Player Profile: Donaher switches online with Concrete Media job

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Paul donaher believes that if the small, hot ad agencies of the 1980s were courted by venture capitalists as passionately as Internet start-ups are today, they would have blossomed much more rapidly.

Sure, hindsight is 20/20, but Mr. Donaher, 44, boasts a track record that provides him with perspective on the professional-services industry. Named chief marketing officer of New York-based Web-business builder Concrete Media on May 1, Mr. Donaher feels fortunate to work in an industry that benefits from venture capitalists' blessing -- or at least their curiosity.

"It had never been common for VCs to invest in professional-services companies because the multiples are quite low," Mr. Donaher said. "But in this [Internet] industry, because of the unlimited demand for services, the multiples for professional services have gone out the window, which makes professional-services firms more attractive to VC investment."

His new employer, Concrete Media, has built and spun off online companies such as teen community Bolt.com and GirlsOn.com, a site for young women. Clients include online hat retailer Lids.com and collectibles site GoCollect.com.

FIRST DOT-COM MOVE

It's Mr. Donaher's first foray into the dot-com space, after spending nearly 20 years in traditional marketing. Prior to Concrete Media, he spent 12 years as senior VP-worldwide director-marketing and strategic planning at Sotheby's, where he led launch marketing for Sotheby's site (sothebys.com) and a joint effort with online retailer Amazon.com. (sothebys.amazon.com). In addition, he headed the auction house's global marketing activities.

Mr. Donaher earned his MBA from Harvard Business School, then became an account manager at Young & Rubicam, New York, handling Procter & Gamble Co. and General Foods brands.

STINT AT MARGEOTES

Before moving to Sotheby's, Mr. Donaher was a partner at Margeotes, Fertitta, Donaher & Weiss, New York. He joined the agency in 1983, when it was just a 10-person shop. Helping to build a relatively young agency prepped him for his current position, he said.

But being at Concrete is a much different experience. "When professional-services companies in the 1980s were trying to build their companies, they were constrained by their own cash flow. But in this economy, we don't have to be limited by our cash flow in order to create a sustainable business."

As Concrete's first chief marketing officer, he heads a team of five and will oversee additional staffers as the company expands to other cities later this year.

Mr. Donaher said he wants to make Concrete Media's brand name "roll off the tongue of those people I care about," including potential investors, the Wall Street community, the media, prospective employees and new clients.

He just might do that. According to George Fertitta, Margeotes' CEO, "[Mr. Donaher] is really brilliant. . . . He is a superb strategist and a great leader."

His maturity will serve him well in the dot-com space, Mr. Fertitta added. "At the speed at which that world moves, people often overpromise. . . . It's not possible for Paul not to live up to his word."

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