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Technology Chicago Digital Marketing

Chicago’s top marketers weigh in on the state of digital advertising


By Adam Cohen-Aslatei | Senior director of marketing

November 7, 2017 | 8 min read

The heart of the Midwest is known for more than its deep dish pizza, windy weather, and world-class museums. Chicago is also a lucrative, historic advertising hub and home to some of the most well-known Fortune 500 brands including Walgreens, Millercoors, Mondelez, Kraft Heinz, McDonald's, Orbitz, Boeing, Hyatt Hotels and many more.

Chicago marketers discuss challenges and opportunities in the digital space.

Chicago marketers discuss challenges and opportunities in the digital space.

Despite the city’s thriving tech and marketing scene, coastal cities like New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco seem to get all the attention.

The Jun Group conducted a series of interviews featuring top Chicago marketers and asked about the challenges and opportunities in the digital space. The series peels back the many layers and complexities of modern digital marketing and distills best practices for moving the needle for top brands.

Sanjiv Gajiwala, chief marketing officer at Mike's Hard Lemonade on targeting and content production

“The way we produced ads ten or fifteen years ago is not relevant to the digital space. You can’t tell [long] stories like that today. [What’s important is] being sequential, being shorter, [and] communicating with a different syntax and grammar. Today, [we communicate] more ad hoc, and that’s just not how things have been done in the past.”

Rob Davis, president at Starcom on evaluating opportunities

“As much as the industry is trying to automate, there is still a human cost to chasing down every possibility [i.e. business opportunity]. We’re seeing a lot of cost pressures around talent as talent is becoming more specialized and rare and harder to fight for. Making sure that we have an organized, methodical, and strategic approach to what opportunities we chase down is becoming a balance. We don’t want to stifle innovation and creativity, but what we hear from clients is that they can’t chase down every lead.”

David Adelman, head at Mindshare Chicago on creating new digital capabilities

“We’ve seen huge growth in programmatic and in performance-based media. We’re doing so much right now to take a lot of the capabilities that are [fundamental] to programmatic, [such as] performance, search, social, and pull them together and knit them together into a much more powerful and cohesive brand-to-demand solution for our clients.”

Adele Lassere, vice president of media services at Burrell on multicultural trends

“The African-American consumer is setting a lot of trends, so we are usually first to know what’s hot and what’s up next. We try and make sure to [act quickly] before other agencies. You have to move fast and carefully because nothing is slow in this business.”

Dan Bruinsma, senior vice president, director of activation lead at Starcom on OTT video consumption

“We see a lot in the consumption of over-the-top videos. This is both challenging and exciting. The more behavior that goes behind a paywall, [the more] it becomes a unique challenge. For example, Netflix’s growth could be problematic, but it also means that consumers are really interested in on-demand consumption of video. You also have ad-supported models [for on-demand video] that as an advertiser, you can build [based on consumer] behavior.”

Julie Lee, managing director at Wavemaker (formerly Maxus) Chicago on spending your next media dollar

“One of the questions I get asked the most is where I should spend my next dollar. It always goes back to how sound your media strategy is because that is what will dictate where you should spend and invest your next dollar. We have all sorts of tools to help us understand when we’ve maxed out a media channel, and I would argue that you [as an advertiser] would rather do fewer better things than too many things poorly.”

Brad Feinberg, senior director of media & consumer connections at MillerCoors on the changing face of the consumer

“Consumers have changed and behaviors have changed. The youngest millennial is now 21 and are all now in the [legal drinking age] category. Their behaviors and attitudes reshape how we consider [marketing]. Our category used to be dominated by male-focused marketing and sports-focused marketing, [but] given that a big piece of our consumer base is female, we’ve done a lot more to be inclusive.”

Chris Wexler, senior vice president, executive director of media and analytics at Cramer-Krasselt on getting to the right data

“In the balance of art and science, [marketing] has been an art for many generations but is evolving to much more of a science. Just having data doesn’t do anything for us. Having it be actionable is the critical part, so we’ve focused on aligning our data so we can quickly get to the information we need. Actually having [your own data specialists] on staff is important so that we can do it ourselves. Agencies have great front-end people, but we need great back-end people. “

Charles Rasmussen, vice president of digital at Burrell on marketing cost trade-offs

“I see a lot of what I call ‘lazy marketing.’ We live in a world where we have seemingly unlimited data, and we have consumers who expect to have personalized experiences and communication. On the other side, we have clients who prioritize speed and cost efficiency, and are really focused on the bottom line while not taking advantage of the resources that exist.”

Lisa Weinstein, former chief executive at Engine Media on the state of digital marketing and advertising

“It's been a challenging time in our business, without a doubt. There have been a lot of darts thrown at agencies and the agency model. I am a fundamental believer in our business: tech-enabled services and marketing services that connect brands, their content, their messaging with consumers [in order] to sell, to move the needle, to change a perception, to build trust, love etc. with brands.”

Jeff Daniel, vice president at Upshot Agency on testing new media partners

“The way I talk about it with my team is, what’s the 2.0 or 3.0 this year? The only way we’re going to get there is if we get the brands to align on ‘test and learns’ with new media partners or a new enabling technology, like a dynamic creative platform. Have your agency educate you quickly on what types of partners and channels will help deliver on that objective.”

Kandace Barker, vice president of media at Digitas on families bonding over smartphones

“We just saw some data that talked about how cell phones are like nannies now. And parents don’t feel bad about it. As long as they feel like they can ‘co-view’ and watch the content together, it's actually a bonding experience. They can do these things together and on-the-go. That to me was mind-blowing - how much time kids actually spend on mobile devices.”

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