Questions for Peter Weedfald of Samsung Electronics

A year ago (almost to the day), Samsung dramatically increased its investment in online advertising, a strategic shift that began with a $400 million global cross-media campaign.

The media buy kicked off online in mid-May 2002, later expanding to include TV, magazines, radio and outdoor. The South Korean electronics giant took an across-the-board approach with the money. They bought inventory on over 50 major sites, and often placed Web and print ads within the same properties. It’s one of the most committed demonstrations of faith and confidence in the online medium in recent memory.

Championing Samsung’s devotion to interactive marketing is Senior VP of Strategic Marketing Peter Weedfald. Weedfald is former COO and executive vice president of Bigfoot Interactive, and a tireless Web evangelist. ClickZ tracked him down to discuss Samsung’s online strategy a year after its enormous media buy, what Bigfoot taught him about the email channel, and why relevancy reigns supreme.

  1. Does the blanket coverage that characterized your online buy a year ago still fit strongly into the media strategy?

    Things have shifted a bit. A year ago, we had just started the process of working out our cost, inventory and strategy for the online effort. We’ve now built an information warehouse with nine or so channels for all Web inventory, with categories like business, entertainment, college and sports. Each one is locked and loaded in terms of demographics. If a product is appropriate for the college market, we’ll launch it in the college channel. We can also combine channels, such as entertainment and sports, for a different kind of push. That’s huge power.

  2. Many seem to think online advertising is floundering in a state of slow growth. Do you agree?

    Actually, I am very grateful if our competitors view the Internet this way. The Internet in my opinion is like Darwin on speed; it’s a maverick union between push and pull marketing. No other medium can express itself or claim a second-by-second conversation between an advertiser and a consumer, targeted rationally and thoroughly. Only a face-to-face sales engagement at the last three feet of the sale can compete with the mettle of sales and marketing fidelity the Internet can deliver.

    I believe during a state of slow growth, the Internet allows an aggressive apex predator to gain market share and mind share rapidly, if a strategy is executed properly. In fact, third party syndicated research continues to point out the rapid increase in consumer Internet usage for purchasing, for learning about products and services, and for communicating, as well as for a variety of entertainment purposes. In my opinion, this ascension of consumer interest in the Internet is causing a descent of interest and allotted time in more traditional advertising and information mediums.

  3. What was the greatest lesson you picked up at Bigfoot Interactive, particularly with regard to the email channel?

    The penetrating insights I gained from Bigfoot Interactive and its exceptional team members were much deeper and more valuable than the email marketing model at the core of its business model. The lesson learned about email is simple: that the positive aberration of email marketing versus other forms of marketing is only competitively advantaged if it is bi-modal, with a solid CRM philosophy and highly enabled CRM infrastructure. I learned the true advantage of email marketing is derived within asset areas of CRM such as data warehousing and mining.

  4. Do you think then that email is useless as a strictly direct marketing or opt-in medium?

    Whether we’re talking about email, ads or a direct mail, the obvious long-term and even short-term value is always relevancy. Therefore, I see power in the use of email for trigger-based marketing – for example, clicking on a banner for info about horses and getting an email with that info right away. If I opted in six months ago and am just now receiving an email, I’m going to ignore it.

    The list rental business blows my mind and constantly amazes me with its pointlessness. Please tell my competitors to continue renting list, as it’s one of the most irrelevant ways to reach potential customers. I’m referring to players like iwon.com, lotto.com, and even some of the broad-based list rental outlets.

  5. How do you feel about viral marketing? Doing any?

    It’s a wonderful subject and a great, unwatched science. If a consumer finds value and relevancy in what you sent them, enough to tell their friends and neighbors about it, that creates value not just for e-commerce but all of internet marketing. Not only have you created a free third party testimonial, but also a personal referral.

    We’ve added viral components to several recent campaigns through tie-ins with The Matrix, March Madness, and Valentine’s Day — mainly in the form of e-cards and online games. For diehard gamers, the [interface is] a bit junior. However, since we do not run any banners on gaming sites and results have been strong, we believe the look and feel — for the generalist — is on track.

  6. Recent weeks have seen the introduction of larger formats such as NYTimes.com’s half-page unit and Unicast’s full-page interstitial. How do you feel about the development? Is this what’s needed, from an advertiser’s perspective?

    Consumers are often fast and sometimes very slow to change. It took us about 60 years for consumers to feel comfortable with large format magazine ads. On the Web, we’ve trained people to accept these small boxes that are off to the side, which took six to seven years. Now that it’s obvious consumers don’t like Interstitials, those are being backed off on. And because we’ve backed off on those, many are saying, “Ok, let’s try half-page ads.”

    However, with a half-page ad, you take away user command and control. If every major Web site unilaterally went to half-page ads, we’d all be angry but we wouldn’t have a choice – and we’d eventually accept it. If just a handful of sites go to half-page, the companies that run those sites will see a reduction in traffic.

  7. Describe a typical day in the life of Peter Weedfald.

    I arrive each morning, and have done so for 20 years, at around 6:00 a.m. (something about “the early bird catches the… make that, the early bird catches the mind share and shelf space.”) I receive from 300 to 400 emails, 50 to 75 phone calls, and eight to 10 large format and unsolicited proposal packages a day.

    My typical day also has me switching between competitive information channels, new product launch plans, creative sessions, meetings with our important distribution partners, and much more than I could describe in a short response. Most importantly for me on a personal level, my typical day finds me enjoying the unbridled thrill of working with the best, most ardent and gregarious professionals in the business.

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