Media Director of the Year – Chris O’Hara

Chris O'Hara, media director, Sharpe Blackmore Euro RSCG

Chris O’Hara, media director, Sharpe Blackmore Euro RSCG

When Chris O’Hara landed at Sharpe Blackmore Euro RSCG six years ago, he found the ideal spot for exercising what excites him most about the media business: being a hands-on planner, exploring the creative potential of media and working in close collaboration with

the creative end of

the business.

‘I literally sit in the middle of the creative department,

so there’s a lot of interaction, which I think helps make some of the best media plans,’ he says.

O’Hara interned on the creative side of the business at JWT 10 years ago, but after getting his first job at Optimedia, he knew media was where he wanted to be.

At Sharpe Blackmore, where he landed after stints at Thompson Enterprise Media (now MindShare) and the now-defunct Ammirati Puris, he helms a three-person department where being a hands-on media director is definitely a prerequisite. A diverse group of clients means reading target groups that range from 14-year-old male video gamers for Intel to well-heeled CEO types for the shop’s biggest media client, Volvo (for which it handles all corporate and dealer group advertising). The agency’s media roster also includes Red Lobster, Select Comfort (the Sleep Number Beds) and computer wholesaler

CDW, as well as project work for Intel.

O’Hara works closely with the creative department throughout the planning process, beginning with a media briefing session at the same time as the creative department’s and scheduling brainstorming sessions

with them along the way.

‘If they know we’re going to be booking magazines, maybe one of their ideas looks great as consecutive page ads or there’s an execution that works better in one title than another and we’ll set up the plan that way. It gives more synergy between the message and the medium.’

O’Hara describes his approach to media planning as intuitive. ‘Research is good to have, and it’s essential for the due diligence you owe your clients, but from a

day-to-day standpoint a lot of it is common sense,’ he

says. ‘You have a pretty good idea what is going to be

the right fit for your brands.’


What are your strengths as a media director?

First, it’s about having a team you can trust. And I’m still involved on a day-to-day basis. Being hands-on helps me relate better to the agency’s other departments, too, because I’m working with them constantly.

The campaign you’re most proud of?

Volvo’s 2006 launch of the C70, a hardtop retractable convertible. We worked with The Weather Network and developed the Rain or Shine Weather Report. A couple of times a day, the announcer would say whether it was going to rain or be sunny in the top 10 markets across the country, and the cool thing was a little C70 in the report for each market: So in Toronto, if it was going to sunny, the roof was down; it if was going to rain in Winnipeg, the roof was up. It was a way to have our product interacting beyond the standard 30-second commercial. And it was the first time The Weather Network put a product right in the weather report.

Everything is a medium. Is it still effective?

We’re at a saturation point. A while back, Nike debuted big vinyl banners on cranes – something that had never been used for consumer or brand advertising. Now companies are trying to sell them all the time. Anytime you do that, it’s going to break through the clutter – if you’re first. But once you get six or seven advertisers doing it, it’s just an advertising medium.