5 Questions for Bill Sweetman, MacLaren McCann Direct & Interactive

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Bill Sweetman
_Bill Sweetman, “a One Degree Contributor”:http://www.onedegree.ca/contributors/bill_sweetman “recently became”:http://www.onedegree.ca/2006/01/12/bill-sweetman-to-join-maclaren-mccann Vice President of Internet Strategy at “MacLaren McCann Direct & Interactive.”:http://www.maclaren.com/. Bill is one of the interactive marketing industry’s most respected authorities, and his innovative work over the last 15+ years has been recognized by numerous awards, including the prestigious Internet World Impact Award for Communications. Bill has overseen Internet marketing campaigns for companies such as Alliance Atlantis Communications, CBC, Dupont, Enbridge Gas Distribution, Harlequin Enterprises, Hewlett-Packard, Pfizer Canada, and RBC Royal Bank._
*One Degree: Congratulations on the new role at MacLaren McCann Direct & Interactive! What made you move to a large agency after so many years of working on your own or in very small shops?*
There were many contributing factors to my decision, however the biggest one was that by joining MMDI I would have the opportunity to do way more of what I’m best at and enjoy, which is acting as a coach, resource, and devil’s advocate to lots of colleagues and clients. Although the role wasn’t created specifically for me, it sure felt that way, and that is why I leapt at the opportunity.
Over the years I had also come to realize that I missed the daily interaction with a group of people I would consider peers, and I had also grown tired of not having the client budgets or internal resources to act on the recommendations I would make to clients. There’s an amazing team at MacLaren McCann that can do just about anything, and it’s so wonderful to have that kind of engine at your fingertips.
*One Degree: Big agencies talk a lot about integrating strategies across channels but often struggle when it’s time to execute. How does MacLaren McCann approach this challenge?*


It begins with a firmly held belief in the importance of integration at the highest levels of the organization. (This, by the way, was another reason I was attracted to MacLaren McCann.) The “silo” mentality is frowned upon, and there’s a concerted effort to bring in the various channel stakeholders as early as possible on new client initiatives.
MacLaren McCann also invests a great deal of time in educating its staff – we have an internal training program called MMU – so that our folks are up-to-speed on the changes in the media landscape.
*One Degree: I’m seeing a lot of US articles about the rapid rise of online video as an ad vehicle. What’s your take on the role of video on the Net, particularly in Canada?*
It’s funny that you mention this because I began my career working as a filmmaker and later television commercial producer-director. With the high broadband penetration that we have in Canada, you’re going to see a lot more use of advertising-related video on the Internet. Initially, of course, this is taking the form of ‘re-purposing’ television commercials and plopping them into Websites. I believe that approach will soon be seen as cost-of-entry, if not just uninspired. Where things get really interesting is when ‘made-for-Internet’ video content becomes commonplace.
Still, as much as I love the visceral power of video, I’m always going to be championing ways to make video exploit the interactive capabilities of the Internet. The last thing I want to see are computers being used as televisions.
*One Degree: Who needs a bigger kick in the ass to get on the Net advertising bandwagon – big advertisers or small businesses?*
Neither.
The small business folks, God bless them, are more motivated in and excited about advertising online, however they tend to have unrealistic expectations and not enough budget to do things effectively. In the worst cases, they think of Internet marketing as a cheap or free alternative to doing anything else, and then are frustrated when it doesn’t live up to their unrealistic expectations.
The big advertisers, on the other hand, have got plenty of budget and want to “do stuff online” but many are still skittish about re-directing an appropriate portion (based on reach) of their budget to a medium they don’t fully understand.
Small or large, I’m not blaming the advertisers because the responsibility rests with us Internet marketers (whether we are freelancers, at boutiques, or working at large agencies) to help our clients understand and then capitalize on the potential of this medium.
*One Degree: Finally, a selfish and self-referential question. Why do you write for One Degree?*
I genuinely love helping people figure this Internet marketing stuff out, and One Degree is an efficient vehicle for me to help lots of people do that. I also benefit from going through my week keeping an eye out for topics to write about. This helps me identify trends and forces me to continually learn new and interesting things.
Finally, I’ve been writing regularly for publications since I was 16 years old, so it’s obviously something I enjoy doing even though I still don’t consider myself a writer.

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