ANSWERING THE CALL OF THE BELL O&M'S FLYNN BRINGS INTERACTIVE EXPERTISE TO NEW U S WEST POST

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When Martin Nisenholtz decided to leave Ogilvy & Mather Direct, the stage was set for Meredith Flynn to emerge from his shadow. And she did just that-not by replacing her boss, but by following him out the door.

Mr. Nisenholtz, who founded O&M's Interactive Marketing Group in 1983, joined Ameritech earlier this month as director of content. Just weeks later, Ms. Flynn also answered the call of a Baby Bell; she jumped to U S West Communications as head of content strategy for the Multimedia Marketing group.

Like Mr. Nisenholtz, the 31-year-old Ms. Flynn was an early convert to the interactive gospel. A native of New York's tony Westchester County and graduate of Pennsylvania's Lehigh University, she began her agency career in the public relations department at Geer, DuBois, New York.

In 1986, she joined O&M Direct's interactive unit as a videotext copywriter. She rose to VP-account director, becoming the shop's second most visible new-media guru.

For Ms. Flynn, the decision to leave O&M after eight years was not an easy one, in part because she was likely to have an even more visible role post-Nisenholtz. But she and her husband Bruce Ripley-a foreign exchange trader-now find themselves making the move from Bronxville, N.Y., to Denver.

"The biggest reason why [I left] is it really allows me to move beyond just the O&M circle of clients," Ms. Flynn said. "Basically, I'll now be able to work with all agencies and their clients to get them involved in narrowband and broadband opportunities."

U S West is planning a number of initiatives, most notably an interactive TV test slated to begin in Omaha during the fourth quarter. The Baby Bell also is a partner in Time Warner's interactive TV test in Orlando.

In August, the phone company unveiled U S Avenue, a branded shopping service that will be part of the Omaha and Orlando tests and will eventually migrate to online and CD-ROM platforms. Charter sponsors include Ford Motor Co., Florists Trans-world Delivery Association, Hallmark Cards, Nordstrom, J.C. Penney Co. and Virgin Records.

Ms. Flynn will try to enable those and other marketers to create sophisticated, user-friendly applications.

"Marketing is more than advertising," she said. "In the new environment, advertisers really have to create programming. Marketers have to develop very valuable content that people will want to select and interact with."

On the question of whether the computer or TV set will reign as the dominant interactive device in homes, Ms. Flynn said, "Clearly, the PC is the platform right now," but added, "The TV is a larger opportunity, not in the immediate term, but in the near term."

As the Baby Bells embrace digital video, their recruitment of young executives from traditional media and marketing backgrounds is likely to escalate. U S West, Mr. Nisenholtz said, has already made a smart pick.

"If you're a telephone company now trying to woo marketers to interactive, she's one of the best people in the country to do that because she has hands-on experience with creating and building these types of systems," he said of Ms. Flynn. "You can't do it without getting your hands dirty."

Meredith Flynn will help advertisers create programming for U S West.

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