Stephen Gendreau is ACTIVE Network’s Director of Advertising & Media Operations and has worked in digital marketing for more than 15 years—he’s even won an Emmy! Now, he oversees ACTIVE’s Digital Marketing Agency. We sat down to learn more about him, his team and all the latest trends in digital marketing.
How did you get your start in marketing?
I started college as an art major, but my first job after school was in sales. The company I was working for needed someone to take over their website: sell their website, update their website, make suggestions; general website maintenance. I volunteered; I knew a baseline amount, but a lot was learning as I went. If something wasn’t working and I didn’t know how to fix it, I would troubleshoot things until I found a solution, or I would find someone who could help me find the solution.
After that work experience; I found myself working for a television station in Minneapolis. I became a subject expert in digital marketing; working with the sales staff to help them sell advertising on the station website. I made needed updates to the advertising portion of the website which improved our advertising service and provided a better digital presence.
We’re all curious, tell us about the Emmy you won while working at the station.
The PGA Championship was coming to Minneapolis that year and the news station decided to put on a one-time sports special. The team I was working with wanted to do something that set us apart and we came up with the idea to do a game show type program. It had a digital component where people in the city submitted a video about why they were the biggest “Golf Nut”. A user-generated content platform was designed where it hosted their videos online, and then a voting process was created for site users.
The top 20 contestants were interviewed by our team and we narrowed them down to four. Those contestants were taken out to play a round of golf that was non-conventional including having distractions, not following the normal course and various other surprises. The round of golf was then aired on the station and had an overwhelmingly positive response by viewers. Ultimately, the episode was submitted for Emmy consideration and won.
What did you learn from that ‘campaign’ that influences the way you approach campaigns today?
The biggest takeaway from the project was learning how to effectively run a digital campaign and that taking risks and moving outside the box can generate significant interest. The experience continues to impact various marketing campaigns that I am involved within my current work: Being creative, trying new things and working across areas of expertise are some of the most important aspects of what our marketing team does today.
How do you think your experience in marketing makes you a good fit to help ACTIVE’s customers with their marketing efforts?
Adaptability is the most effective tool we currently use. Each customer is going to be different, it’s not a one-size-fits-all marketing program. Each individual campaign, each individual race or event is going to have different needs. Having an individual approach rather than a standard cookie cutter approach helps our team to thrive in this environment. Analyzing individual campaigns and making adjustments through every step allows us to have maximum results.
What’s your favorite part of digital marketing?
The constant evolution of the advertising online keeps me searching for new methods and strategies to stay in the forefront. There are always new ways to get the product or offering to consumers on the internet and our team is looking for the most current and advanced way to advertise.
With so much constant change, how do you and your team stay ahead of the curve?
As a team, we make it a priority to consistently share information we have with each other. Whether that’s sharing industry articles, or simply sharing our personal experiences with various campaigns.
Beyond our team we take advantage of ACTIVE Network’s knowledge as a whole. Whether it’s product managers, sales staff, executives; some people have worked in the activities industry for more than 20 years and utilizing their expertise helps us to target our campaigns to the right people with the right messaging.
Additionally, I have built and maintained a strong network of digital marketing professionals from outside of the company that I speak with frequently to help solve problems or share new discoveries.
What differentiates the ACTIVE Digital Marketing Agency from other agencies?
The biggest difference I see is data transparency. By working in the activities industry for 20 years: ACTIVE has data and knowledge that allows us to fully understand our customers’ customers. This means we can run campaigns that are aimed at the right people and garner the best returns on advertising spending.
Throughout the process we are transparent with our digital marketing clients. We offer a dashboard that clearly shows performance of campaigns and data insights that help them to understand what’s working, what’s not working and more importantly, why. A lot of marketing agencies won’t do that, but we truly consider ourselves a partner of our clients. This process allows our advertising customers to gain more than revenue returns, but also a deeper understanding of their customers and how to engage them.
What does the process look like when you all are first starting to work with a new client?
We begin with a discovery process where we work to gain information about the clients’ business and past marketing efforts. This gives our team a wealth of information regarding what has or hasn’t worked for the client. We explore who the client is working to engage through their advertising and their ultimate goal for the advertising process. All of this information is used to help us design a beginning campaign and from this point we make any necessary adjustments moving forward to provide our client with the most beneficial services and that allows them to provide benefit to their intended consumer.