Robert Hyatt Sees the Cell Phone as a Nielsen Ratings Meter in Your Hand

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Who: Robert Hyatt, executive director for entertainment services and strategic partnerships at Cingular Wireless

Why you need to know him: Mr. Hyatt, 42, is one of the new guns on Madison & Vine, brokering content deals for the "third screen," or cell phone screen, and
Robert Hyatt, Cingular's executive director of entertainment services and strategic partnerships, sees the future through the screen of a cell phone.

developing creative ideas for new downloadable services for mobile phones such as multimedia messaging (MMS), ring tones, graphics, games, text messaging, instant messaging and wireless e-mail. He calls the cell phone a "Nielsen ratings meter in your hand."

What’s your latest branded entertainment deal? Mr. Hyatt tapped Star Wars' multigenerational appeal in a deal with Lucasfilm for custom mobile games, animated screen savers, MMS greeting cards, ring tones and wallpaper graphics that ties in not only with the latest of the sci-fi saga's prequels, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, but also with all the previous films in the series released during the past 30 years. Cingular will include Star Wars in its marketing through a TV and integrated marketing campaign.

Credentials: A history major at Colgate, and with an MBA from Pepperdine University, Mr. Hyatt started selling 800-numbers for Pacific Bell in the hardscrabble neighborhood of Compton near Los Angeles and stayed with the company as it transformed from Pacific Bell to SBC to Cingular. He was born in Connecticut. Mr. Hyatt is married and has one son. He also has a border collie named Bear. "As a herder, he's protective and territorial. He always seems to be working things out one step ahead of you. It's not fun to have a dog that's smarter than you."

Where do you get your marketing insights? "I spend more time with the kids in my neighborhood than the adults. I give out phones and see what's of interest. I saw the mothers adopt text messaging because it was the only way to communicate with teens."

What’s the good news for content producers wanting a place on the third screen? “People don't have this expectation that everything on mobile is free as they did on the Internet."

What’s the good news for marketers? "You have an opportunity to get a message across where people can take action and close the whole [sales] loop."

And the bad news? "They've got to make advertising relevant and have a clear benefit."

What's the optimal length of mobile video content? "Anyone who tells you they know the answer is making it up."

When will the third screen become a bona fide medium? "Over the next two years you will see rapid adoption. MP3 players have been in phones for well over a year. Once it is easy to get digital [TV] to phones and there's enough storage and battery life, things will come together."

What was a scary moment in your career? Deciding whether to sign up as a major promotional partner on Spider-Man by watching a preview of the first 30 minutes of the film. "How were we, some wireless people, supposed to know if this was going to hang together?"

Who is your mentor? Sonny Massey, a one-time boss at Pacific Bell "who taught me how to treat customers and my team with respect. He kicked me in the head sometimes and sometimes celebrated my success."

What keeps you up at night? "All the components of the wireless ecosystem are in their first generation. If one fails, we're disappointing the customer at an early point in the adoption curve."

What kind of phone do you carry? "The ubiquitous Motorola Razr. But I love the SE710 even more, with its high-resolution camera. I filled up the memory stick with cool, idiotic pictures of life. It also has a great music player. The Razr has an amazing design, but it didn't move functionality forward."
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