Digitas Brings in Digital VP From Roo

Greg Verdino to Bulk Up Video Ad Programs

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- It's been a rough year for Digitas. Just last week, the Boston-based digital ad and marketing agency lowered its revenue guidance for this year following the loss of three clients, Best Buy, Ameriprise Financial and FedEx, and curbed spending by two others, General Motors and Delta Air Lines. Digitas now estimates that this year's fee revenue will total $380 million to $395 million, down from the previous forecast of $405 million to $427 million.
Greg Verdino
Greg Verdino Credit: David Beyda

Yet, looking ahead for ways to capitalize on emerging channels such as broadband, podcasts and social networking, Digitas has appointed Greg Verdino, 37, to the new position of VP-director of emerging channels. Mr. Verdino comes over from Roo, a broadband video provider, where he served for about a year as senior VP. No stranger to the world of marketing, Mr. Verdino spent portions of his 16-year career at Barry Blau & Partners, Wunderman, Saatchi & Saatchi and Geer DuBois Advertising.

MediaWorks: What are the daily responsibilities of an emerging channel evangelist?

Greg Verdino: For starters, I am charged with defining the overarching strategic framework for how we think about emerging channels -- broadband video, podcasting, mobile, gaming and social networks, as well as next generation digital platforms like interactive TV and IPTV -- and integrate them into broader cross-channel digital marketing campaigns. Obviously I'm not starting from scratch. Digitas has already implemented a wide variety of programs that incorporate new channel tactics and, in doing so, the agency has amassed a solid base of learning and best practices. It is my job to build on that foundation and to make sure that we continue to innovate on behalf of our clients, in the face of massive shifts in consumer media behavior.

But my role is not all theory and no action. Ultimately, we need to apply our unique approaches for emerging channels to address our clients' real-world marketing challenges. To that end, I also spend a large portion of my time working with my counterparts across the various agency capabilities, with outside media and technology partners, and of course with the clients themselves to identify the right ways to integrate new channels into holistic, multi-touch digital marketing programs.

MediaWorks: How will you apply the lessons you learned at Roo to your new position?

Mr. Verdino: Digitas and Roo are in many ways two sides of the same coin. At Roo, we focused on providing publishers and advertisers with three things -- the ability to easily activate massive amounts of video content, a means of gaining the broadest possible distribution of that video content, and an effective model for advertising against a highly engaged base of online video consumers. At Digitas, many of our clients are keenly interested in video and, although the lens is different, the opportunities are the same -- how do we implement the right video advertising models for awareness, acquisition and engagement; how to we harness the power of a rapidly scaling, highly engaged audience; and how to we create and distribute our own branded content to reach that audience in new ways?

Video is a personal passion, an area in which I have lots of expertise and a channel that many of our clients are excited about, so leveraging digital video properly will be a core focus. I have also seen that many of the trends that are driving the growth of video -- increased consumer choice and control, divergence of usage platforms and devices, the blur between consumer-created and professionally-produced content, and the pervasive digitization of all media channels -- are leading to new marketing paradigms and opportunities in virtually every media channel.

MediaWorks: How does it feel joining Digitas a week after the company lowered its revenue guidance for this year amid major client losses and curtailed ad spending?

Mr. Verdino: I joined the Digitas agency because of its prowess in digital and direct marketing -- a commitment that is echoed throughout the entire Digitas Inc. family. I'd also say that few in the industry have built the legacy in accountability and measurability that has driven Digitas since its inception. And given the breadth and diversity of clients and talent at the agency, this is a shop that remains positioned in the sweet spot of where the market is going.

Year-over-year the company has said it is growing, even though some clients are not. I am excited to be part of the team helping to build, lead and develop our business for the long term, and I firmly believe that our ongoing expansion into new digital channels is one path toward future growth.

MediaWorks: On a lighter note, Digitas recently landed interactive media and creative chores for the Home Depot. What do you have in store for that prized account?

Mr. Verdino: To your point, the Home Depot is a relatively new piece of business for us and I think there will be many opportunities to extend the client's marketing initiatives into new channels. Obviously, I can't share the specifics of upcoming client initiatives, but I do think there are some compelling applications for emerging media and new platforms in the retail category in general and home improvement specifically. For example, DIY is a high-interest category and I think the Home Depot could really engage its core audience through the creation and distribution of original how-to content that, in turn, drives traffic into stores.

Retail is also the perfect category to employ proximity-based mobile marketing to drive traffic into the nearest store, and even to extend our digital-marketing programs onto the store floor itself through the deployment of interactive signage or networked kiosks. There are also many ways to use mobile marketing as a logical extension of current web efforts. For example, by providing a means for consumers to plan a specific home improvement project on the website and then request an SMS push that itemizes all of the tools and materials they will need to complete that project, along with an offer or incentive, we could provide a clear path from online to in line at the cash register.

MediaWorks: Digitas recently acquired Medical Broadcasting Company, an interactive agency with a client roster that includes AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb and GlaxoSmithKline for more than $30 million. How do you plan on defining the future of big pharmaceutical marketing?

Mr. Verdino: As you know, Digitas believes that digital and direct messaging play well to the pharmaceutical industry's current and future communication needs. Commitment to the category is also evident among our sibling agencies, most notably MBC. Given the propensity for people on all sides of the pharma equation -- providers and patients alike -- to use the web as a tool of discovery and dialogue, I'm excited about how we might help clients in this category smartly and appropriately leverage emerging tools and modes.

I can think of many specific uses for emerging media in the pharma category and, as in many categories, new channels really represent a way to deliver more value to consumers and, in doing so, build enduring brand relationships and drive trial and repeat usage. Original video programming -- long-form and short-form episodic video that can be delivered to targeted audiences via broadband or podcast -- is perfect for communicating complex messages about specific conditions and treatments. Social networking technologies -- not the name-brand social networks like MySpace per se, but community-oriented functionality in general -- present interesting opportunities to build provider communities or aggregate virtual support groups for patients and their families. Mobile alerts can be an effective tool for delivering trial offers, prescription refill reminders and ongoing compliance messaging.
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