The art and science of reinventing online protocols: Mai Duong, group manager digital media, Touche!PHD, Montreal

Mai Duong's portfolio reads like a passport. It ranges from global brands such as Cirque du Soleil and Red Bull to international real estate developers like Playground in Costa Rica. She also works with the agency's Quebec-based flagship accounts, such as the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ), and was the mastermind behind the liquor purveyor's first digital campaign.

Claim to fame

Mai Duong’s portfolio reads like a passport. It ranges from global brands such as Cirque du Soleil and Red Bull to international real estate developers like Playground in Costa Rica. She also works with the agency’s Quebec-based flagship accounts, such as the Société des alcools du Québec (SAQ), and was the mastermind behind the liquor purveyor’s first digital campaign.

SAQ ran a three-week campaign in March showcasing Italian wines. The media strategy was to surround Internet users by multiplying points of contact on the web, while staying relevant. This included presence on wine blogs, search engine marketing, targeting wine lovers on social networking sites and integration on recipe sites within Italian recipes. To assure reach, a portion of the media buy
was also made on Quebec’s major portals.

The results were outstanding. Visits to the microsite exceeded objectives by 97%, and the cost-per-click was 300% lower than anticipated. The online media strategy contributed to approximately 96,000 participants in the program.

Duong’s knowledge of digital trends, mobile marketing and Web 2.0 have contributed to her being extremely active on the new business front at the agency. She’s credited with improving the offline planners’ knowledge of new technology through one-on-one sessions and a training program that includes small group conferences on digital topics. And her ‘mission’ to promote non-traditional media is tracking towards an increase of more than 50% in digital investment on her accounts.

In addition, Duong contributed to the launch of Touché!PHD’s new search engine marketing unit, which now has two full-timers reporting to her, and helped structure and define the service packages for different campaign sizes and advertising categories.

She also suggested a new organization structure for the company that has increased both productivity and quality of input. Traditional media coordinators are now responsible for most of the execution of digital media buying, freeing up time for digital planners and further fostering the overall development of ‘hybrid media planners’ dealing in both offline and online.

What’s in a background?

After graduating from HEC Montréal, Duong joined Cossette Media as an assistant interactive media planner. She was quickly promoted to planner and then group manager on brands such as GM, Coke and Transat. During that time, she was awarded with two Prix Media InfoPresse and a certificate at the Media Innovation Awards. In 2007, she joined the Touché!PHD team, and recently became the lead of digital media for all the accounts shared with SidLee, a Touché!PHD creative partner.

What’s the biggest media mistake brands are making now?

‘Not reacting quickly enough to the ever-changing market. For the automobile industry, consumers are spending much more time online, seeking car reviews, participating in forums and community sites and talking to their peers on what cars to buy. Then again, major car manufacturers will still invest ludicrous media dollars in traditional media. I’m not saying that we should only invest on the web, but I think we should question ourselves seriously on the best media mix in 2008. Staying in the comfort zone is not an option.’

What common industry belief would you love to see die?

‘Social media and gaming are only communication channels for kids and teens. To think that adults are only reading newspapers and watching TV is dead wrong. Maybe your average mom with two kids living in the suburbs is not playing Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto IV, but they might play Sudoku or any casual games at lunch time. On Facebook, the number of family albums is high.’

Are clients and ad execs giving enough attention to the media side of things and keeping pace with opportunities?

‘I think they are already overwhelmed with their work and don’t know how to cope with these changes. The ‘how to’ is a big challenge. The first thing clients could do is form a small group of colleagues, and on a monthly basis share and debate new media campaigns and how these ideas can apply on current mandates. Embracing creativity is key.’