POV: Interview with Susan Schiekofer, President of Digital, MEC

Jami Oetting
Jami Oetting



headshot-Susan-SchiefkoferWelcome to The Agency Post. Tell us about yourself.

I am the newly named president of digital for MEC North America. I was with Ogilvy for most of my prior career and — along with a great team of people who hold very important positions in the digital media world today — established the digital media offering within Ogilvy. Our first digital client was IBM. It was an exciting time in the industry, and Ogilvy was a wonderful place to be.

About two years ago, I decided I wanted to go to a media agency that had a 360 integrated media offering with strong digital clients and teams. I found that by leading the AT&T digital business at MEC. The combination of innovation, creativity and performance marketing among the AT&T and MEC teams — while also being integrated within the larger strategic media team — was exactly what I was looking for.

Tell us about MEC and what differentiates it from other media agencies.

First of all, MEC has a tremendously collaborative nature. There are so many smart, energetic people who love the practice of media. There is a combination of media “veterans” and up-and-coming stars. Our client base is excellent: AT&T, Colgate, Campbells, Marriott and Ikea among many others. We do great innovative work while delivering results. Within the digital practice, every single digital specialty has massive talent: digital strategy, emerging media, search, social, mobile, analytics and operations.

What does your ideal relationship with an agency look like? When should the media planners be brought into the strategy?

If you are talking about the 360 media strategy, that goes without saying. If you are asking about the creative agency process, the answer is YES. Digital media is so intertwined with creative that we like to be briefed along with our creative partners. The truly great ideas come from collaborating on creative ideas early and presenting how they could work within digital from the onset.

Do you think media planners are underappreciated, especially digital media planners?

Of course. The level of data and detail they are responsible for, in addition to producing digital strategy, innovation and results, is daunting. Digital is a wonderful medium to plan, but it can be challenging in implementation.

How can we educate clients and agencies of their value?

I actually think most clients who have touched digital know the value of their agencies, but for those who have not, maybe we should do a job switch program so they can experience the value we bring firsthand!

What is MEC’s core process of creating a media plan for a brand? How do you go about understanding what platform or medium is the most effective way to reach an audience?

We have an insights/planning tool at MEC called Navigator that is a diagnostic strategy tool. It covers all the aspects that should go into media planning in a meaningful way. But understanding the most effective way to reach an audience comes from working on client brand teams every day and living and breathing the strategy and the results. I would also add that having perpetual test and measurement plans is a logical way to move medium selection along.

What excites and intrigues you about the opportunities in social and digital?

Digital media is coming up on maybe its 20th year, yet everything is still so fresh and new and constantly changing. I can’t even imagine what the next 20 years of digital will bring. We were recently with our client on a venture capital tour where we saw about 18 companies. The progress being made in predictive modeling, digital performance marketing, creative/media tools and social innovation platforms is astounding. I can’t wait to test them.

What is the most effective medium for creating brand awareness? Or is there one?

Whichever one catches the target’s attention and delivers results for our clients. It’s the combination of creative and media strategy that will direct this.

What is one thing you are hoping to change or improve upon as the new president of MEC North America?

Leveraging the best practices across all existing digital accounts as well as the new accounts we will bring on board. We do so much innovative and successful work and produce so many thought leadership pieces, but they don’t currently get shared to the fullest extent.

While you focus on the North American media landscape, what are some insights you have gained from your counterparts in Latin America, Asia and Europe?

That’s next. I have spent some time with our digital talent in London. They pioneered the trading practice within MEC and will be instrumental in establishing this new offering for our clients.

What trends in media do you find most interesting/exciting?

The progression of addressable TV and the major acceleration of mobile media in general is interesting. Also, the digitization of the print business with tablet growth — I hope it helps a lot of publishers.

How do you think the role of a media planner needs to evolve in the next few years?

I think the digital strategists who move into the manager role need to lead all aspects of digital, including display, search, social, mobile, etc. Yes, we will still need specialists, but digital professionals should understand the best way to leverage all digital for our clients. It definitely exists now, but I think this needs to start earlier in people’s careers.

One reason you love what you do: This business brings together the best of what I love: smart, funny people, editorial product, new technology and creating results for clients.

Mentor: Several who probably didn’t know they were. At Ogilvy, Chuck Guariglia, who is now retired and had the nickname “Minister of the People,” is a wonderful man who taught so many of us what it would take to succeed and to do the right things in this crazy business of ours. Also, Carla Hendra and Jan Leth, the strategy and creative leads respectively when we established Ogilvy’s digital offering. They are now in global roles within the company. We built a lot together, and I learned so much from them. I’m lucky — I have one more: John Montgomery, formerly of Ogilvy but now COO of GroupM. He has always been a tremendous resource to me both in terms of career as well as any business challenges I have.

Must-read book: I read fiction. I wish I were reading “Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry for the first time — still my all-time favorite.

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