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Connecting Across the Platforms

Q&A: PHD's Craig Daitch on Emerging-Media Immersion

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Craig Daitch leads the online creative and interactive team at Omnicom's PHD. As such, he spends his time immersed in emerging media and trying to find ways to use mobile, gaming and interactive tools in ad campaigns. What he's discovered is that his job would be a lot easier if proprietary systems that are closed, such as gaming platforms and mobile networks, would throw open the gates and let people really connect across devices.
Craig Daitch
Craig Daitch

Prior to joining PHD, Mr. Daitch worked at interactive agency Organic and co-founded Eiko Media, an emerging-technology agency where he worked on mobile-campaign development and experiential advertising in video games, among other things. Mr. Daitch is also co-founder and former managing director for Simplewire, a wireless-messaging infrastructure and software. Here, he talks with Advertising Age's MediaWorks about how PHD is helping marketers find new ways to make connections with consumers.

MediaWorks: How well are media agencies positioned to take advantage of emerging media?

Craig Daitch: Historically, media agencies like to lead with the things they are most familiar with, and when something new comes along, it technically becomes a straw dog, so it's something that they want to showcase to their clients and say, "Look at the capabilities that we are bringing on board," but no one necessarily knows the technology or how to integrate the technology in a linear fashion to some of the traditional offerings. Typically, an agency may say, "We've got a great mobile practice," but if their background is in TV, they are probably going to run back to TV. At the simplest, it's understanding how to use the technology. It's learning. It's synthesizing. It's understanding how the technology can integrate into a larger, more holistic, campaign.

MediaWorks: What is PHD doing to help its clients embrace emerging technology?

Mr. Daitch: We're actually getting our clients through understanding a lot of these emerging mediums. So every quarter we actually put on internally what we call an emerging immersion. We actually just completed our first one in the word-of-mouth space. We're doing our next one in October. We have a two-pronged attack. The first is making sure that we have the capabilities in house to understand the technology and how we use it. Then it's emerging immersion. So, every quarter we are doing a different topic in the emerging space -- word-of-mouth is our first one. The second one is on mobile. The third one is probably going to be on in-game advertising, and them we'll follow up with social media. We're taking these learnings and we are applying them towards a much larger opportunity with clients, which is immersion day. So basically we took Discovery Communications through what we called an immersion day. Discovery wanted their groups to have a better understanding of everything out there, and not just media and marketing, but we're talking programming. We're talking down to the administrative level of really getting a grasp on what's out there, what's new, and how can we apply it.

MediaWorks: How are the metrics used in online media being applied to more traditional media?

Mr. Daitch: There was a time -- we saw this with Second Life -- when a marketer could get away with trying something really cool just for the sake of it. And what we are seeing now is the accountability of media. Because media is becoming really saturated and, on average, you hear that people are seeing between 600 and 3,000 ads a day, you have to be able to have some level of accountability for what you put out. If you think about it, emerging media can be seen as a vehicle for measurement [for traditional media]. So, for instance, complementing radio with a text and win campaign.

MediaWorks: Can you think of an interactive strategy that has worked or struck you are particularly smart?

Mr. Daitch: What we did with "Future Weapons" -- that was a definitive case study using emerging media somewhat as a hub for a campaign. "Future Weapons" was a show on the Discovery Channel that was taking the place of "American Chopper." The marketing communication was "access granted," and they wanted to use that message across all mediums. We did our research here, and we noticed an overlap in terms of gamers and this target for "Future Weapons." We put together a campaign with Microsoft, really pushed them to think differently, not just do the standard in-game massive buy, and what we came out with was something that would actually be of value to gamers. So using the theme of "access granted," we gave away downloadable content for the game "Gears of War," one of the premier games on X-Box last year. So typically giving [consumers] something that they would have to pay for is kind of like an exchange. It appends our brand as something of value for them and we receive critical props from gamers, who say, "Wow, Discovery just gave us something of immense value to us. We feel like we owe it to them to watch the program." Ultimately, that led to approximately a 60% increase over what they expected in terms of ratings going up against the season premiere of "24" and the Golden Globes. That's an internal one that I love. Pontiac did a killer job with embracing the mobile camera phone with the launch of G6. And I think Apple did an incredible job with word-of-mouth with the launch of the iPhone.

MediaWorks: While we're talking about mobile phones, they haven't become the huge marketing platform in the U.S. that they are in other countries. Do you see any major developments happening here?

Mr. Daitch: If I have to think back, when I first had a mobile phone in my hand -- and I've been working in the mobile space for a really long time -- when I had the first really sweet phone with a camera, and I'm taking pictures of my friends, the clouds and who knows what else, and I want to send it, I can't send it. They basically crippled the first true platform for social networking. I felt that the mobile device had a chance in the U.S. to be something incredibly special. You had this insatiable appetite of consumers who were basically replacing phone every two years. Unfortunately, the reason why things are so successful in Europe and Japan -- it all comes back to standards. In Europe, everyone is on the GSM network, which means there isn't an issue [connecting devices]. In Japan, you have i-mode. Here in the States, you have all these different [networks]. You are starting to see interconnectivity in the United States. And with that, you hear a lot of buzz about things like Mocha [a mobile social-networking platform], things like Dodgeball [a text-messaging service], which is a Google acquisition that finally has purpose. These are the things that are going to -- I hope -- really move mobile in terms of not just being a utility device, but an entertainment device.

MediaWorks: What about gaming? We hear a lot that no one has really cracked the gaming market.

Mr. Daitch: [PHD] cracked it to an extent -- based on the limitations in the space. We only cracked it for gamers on the Xbox platform. There is an analogy to be made that the same issues that crippled the mobile space are crippling the gaming space. You can't go on with a full campaign with every gamer, based on the fact that you basically have two standards that have accepted ads in games, i.e. PCs and Xbox. Then you have PlayStation and Wii, which have closed off their networks to ads. There is nothing you can do from a dynamic ad-serving perspective within those platforms. You'd have to hard code it in, which takes 18 months. It can be exceedingly expensive and you run the risk of game delays and getting to market. It's a difficult prospect and it's hard for some brands to swallow. I sincerely hope Sony wakes up and says, "Here is this huge amount of incremental revenue that we are just keeping on the table right now that we are not exploiting, which is in-game advertising," and they either build their own network or they share a network with Microsoft. It sounds absurd, but at the same time, if you think about the power of having one shared network, without any fragmentation in that space, ultimately it is going to pay off dividends for everybody.

MediaWorks: What's working and what's not in social networking?

Mr. Daitch: There was a point where there was novelty to being friends with a cheeseburger. There was a novelty to having a character from "Lost" as your boy. At the same time, it's been oversaturated. It was social currency. It was like a merit badge. The one thing that Facebook has done really well so far is bring in real personalities. So I can be friends with Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, and really be friends with Mark Cuban. Campaigns that have been successful -- the "X-Men" campaign on MySpace was incredible. The whole point of the "X-Men" campaign was being able to change [the friends on your profile] from your top eight to your top 24. But at the same time, as things like that kind of came to market, there are only so many things that a social network can offer in terms of virtual value to give up before it's like, "All right, well what else can we exploit?" Facebook is on the cusp of something special, especially with all their applications. I am waiting to see how marketers use things like the [social music service] iLike application.
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