Dr. Internet

'My academic work straddled the fence between politics and psychology,' says Hunter Madsen, the Harvard PhD who has recently moved to Canada to become Yahoo! Canada's director marketing, to explain his seemingly curious switch from academia to advertising.

‘My academic work straddled the fence between politics and psychology,’ says Hunter Madsen, the Harvard PhD who has recently moved to Canada to become Yahoo! Canada’s director marketing, to explain his seemingly curious switch from academia to advertising.

‘I was principally interested in why people agreed to things,’ he says. ‘Persuasion psychology if you like. Now you understand why Madison Avenue was greatly interested in me,’ he adds with a laugh. It was the beginning of an impressive career in advertising that began in the mid-’80s.

After teaching at Harvard, Madsen joined JWT working on such brands as Unilever and Kodak, and eventually became a partner and later founded JWT Interactive in 1993. He then moved to Wired in 1996 to run its marketing department before becoming the head of product marketing for Yahoo! Marketing Services in the U.S. in 2003.

In his previous position, advanced ad targeting was just one of the systems Madsen helped build. ‘It was about figuring out more intelligent, more intuitive systems for linking users with ads that they would actually care about,’ he says.

He also developed promotional services, analytical tools and rich media formats for the company’s advertisers.

In his current position at Yahoo! Canada, however, Madsen will create more consumer-based marketing programs for the brand and its products with AOR Ogilvy & Mather.

Despite a strongly interactive career path, Madsen recalls when, back at JWT, ‘there was a big debate about whether or not we should bother paying attention to the Internet. I was on the side that said that I thought [it] was going to count for something.’