Media All-Star: Steve Kalb | Adweek Media All-Star: Steve Kalb | Adweek
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Media All-Star: Steve Kalb

Mullen's svp, director, video investments, connected QR codes and TV advertising

Jeremy Goldberg

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Two years ago, Steve Kalb, svp and director of video investments at Mullen, plugged into something a lot of other media agencies are only now beginning to realize: The lines between online video content and television were starting to get fuzzy. He understood that consumers wouldn't always see the world in such starkly different brackets.

"Everyone in our business always had separate monikers of 'broadcast buyer' or 'digital buyer' or whatever," Kalb says. "We're trying to morph it all together."

In 2009, Kalb renamed his broadcast buying group, changing it to the video investment group--a nod to viewers' increasingly media-agnostic behavior. "The old days of buying some spots on television and calling it a day are long, long gone," says Kalb. "People are consuming video in various different places. More and more, digital becomes an important portion of the media plan."

Kalb's job, then, is to incorporate digital advertising tactics into traditional media buys on behalf of clients including Ask.com, CSX, Match.com, and LendingTree.

This past spring, for example, Kalb oversaw a campaign for CSX wherein viewers could hold their smartphones up to a TV spot to join the CSX Facebook page and enter to win a cash prize from the company. It was one of the first QR code campaigns on cable television, and CSX saw three times as many contest entrants than it had expected. The company also more than doubled its Facebook fan base.

Kalb also headed an innovative buy for Ask.com. The agency overlaid an Ask.com search bar on programming on NBC, Fox, and cable networks including FX and USA that posed content-related questions about the show or movie being watched, and encouraged viewers to go to the Ask.com website for the answers.

His team's campaign for Match.com had real members of the dating service tapped for television appearances on a variety of networks, including USA, TBS, and WE tv. The effort had roots in branded online-video content.

Alexis Ferraro, senior marketing manager at Match.com, says that many companies, including Match, still look for the reach that television provides--but that "lines are [being] blurred between online and offline." Mullen's buyers, she notes, "tie our TV campaigns to the online [space]."