Meet The 12 Most Successful Media Agency Execs In Southern California

There's a soft spot in Brett Whelan's heart for national television, and he's not about to give up on it just because some naysayers contend that it's a moribund ad medium.

"It's not true that TV's dying—it's evolving in a way that's more useful to us as marketers," argues Whelan, senior director, integrated investment at Initiative. "We're applying a digital mindset to it now, with things like advanced TV and behavioral data, targeting audience rather than content."

That's the approach Whelan and his team took for client Uber, which launched its first major TV campaign last year as a driver recruitment tool.

To be as efficient as possible, Initiative used analytics to figure out the best dayparts and platforms to find potential ride-share workers, making for "a nuanced approach" that proved there was plenty of life left in the medium.
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Whelan, who leads a bicoastal team of buyers in digital, print and TV, looked again to television for an all-important pre-holiday program for client Amazon. To supplement an already-heavy ad schedule, he worked with an NBCUniversal specialty division to weave the client's various products into a number of popular series.

There was a co-branded spot during Late Night With Seth Meyers in which the comedian asked Amazon Echo's cloud-based voice service Alexa some trivia questions about the NFL and NBC's Sunday night games. During the Today show, co-hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb ordered packages from Amazon Prime Now on Cyber Monday to demonstrate one-hour delivery.

"It was a way for us to leverage deeper integrated marketing elements at scale," Whelan explains, "and have Amazon show up in places you wouldn't expect to see them."

The program was such a hit that Whelan is working on this year's edition, noting that it must be "bigger and smarter."

Whelan says he is intrigued by virtual reality and plans to keep an eye on how it grows over the next few months as gadgets that enable the technology continue to hit the market. He says he'll stay on the lookout for how brands might be able to use VR—but only "if it can go from being an interesting distraction for the media and tech cognoscenti to being used by everyday people."

This story first appeared in the October 10, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.

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