After his one year stint with S&S, Raj was officially been bitten by the interactive bug, and soon dove headfirst into the depths of the industry. “Truthfully, the thing I hated about traditional advertising is everybody would tell you that this is the way it’s done; this is how a TV ad is done, this is how a print ad is done, don’t do that for a print ad, don’t do that for a TV ad,” he explains. “It seems like such like a formula that I couldn’t be creative and it was ironic, because I didn’t want to be a marketer coming up with my own stuff all the time. I wanted some sort of direction. The Internet just really opened the door to [the whatever you think of you can do as long as you’re working for the right company and the right client and it really inspired me.”
During his following pursuit for the “right company” in the interactive space he landed a job with Ketchum Interactive in 1996 working on the Pacific Bell account. Then, about a year later he wound up CKS (now Avenue A | Razorfish) where during his work with their Visa account, he first caught the financial services company’s charms. For the next few years he followed his passion for the interactive advertising space working at a small company called Left Field (now JWT SF) after which Raj got swept up by Visa USA to work with their client side in 2000 as the Director of Advertising. It was here he changed the way Visa advertised completely.
It was Raj who placed an Internet-based program at the center of their “Ideas Happen” campaign where Visa targeted 18-to-24-year-olds through a contest that offered $25,000 prizes to help people accomplish what really matters to them. Each month of the campaign, Ideas Happen received an average of 1.7 million unique visitors. Among members of the target demographic who visited the site, the brand scored nearly 70 percent in unaided awareness. It was the development of this youth-oriented integrated ad campaign that earned Jon Employee of the Quarter recognition.
And while most industry executives were sweating the dot-com bust, Raj only felt more comfortable with the adversity. Just as he faced a room of glaring pre-adolescent students and found a way to succeed, he would take this hiatus and run with it.
“I always feel more comfortable when things are more challenging and more difficult,” he concludes. “When things are easy and things are just being thrown at you, I just don’t feel as comfortable. The one thing I believe, and the reason I took the job at Visa USA… [as I told] the woman who hired me, I thought they did a great job advertising in the traditional mediums and they did a great job at doing brand building advertising but I felt that the internet was going to be a great vehicle for brand building.”
Since being onboard with Visa USA first as Director of Advertising and then as their more important VP of Advertising and Emerging Media Platforms, Raj’s efforts have resulted in Visa USA’s increased online ad spending by nearly 50% each of the past 4 years.