Shlachter: Digital Ads Growing; Hurdles Remain

Web veteran says online expansion raises marketers’ expectations
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Adam Shlachter has focused on digital media for about 12 years, a lifetime on the Internet. For Shlachter, named managing partner for digital investment at media agency MEC earlier this month, some of the challenges the industry faces haven’t changed in all that time.

“I have people working for me now who are 12 years younger than me,” he says. “It’s funny. As much as the digital space has matured and grown and become such an indispensable part of our lives and also part of marketing, it’s also still just as complex as it was 12 years ago, if not more.”

On the other hand, what was once an exotic specialty has become core to media agencies and their marketer clients. “For a lot of clients, digital might mean targeting and precision and driving e-commerce, and that’s great and it works quite well,” Shlachter points out. “And for a lot of other clients, it means much more about extending their brand in different ways that they never really could before, and ways to connect with the consumer again with a level of engagement or participation with the brand that you can’t get out of more traditional one-way media.”

The growth of digital media has also raised the bar for advertising. It is no longer enough just to promise consumer impressions.

“When media owners and vendors who work with us give us ideas and work with us on proposals and programs that help deliver that more actively engaged audience and show us what the unique opportunities are to connect with them—not just reach them in a sort of general way but to do something that’s more impactful—I think that goes a long way,” Shlachter says. He has served as the agency’s lead for its retail clients and is now also responsible for digital investment, staffing and talent.

Television remains a key part of the marketing equation, because even when multiple-screen solutions offer added impact, the TV remains the biggest screen, according to Shlachter.

“We’ve done a lot of great work collaborating with all our teams here— whether it’s a TV-led idea that extends to digital, whether it’s a digital idea that has implications to TV, or whether it’s a total 360 program that’s really deep and experiential and is focused on the consumer regardless of what they’re doing or where they’re doing it,” he says.

‘Exciting opportunities’
At MEC, Shlachter is responsible for buying episodes of TV shows that are available online from the broadcast and cable networks. “Certainly, the fullepisode players draw the biggest parallel to traditional broadcast, and we think it offers some really exciting opportunities,” he says. “When we can get to a point where you can seamlessly buy against an audience and they can be delivered regardless of screen, that will make buying of video so much more different than it is today.”

Shlachter grew up in New York’s Rockland County. He spent a lot of time in and out of the city before going to the State University at Buffalo, where he studied communications sciences.

Not knowing exactly where in the ad business he belonged, he started in public relations before joining the Lowe agency and becoming part of its interactive group.

“It was a very exciting time to be part of what was going on in the digital space, because it was all coming into its own right then and there,” he says.

While he worked on the Marriott Hotels account, the agency did some of the earliest e-commerce-focused digital media campaigns, driving bookings through Marriott.com.

Shlachter went back to school, earning an M.B.A. from Baruch College in New York, then took a job on the client side with Starwood Hotels. A former colleague who was starting up what became MEC Interaction recruited him back to the agency side in 2006.

Early in his career, Shlachter did standup comedy and also worked as a disc jockey. But now he has an 11-month-old at home, and that’s what occupies his free time. (Like many new parents, he’s also getting into photography, and finds that pictures of little Ruby are now taking up as much space as music on his hard drive.)

He’s also learning a lesson about the future from his daughter: “She is consumed by technology. She knows what an iPhone is, she knows how to scroll through the apps and the pictures, and I am absolutely blown away by what that’s going to mean as she grows up.”

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