integrated work.

MediaWorks: When you talk about creativity, are you referring to choice of channels used to deliver messages?

Mr. Sims: Yeah, channels, but also the way we work with publishers to integrate messaging into the content. How do we work social networks? It's not just about banner ads. I have a history of working with creative clients that look for different ways to get deep engagement. One of things I want to work toward is mass engagement. With interactive, we have a lot of big brands, like T-Mobile, and we want to get people really engaged. But it's not helpful if we just get a few people. But we also don't want it to be exposure and reach.

MediaWorks: Engagement is one of those buzzwords everyone has defines differently. What's your definition?

Mr. Sims: Someone taking action in a brand environment. That could be a sale, depending on the way a product is distributed, or it could be a deeper interaction that changes brand favorability. At the end of the day, I want a client to be able to say that with return-on-marketing investment they've done better with interactive than they could have with anything else.

MediaWorks: At Butler, Shine you worked on the Converse Web site that publishes audience-created videos, a program that's gotten a lot of attention. How important is consumer-generated content to your plans at Zenith Optimedia?

Mr. Sims: At the end of the day, it's a tactic -- one of many. It's a creative solution. For Converse, it came from a simple idea. Chuck Taylor means so many things, from the Ramones to Jackson Pollock to my dad in the '50s. It means individuality. If an ad agency makes an ad about that, it will come across as false. We just asked average consumers to tell us what they think and that was revolutionary three years ago. Chevy Tahoe did the same thing. And right now it seems obvious that was a bad deal for them. There doesn't need to be some mandate for this. What's important is the overall strategy of counterprogramming, doing something that hasn't been done before. It may be publisher-created content or addressable TV or any number of tactics. It's about getting to brand intrinsics.

MediaWorks: Do you have a sense of how Zenith Optimedia's digital offering will change under your watch?

Mr. Sims: I don't have specifics yet, but I do know there's a lot of good stuff going on. The foundation is here. It's about how we scale it and infuse more creativity. There will be more integration of interactive into other groups. It's already starting to happen, but hopefully I'll be able to add more fuel to that fire. Clients are asking for it.

MediaWorks: What gadgets are consuming your attention now?

Mr. Sims: I love my little Google tools, like desktop search. I love Mozilla, Firefox, Thunderbird, YouTube. I'm a huge fan of MySpace. I can idle away hours with my friends there. Those are big parts of my daily experience. Xbox 360 is a big deal to me right now.

MediaWorks: What's on your MySpace profile?

Mr. Sims: First, it doesn't have my name or picture. It's mostly camera-phone pictures that I take day-to-day. But if you look for me, you won't find me.
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