MEDIA MAVENS; TAKING INTERACTIVE TO PASSIONATE LEVEL;MODEM MEDIA;BOB ALLEN

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Having admittedly fallen into interactive media through "dumb luck," Bob Allen, a partner at Modem Media, has risen quickly to a seat at the helm of the industry.

Working as an intern one summer at IBM Corp., Mr. Allen was involved in the marketing of a then-new product called Prodigy. Immediately, he knew interactive marketing was something he "could never imagineleaving."

He joined Modem Media in 1989, just two years after its formation. Now Modem Media employs more than 70 people, had 1994 gross billings of $3.5 million, and plans to one day staff up to about 200 people in its Westport, Conn., headquarters.

Although the company in May lost CBS as a client, its roster boasts such marketers as AT&T Corp., Coors Brewing Co., Delta Air Lines, MasterCard International and J.C. Penney Co.

Beyond servicing and attracting blue-chip clients, Modem Media also develops technology that keeps its agency on the cutting edge of interactive media. After developing one of the first Internet audience measurement tools, Modem established an Advanced Projects Team to develop next-generation tools for interactive media, which the agency then plans to one day sell.

"Bob is very fluent in interactive as well as knowing who we at AT&T want to reach," says Bill Clausen, multimedia advertising director with AT&T Business Communication Services. "He's an integral part of how we understand interactive and the role it can play in building a more efficient advertising portfolio."

Mr. Allen, 28 years old and Modem's director of media and new business, works with a five-person media team in developing creative-and effective-interactive strategies.

"Our media vision is a real collective vision of everyone at Modem," says Mr. Allen. "The culture here is very wired and interactive is a natural, yet very passionate, part of everyone's lives."

Mr. Allen spends about 20 hours browsing online a week-checking out cool advertising opportunities for clients, developing interesting ways to integrate marketing efforts and keeping in touch with what's new on the Web.

Mr. Allen also receives about 40 calls a week from emerging media outlets soliciting sponsorship or advertising. Many of them go as far as asking Modem to evaluate the worth of their Web site, and, in essence, come up with a fair rate card.

Is the site worth re-visiting, can the advertiser reach its target audience and how engaging is the content are questions Mr. Allen and colleagues assess when recommending media to clients.

"It's kind of like putting the fox in charge of the hen house," says Mr. Allen. "But this industry is evolutionary and not revolutionary. New opportunities are born every day."

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