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IQ Interactive Special Report - Shock Troops/The Agency: Cutting Edge

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Radio Edge's Kim Vasey brings fresh ideas to the streaming-audio ad table.
Kim Vasey, senior vice president for The Radio Edge, a recently created division of The Media Edge, New York, is not your typical media buyer. Truth be told, she's not your typical anything. Forget that the 20-odd-year advertising veteran lives two-and-a-half hours from her New York City office on an upstate farm, and that even after her morning commute she often, unbidden, as one would imagine, breaks out into Broadway show tunes in her office. And forget that, at one time, she and her husband owned 26 goats, and that Vasey quit her full-time job--freelancing on the side--to run the dairy farm. And let's not even mention that the part-time religious school teacher originally aspired to be a nurse.
Instead, what sets Vasey truly apart is that, unlike most of her colleagues, she is jumping feet first into the streaming-audio ad waters. She's been pounding the pavement at every important Internet radio convention held over the past 12 months, gathering information, asking questions and examining the myriad, and seemingly endless, new technologies that have the potential to change the way she and her clients, including AT&T, Sony, Dannon and Lincoln Mercury Dealers, do business.
"Around the world there are 13,000 streaming signals, in the U.S. alone about 3,500," says Vasey. "There are so many Internet-only channels that it's impossible to keep up with all the properties. And just about everybody is taking a look at streaming signals as having real potential--not just the streaming media companies. A lot of the networks, syndication companies are, too, [including] Premiere Radio, United Station, Media America--just about everybody is taking a look."
Perhaps the biggest boost to these companies, she adds, is the ability to make a stronger connection with their audiences. "People can go to a Web site, pull up information on artists, on-air personalities. There's e-commerce [and interactive] components. It's enhanced radio."
The ability to insert ads into streaming-audio content has yet to even reach the one-year mark. Late last fall, as reported in Adweek IQ (May 29, "The New Frontier"), Chicago-based RadioWave and Seattle-based RealNetworks launched audio ad-insertion products; and, in June, HiWire, Los Angeles, added an audio ad-delivery service. More companies are following suit this month.
Given its nascent status, it's not surprising that the biggest obstacle thus far is the lack of a standardized measurement tool--a key reason actual selling is yet to come.
"My next point of interest is learning how to educate buyers in how to evaluate these streaming properties that come to the table," Vasey says. "We're not jumping in without solid numbers." By early fourth quarter, she predicts, streaming audio will be "something we can sink our teeth into."
Currently, some 30 percent of Vasey's day is given over to streaming media. In her role at the new division, formed to integrate all aspects of radio, she also is responsible for overseeing spot and network radio buys.
According to Bob Igiel, president of The Media Edge's broadcast division, The Radio Edge was formed in order "to maximize our leverage on behalf of our clients." And Vasey, he adds, was chosen to lead it for several reasons: "Number one, she has a unique group of experiences. Kim also handles people beautifully and is very service oriented. But I think the most important trait she has is she's the most intellectually curious person around, and always using that curiosity on behalf of our clients."
Vasey joined The Media Edge, which is wholly owned by Young & Rubicam, in 1998 as vice president, associate director of local broadcast. Prior to The Media Edge, she had been vp of spot and network radio for New York-based Horizon Media, a company she was with for eight years. She has always been focused on radio, and says that "from an early age" she was being promoted to supervisory-level positions.
"I love dealing with people," she explains, "and I guess I have a very nurturing instinct. I like to help them learn new things, solve new problems, and people tell me I have a laid-back personality. There have been very few times in my career that I've flown off the handle."
Another trait is an ability to maintain a measured approach despite a gung-ho enthusiasm for new technologies. "I think there will be many opportunities for a client with a minimal budget to take a look at a streaming opportunity only," she says. "But do I think it will take over FM/AM traditional radio media buying? No, I see it more as an enhancement to an existing schedule." --Roberta Bernstein