Leading by (digital) example: Danny Shenkman, ZenithOptimedia, Toronto

Danny Shenkman is making a name for himself in media with ZenithOptimedia's online media arm, ZedDigital. His key accounts include Twentieth Century Fox, XM Radio and Nestle.

Claim to fame

Danny Shenkman is making a name for himself in media with ZenithOptimedia’s online media arm, ZedDigital. His key accounts include Twentieth Century Fox, XM Radio and Nestle.

Shenkman initiated and executed a unique plan for Fox Home Entertainment that included a one-day takeover of AOL for the release of The Simpsons Movie on DVD in December 2007. It was the first such customization at AOL Canada. The main page was ‘Simpsonized’ from top to bottom. The AOL logo was transformed from blue to black, the ‘O’ was replaced with a donut (with Homer standing beside it) and the page was washed in the familiar yellow background. The floating ad, banners and custom boxes all went with the theme, as did the Top Searches – with Homer Simpson at number one and Itchy & Scratchy at number 10. Links throughout AOL drove users to SimpsonsMovie.com.

Another initiative of Shenkman’s gave XM Radio a boost in ROI by making online the driving force of the campaign, working in concert with offline media rather than the other way around. The campaign’s messaging was designed to target the sports fan and attract an audience to XM’s new NHL programming. About 7 to 10% of the budget went to cost-per-click and search, and after a review of early results, it was clear that interest was coming from outside the targeted sports demo. The strategy was changed to include a broader target and boost XM’s news, music and personalities.

Working with the client’s web, marketing, brand managers, websites, networks and ad server, Shenkman put together a campaign that showed significant results and delivered specific, measurable goals. Essentially, he drove change in the way the client purchases media and boosted efficiency and accountability.

‘We decided to allocate a small percentage of the budget to try things outside our target demos, and ended up gaining great insight into demographics that we had not been reaching,’ says Shenkman. ‘We found we were actually converting at much higher rates with our new targets and realized that we were missing an important group of consumers. XM was so impressed with the results that we’re now letting online be the driving medium, which changes the traditional marketing strategy and ultimately makes all media more accountable.’ Commenting that few marketers are brave enough to step up and make a change that affects the sum of their marketing initiatives. Shenkman adds, ‘We’re already seeing better results than we’d expected.’

Who is he?

Shenkman graduated in 2004 from the University of Western Ontario with a media studies degree, and his CV spans working for a congressman in Washington, to roles with several Brunico Communications brands, including Media in Canada, prior to joining ZenithOptimedia in 2006.

Which brand would you most like to work on, other than your clients’?

‘I’m a Lost junkie. I’ve been really impressed with the way the show’s producers have extended the relationship fans have with the show so far beyond what we’ve come to expect from television. You don’t need to know the mythology to appreciate what they are doing to be innovative in promoting the brand. Lost licenses itself out to video games, action figures and other merchandise, but it maintains a connection between all the products and the experience of the show. Add to that these intricate media consumption scavenger hunts like ‘Find 815′ and ‘The Lost Experience’ that let the fan base into the progression and development of the storyline, and it puts Lost in the unique position of being able to turn a 16-episode season into a year-round experience.’

What’s the biggest media mistake brands are making?

‘Overthinking the consumer. The dialogue between advertisers and consumers has moved consumers towards quality products with lower price points. Sometimes we try so hard to get inside the heads of our targets that we miss the obvious. We give a lot of credit to marketers that successfully evoke powerful emotions for inanimate objects, but every once in a while I’d like to see a product like Head-On win an award. It probably didn’t take a Bill Bernbach to come up with the creative and media executions, but the fact that everyone knows you apply it directly to the forehead has to be worth something, right?’

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