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Insider: Traffic Cop

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It's said that a former phone company veteran is a cinch to spot in any office environment, so predictable are the ways of that particular breed of executive.
Wayne Mitchell, or just Mitch, is the exception. The 10-and-a-half-year veteran of Nynex, and later its merger partner, Bell Atlantic, has made a seamless transition into his new job at online media specialists i-traffic in lower Manhattan, even among the group of twentysomethings he manages.
Sure, there's a slight generation gap, the 39-year-old Mitchell acknowledges; he just cannot get accustomed to the sounds of The Beastie Boys blaring from the office stereo.
Still, there are ways in which Mitchell can iden-tify with his younger charges. He played bass in a New York punk band in the '70s. And, although the two never met, he has a shared experience with Howard Stern. His first job out of college was as an overnight disc jockey on WRNW in Briarcliff Manor, N.Y., the same station where Stern got his break. After two brief jobs writing telemarketing scripts, Nynex came calling.
As vice president/account manager at i-traffic, a position he's held since June, Mitchell oversees efforts to drive traffic to clients CDnow and Beyond.com.
It's not unlike some of the pioneering work he's performed since the pre-Web days, getting Nynex's electronic yellow pages product distributed across early online services such as France's Minitel and Prodigy a decade ago. Mitchell also is responsible for incubating the more prominent BigYellow Web directory, which was started by Nynex in the mid-'90s. He hired artists and writers to work among the so-called Bellheads--to make BigYellow a more appealing read than its bulky predecessor. Way back in 1994 he oversaw an online marketing budget that, at nearly $2 million, made BigYellow one of the Internet's biggest advertisers in 1995 and 1996.
He views BigYellow as a lesson in both online direct marketing and in the possibilities of building brands online. "When I was with BigYellow we built a non-existent brand on a non-existent medium to an audience that didn't exist," he explains. Today, i-traffic clients are looking for something more measurable: "to build a revenue stream for commerce."
There is a tie, albeit a tenuous one, between his radio days and his career in online media. "You want to bring the right message to the right person at the right time," Mitchell says. "It's really all about evaluating who the listener on the radio, or the Web user, is."