AKQA Eyes More Media Business

NEW YORK AKQA has hired Agency.com veteran Scott Symonds to expand its media capabilities.

The San Francisco-based independent tapped Symonds as its executive media director, in charge of AKQA’s 18-strong media department. AKQA is looking to extend its planning and buying into new areas, including search, wireless and outdoor.

With ad budgets migrating to the Web and other digital channels, media has become an attractive growth area.

Global Internet ad spending grew more than 30 percent in 2006, according to Zenith Optimedia, which projects 28 percent growth this year.

“The digital media side is our No. 1 initiative globally,” said Andrew O’Dell, AKQA’s president of interactive advertising. “We think it’s the biggest growth opportunity.”

One of the first areas Symonds has targeted: search advertising, particularly for use beyond direct response. “I’m very interested in search from more of a brand standpoint” in terms of building overall client images, he said.

O’Dell added, “We believe the two, creative and media, should go hand in hand. They should be sitting at the same table and that’s what our clients are asking for.”

Symonds, 38, had been a media director in Agency.com’s San Francisco office. He joined that shop in 2004, when it purchased Exile on Seventh, where he worked for five years. His Agency.com clients included eBay and Wells Fargo.

He takes over from Christine Bensen, who left last February and joined Modem Media, a unit of Digitas, which was recently acquired by Publicis Groupe.

AKQA handles digital media assignments for clients like Comcast and Visa. In addition, AKQA recently executed a deal for Coca-Cola to run a holiday promotion on YouTube that showcased some of the video-sharing service’s most popular contributors.