Boothe makes marketers think 'video' is more than TV

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When Chris Boothe started as a media planner/buyer in the late 1980s, some marketers shied away from cable TV because they thought its reach was too small. As unimaginable as that is now, nearly 20 years later he faces a similar challenge persuading marketers to go with emerging TV technologies.

As co-director of Starcom USA's Video Investment Group, his charge is to get marketers to look at TV as a part of an entire basket of visual media-including broadband and video on demand-and make investments accordingly.

"The digital explosion is going to be the biggest thing we have to deal with in the future," said Mr. Boothe, a group client leader at Starcom, Chicago, part of Publicis Groupe's Starcom MediaVest Group.

Mr. Boothe-who makes it a mission to keep up with the latest gadgets, from Apple's iPod to satellite radio-believes in these emerging media because of his own experience.

As account leader for Miller Brewing Co. for the past seven years, he watched the brewer's young-adult-male target embrace video on the Internet and other emerging media.

That age group is the "first group to embrace that technology," said Mr. Boothe, 39, who joined Leo Burnett USA in 1987 as a media planner/buyer for Kraft (Starcom was created in the late 1990s out of Burnett's media department).

Miller has employed Web-based video for years. During the "Cat Fight" craze it posted an uncensored version of the original ad, showing the women locked in a kiss.

The Video Investment Group was created in 2004 and Mr. Boothe took charge last year, adding to his responsibilities overseeing Miller, Finish Line, Gap, Canon and Starcom's sports-broadcast activities. It has 11 clients, up from eight a year ago, and combined budgets have more than doubled. Last spring, Nintendo and Kellogg became charter advertisers on Cartoon Network's video on demand through inventory secured by the Video Investment Group. In September, Allstate, U.S. Army and Best Buy became charter members in Discovery video on demand.

John Muszynski, tapped last week as CEO, Starcom USA, was one of the executives who got the video unit off the ground in 2004. Mr. Boothe took the reins late last year. Expanding the business is a priority for 2005. "We're going to start putting in more and more real programs instead of beta programs and tests," he said.

Mr. Boothe's "strategic mind for our clients' business is second to none; then he finds an innovative way to address that strategic business need," Mr. Muszynski said. "I want him to put that same kind of thinking and discipline he does to his other businesses."

Mr. Boothe's creative and strategic sensibilities were manifest in his work for Miller, and his business and strategic sense were what won him the job of leading the new group.

Miller's task was to position itself as an "able challenger" to Anheuser-Busch's Bud Light and Budweiser. That meant creative that positioned Lite as the better-tasting alternative. It also required a media strategy that would find fresh ways of reaching consumers.

On one level that meant more investment in print and going into more cable channels. But it also involved creative approaches, such as branded content in Dennis Publishing's Maxim and a series of short films for ESPN.

He led Miller into its first foray in branded entertainment by inking an integration deal with FX's edgy "Rescue Me." Miller is now backing away from the show because of its darkening tone-Denis Leary's character is an alcoholic-but considers the experiment a success in reaching its target.

"The show clearly resonated with consumers and our system and demonstrated the progressive nature of our brands,"said Dave Genel, director-media services, Miller. "It was a unique branded-entertainment deal and we learned a lot in the process."

Mr. Boothe hopes to bring that same level of success to the Video Investment Group. "The future for us is the digital explosion," he said.

Just Asking

Top five most played tracks on his iPod

"Boulevard of Broken Dreams" - Green Day

"First Day of My Life" - Bright Eyes

"Mr. Brightside" - The Killers

"Don't Panic" - Coldplay

"Hallelujah" - Jeff Buckley

Favorite TV shows

6 a.m. "Sportscenter," ESPN

"Best Week Ever," VH1

Stations on Sirius

Alt Nation, Octane, Spectrum, CNN

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