DMNews talks with Tom Bedecarre, CEO of AKQA

Tom Bedecarre, CEO of AKQA speaks with DMNews about the growth of digital as accountability becomes ever more important in tight times.

Job: CEO of AKQA

Former positions: Co-founder/CEO of Citron Haligman Bedecarre, VP Management Supervisor at Hal Riney & Partners

Favorite tea: PG Tips

Three greatest passions are: His family, his company and Stanford Athletics

Favorite way to spend time: Surfing the Internet

Q: What opportunity is there for digital marketing in this tight economy?

A: It’s the direct marketing nature and the accountability of the online marketing, which is coming to a bigger need right now in this environment. So as a company, we’re actually still growing as a business and hiring people, and a lot of people in the marketing services space are announcing big layoffs and seeing a big decrease in budgets. We actually see among our clients that digital media is having an increase in spending.

Q: How then are your clients shifting their attention? Are they spending more money in digital because of the growth in consumer consumption of digital media or because of the accountability?

A: Both. I think that advertisers and marketers are very aware that consumers are shifting their media consumption habits, and they want to follow the consumers. You want to fish where the fish are. I think people are aware of the increasing usage of online media and all of that data is pretty familiar to our clients. I think that what is particularly true this year, when there is so much scrutiny on budgets, clients are looking at where they can save money. I’ve found that because of the accountability and the ROI, clients are increasing their budgets in digital media.

Q: How is this affecting your agency?

A: We’re still relatively a small growing company that is finding new opportunities in this environment because there are people who are, even in this tough environment, saying we have to find a new partner who is going to be focused on digital results and digital media. We are actually growing in this market downturn.

Q: Speaking of which, Jim Rossman of Digitas is soon joining AKQA as president/COO.

A: One of the factors in selecting him was his background in direct marketing, both at Digitas, as well as at Wunderman.

One of the things that we’re finding is that there is a convergence of brand marketing and direct marketing. I think a lot of people talk about the convergence of traditional and digital and how all media is becoming digital, but what we are finding is that as all media becomes digital, all media becomes accountable, and it cuts both ways.

When you are creating a direct marketing message, there is an opportunity to support the branding message and create a positive experience online. And likewise, another way of looking at it, when you are working on brand advertising, there are now tools that we have that can demonstrate a lot more information and deliver a lot more data to our clients about how it is working.

Q: So what are you doing about this convergence?

A: One of the areas that we’re focusing on is that we are launching a media service and analytics business into a separate business unit called AKQA Media Search and Analytics. It incorporates our media planning and buying group and our search marketing group, which came to AKQA a few years ago, when we acquired SearchRev. And it incorporates our Web analytics team. We think that this is a unique suite of services to offer clients, because many companies are using disparate vendors for their display buys, search optimization and for their Web analytics and data analysis.

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