Seb Maitra, senior VP-group media director at Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos Inc., Boston, admits that the media side of the business may not be as exciting as other areas of advertising, such as creative production, unless it’s approached in the right way.
"It won’t stay as interesting unless you understand what the client is trying to do—the identity of the company, the brand of the company and what values the brand has," said Maitra, who joined Hill, Holliday in May from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. "It becomes very important to encapsulate the brand values into the media," he said.
Maitra said one of the key reasons he joined Hill, Holliday, after 10 years in the agency business, was the portfolio of technology clients the agency has, including Cisco Systems Inc., Broadwing Inc. and Great Plains Software Inc., which was recently acquired by Microsoft Corp. Currently Maitra is working on a new advertising campaign for Great Plains, which will launch in November.
While at Goodby, he worked on creating a new brand identity for E*Trade Securities Inc., which made the decision in 1999 to abandon profitability for market share by investing heavily in advertising. "E*Trade wasn’t like the other dot-coms," Maitra said. "E*Trade had an identity crisis—were they a technology company or a finance company?"
The nearly $80 million cross-media campaign had an objective of generating 1.2 million new accounts, Maitra said. After doing intense research to determine when people were most likely to open a new brokerage account—typically between the third week of the third month of any quarter through the third week of the first month of the following quarter—he devised a media strategy timed to coincide with the purchase process.
First, E*Trade ran a broad-based TV campaign to elevate brand awareness during the year. In the first month of every quarter, Maitra placed ads in monthly business magazines with offers to open up an account. He also convinced E*Trade to buy Super Bowl halftime sponsorships in 2000 and 2001, and outdoor advertising to reach the masses. The result was 2 million new accounts, far exceeding the campaign goal.
Maitra believes that, looking back on the dot-com crash, it still wasn’t a mistake to pursue the broad branding strategy even though E*Trade’s stock felt the effects.
Originally from Calcutta, India, Maitra got his start in advertising as a media planner for McCann-Erickson Worldwide in his hometown.
Later, he moved to the U.S. and worked at Jordan McGrath Case & Partners and DDB Needham Worldwide, handling consumer accounts such as The Procter & Gamble Co. and American Airlines Inc. He got his first experience in b-to-b advertising while working at Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York, on the MCI Systemhouse account after the telecommunications company purchased the system integrator.