Q&A: Mark Schweitzer

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Mark Schweitzer muscled his way to the No. 8 slot in Power Players as chief marketing officer at Sprint Nextel. Mr. Schweitzer oversees marketing for the third-largest wireless purveyor and reveals to Ad Age West Coast Editor Alice Z. Cuneo what the No. 3 player has to do to prosper.

ADVERTISING AGE: Is there a place for advertising on the mobile phone?

MARK SCHWEITZER: There certainly is, over time. The consumer has to be accepting of this advertising. At this point, we haven't seen a business proposition that would create enough mass to make it interesting for advertisers. It's going to come, and we're preparing for that. We have not announced plans [for advertising on Sprint phones], and we won't soon in my expectation.

AA: When Sprint Nextel launched its merged brand, it called itself both a telecommunications company and an entertainment company. Why?

MR. SCHWEITZER: In the very near term, it means we will provide meaningful content whether it's on Sprint TV, MobiTV or through all of the deals that we've struck with the entertainment industry. [Sprint is offering Sirius Satellite Radio, and has key deals with the National Football League, National Hockey League, Nascar and the U.S. Ski & Snowboarding Association.] In the near term, it's taking the phones to a meaningful third screen, frankly competing with the iPod and to be a supplement to folks' TV viewing.

Over time, with the EV-DO [Evolution Data Optimized, a wireless broadband standard] launch and what that broadband application brings to the laptop and the handsets and what it could ultimately bring as devices progress, we think the third screen will become a meaningful screen that can genuinely compete.

AA: Is media spending in the wireless category-more than $4 billion last year-about to become more, as you put it in the past, "rational"?

MR. SCHWEITZER: I certainly hope so. We're prepared to compete on the terms that are required to be successful at the moment. We're putting more of our attention on innovative ways to spend ... such as online.

AA: Should every brand be a mobile virtual network operator, in which a major consumer marketer-for example, ESPN-takes advantage of Sprint Nextel's services and expertise?

MR. SCHWEITZER: I do think there is room for more [brands to start MVNOs]. You want a linkage to lifestyle or entertainment interest. For a company like [Walt] Disney Co., it makes a lot of sense. I'd be shocked if every package-goods company tried to do this.

AA: Avis said No. 2 has to try harder. What does No. 3 have to do?

MR. SCHWEITZER: Be different. Offer choice and be better.

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