The Player: Edelman will try to bring it all together for Digitas

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According to the Rolling Stones, "you can't always get what you want." But David Edelman has come pretty close.

Mr. Edelman played that famous Stones ditty on his saxophone at Digitas' talent show in April-the same month he added chief marketing officer to his title of financial-services practice director. The song was an ironic illustration of how the agency executive melded his passion for executing team projects with his professional experience in consulting and marketing into one job.

Mr. Edelman spent 13 years at the Boston Consulting Group working for marketers like AT&T Corp. and Bloomingdales. He developed a business unit at the consultancy to help companies leverage customer databases in their marketing and customer-service initiatives and soon realized he wanted to help marketers execute, not just strategize.

A call to fellow Harvard University business school alum David Kenny, now chairman-CEO of Digitas, landed Mr. Edelman the job of building the agency's financial-services practice in 1999. Since that time, Digitas has evolved from relying heavily on Internet marketing to more of a multi-channel approach, and Mr. Edelman hopes to position the agency's diverse offerings as one brand in his role as chief marketing officer.

"Our core is running relationship-marketing programs, but we bring strategic consulting, technical depth and channel-operation expertise," Mr. Edelman said. "Our biggest marketing opportunity is with our existing clients" whose advocacy brings new business, he said. "We want to make sure that the brand proposition is crystal clear, and that they as clients could communicate that to others."

Digitas began as direct-marketing agency Bronner Slosberg Humphrey in 1980, changing its name to Digitas when it went public in 2000. Part interactive agency, part direct shop, part technical-services provider, it is resistant to categorization. But its offline direct-marketing heritage helped it survive the dot-com fallout, according to Alexia Quadrani, an analyst at Bear Stearns & Co. "There are not many competitors that have general profitability and cash on their balance sheet [like Digitas]," she said. "They've been ahead of their peers on that level."

"We believe there's a need, and so do our clients, for an outsourcer to manage the transition from mass advertising to customer-relationship communication," Mr. Kenny said. "You've got to market not only yourself, but the need for your category."


And Mr. Edelman is the man to do it, Mr. Kenny said. "He's got the strategy background. He's developed a real passion for creative and relevant customer communication, and he's very smart on technology. He's very adept at living in all the spheres we work in."

It looks like Mr. Edelman-who chose agency life because it, like music and theater, relies on "project orientation, a team approach and feedback"-got what he wanted.

Fast Facts

Name: David Edelman

Age: 41

Now: Chief marketing officer and financial-services director

Challenge: Positioning Digitas as a distinct kind of marketing agency and leader in building customer relationships.

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