August 28, 2013

A Word With the Boss: VIA Agency employs creativity to compete nationally

By Edward D. Murphy
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Leeann Leahy, president and general manager of the Via Agency, says, “The opportunity to be creative is always there and being in Portland, we can march to a different drummer.”

Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Q. How do you reach your target audience in a fragmented media universe?

A. We are seeing shifting formats. Television, in terms of three networks, has certainly deteriorated. Now, 230 channels come in a basic (cable) package, but video is more important than ever before, because it gets deployed across multiple channels and is still a way to create an emotional connection and a way to create that story together. All of the social platforms are there to create an open conversation with consumers. A lot of brands are still in television and print, but they're augmenting that with non-traditional media that allows them to be in an open dialogue with the consumer.

Q. Is the latest trend in advertising to be over-the-top -- to make advertising almost a send-up of advertising?

A. Not necessarily. To go back to Republic Wireless, this particular brand is a brand that's all about the democratization of the smart phone and he's trying to save us from the injustice of the wireless industry. I think that's the characteristic of this particular brand. And certainly Perdue, which is another recent win for us, is a category leader and they are trying to lead the category to a new place -- to help Moms understand that not all chicken is created equally and (challenge) the rest of the category to step up. That's not subversive at all, and the engaging way we present it will make it more successful.

Q. With the near-constant change, where does the advertising industry go from here?

A. I think that the pace of change is increasing, and there are great opportunities in that, but we have to know how to keep moving and keep evolving. I do know that the need for an agency is to take a role in helping clients create strategic platforms. I think that there's more and more clients can execute on their own, but the objectivity and the outsider's perspective that an agency can provide around strategy and ideation, in particular, is very important.

Q. What's your favorite all-time ad -- not one you were involved with?

A. There are so many ads that have resonated with me over the years. From my childhood, I have vivid images of campaigns like Tootsie Pop's iconic "how many licks," Crest's animated cavities chanting "we make holes in teeth," Coke's "I'd like to buy the world a Coke" and Enjoli perfume's feminist anthem, "I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan..." But over the years and my involvement in the business, I have admired a lot of brands for their breakthrough work. One of my favorites spots is Nike's "if you let me play sports" because it is powerful and inspirational and simple. Another is the "Snapple Letters" campaign where Wendy the Snapple Lady read fan letters and they were answered. I worked on that campaign, so it might be a cheat, but the fact is it resonated me with and with so many because it was the world's most loving and fan-centric soft drink.

Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:


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