ADOTAS chats with Avenue A | Razorfish VP of Media Sarah Kim Baehr about the banner’s resurgence, the shift in media buys and the evolution of the interactive agency.
Despite the constant mantra uttered by the digital elite that the “banner ad is dead”, there are many veterans in the online advertising medium that beg to differ. Count Sarah Kim Baehr among them.
As a matter of fact, Baehr, the VP of East Coast media operations at Avenue A | Razorfish, underlines the continued importance of the banner in her agency’s media planning/buying strategies. “Saying that the banner ad is dead is like saying the 30-second spot is dead,” she states. “It’s still a huge part of how we’re buying. And until every single site decides to redesign themselves and not have them (laughs), it will continue to be a way to message.”
Getting the message across efficiently and effectively has been the most important facet of Baehr’s agenda since she entered the interactive space in early 1996. But according to the New York-based exec, her entry into the online fold wasn’t quite so premeditated. “I can honestly say that I wasn’t specifically looking for an interactive job, I was looking for an advertising job,” she reveals. “I had a background in direct response television. But I ended up at [interactive agency] Blue Marble, which ultimately became part of Novo, and I went in there as an account person. It was at the time when everyone was a jack-of-all-trades and you took on whatever you had to. I often found myself updating banner code, and going into staging servers and changing really basic HTML. I am certainly not a technology person or a programmer but you did what you had to do if you were relatively smart.”
But Baehr’s role became more clearly defined and her motivation amplified once brands turned their heads towards the online space. “When our clients started asking about [online] media and banners, I then slowly started to take on that role,” she says. “I was an account manager and a project manager, and then when we got clients like Continental Airlines, we were placing banners for them on websites. So that just became part of my role.”
Baehr’s role took on much greater significance, though, when in 1997 she joined the newly formed interactive offshoot of Ogilvy & Mather, Ogilvy One. During this late 90s period, as brands were slowly awakening to the viability of online marketing, Baehr and Co. snagged one of the biggest — and most appropriate — accounts at the time: IBM.
Her subsequent work with the computer giant over the next few years would not only entail media buying and planning, but essentially providing IBM with an online presence. “When I left Blue Marble to go to Ogilvy One,” Baehr recalls, “it was [almost exclusively] to work on the IBM brand business. By the time I took overseeing all the lines of business for IBM – the corporate branding, the PC business, global contracts, vertically-targeted campaigns- I had already worked on most of them in a direct fashion.”
Baehr’s work deservedly brought her plenty of attention, and as expected, her memories of IBM are fond ones. “When you’re at an agency in our industry for seven years, you get to know the client pretty well. (Laughs) So I had a good feeling for [IBM]. It was a structure that I had become used to. It evolved with me I guess. I think for the way that they run their media, it was very efficient and structured, in turn allowing me to manage it globally.”