Digitas’ Emerging Media Guru Departs

NEW YORK Digitas’ director of emerging media platforms Greg Verdino is leaving the agency to join new-media startup Crayon.

Verdino, 38, will join the new agency set up by industry consultant Joseph Jaffe to help brands navigate emerging channels like virtual worlds. The nine-person shop boasts Coke as a client, helping the soft-drink giant conceive its “Virtual Thirst” Second Life effort that invites users to design virtual vending machines. Crayon also works for American Airlines.

At Crayon, Verdino will serve as chief strategic officer, working with clients to develop strategies and programs related to blogs, podcasting, virtual worlds and related channels.

“My passion and focus are on emerging channels,” Verdino said. “It’s a very small piece of what any big agency does. The things that are Nos. 13, 14 and 15 on the traditional agency’s list are Nos.1, 2 and 3 at Crayon.”

Since its acquisition by Publicis Groupe in December for $1.3 billion, Digitas has focused on expansion, gaining a London presence in a corporate restructuring and yesterday inking a deal to acquire a French digital agency. Digitas CEO David Kenny has voiced his ambition for the agency to match the empire building achieved by media and technology companies like Google.

“There is a huge part of the puzzle missing right now: the ability to go beyond the superficial execution,” said Jaffe. “It’s a spectacular fireworks display and 30 minutes later you can hear the crickets chirping and the sky is dark.”

Instead, Jaffe envisions Crayon helping brands conceive and build conversational marketing programs that are ongoing and without end dates.

Verdino spent a year at Digitas, where he scouted out opportunities for clients in areas like social media, mobile and gaming. During his tenure, Digitas client Cingular sponsored a YouTube contest for new bands and Pontiac linked up with Yahoo! for a social-media aggregator.

Prior to joining Digitas, Verdino worked for a year at ROO, a broadband video network and syndication channel, where he was a senior vice president. His resume also includes stints at Arbitron NewMedia, Akami and Globix.

His agency experience includes Barry Blau, Saatchi & Saatchi and Geer DuBois.

Like Jaffe, Verdino is the writer of a popular digital marketing blog. That kind of hands-on experience with social media is rare at agencies, Verdino said, despite clients asking their shops for help navigating such channels.

“When we talk about blogging, we’re not just talking form the perspective of being marketing profession, but as actual bloggers,” he said. “We’ve rolled up our sleeves and found what it takes to successfully engage in the blogosphere.”