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The Digital Place-based Evangelist: An interview with Susan Danaher

Susan Danaher

If you’re familiar with the digital place-based space, you’ve heard Sue Danaher’s name. The current Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer at Adspace Networks, Inc. is well-regarded for her positive influence on the industry, markedly the heightened profile attained by the Digital Place-based Advertising Association under her direction. For all that she has accomplished, however, Sue is a down-to-earth, congenial being who knows how to engage in conversation. No wonder she thrives in the communications realm.

“Am I supposed to truly admit how long I’ve been in the industry?” laughed Sue when answering the question. “A long, long time.” Sue completed a degree in Psychology, a major that allowed her to blend as many skill sets as possible, which she has continued to do since entering the advertising world in 1979. As a research analyst at Young & Rubicam, Sue became research-savvy while recognizing that a higher-paced tempo would be more suited to her temperament. She thus moved into media planning, giving her the opportunity to strategize and gain insight into a variety of businesses.

“This time of my life was fabulous for two reasons,” said Sue. “I learned fundamental marketing lessons – the best MBA one could ask for, and although I didn’t know it then, developed relationships with people who would come to hold reputable positions, which I greatly appreciate now.”

Sue’s first encounter with digital place-based media was in 1984 while she was working on the P&G brand, Pampers, and Whittle Communications attempted to sell the idea of advertising to women in hospital maternity wards. Ironically, Sue didn’t move forward with the project as she didn’t believe the programming was optimized for the dwell time, but from then on she began to think about the category’s potential. Years later, Sue became the President of Reactrix, a company specializing in groundbreaking projection technology that responded to human interactions. Not only was she intrigued by the compelling way this technology could engage and involve a consumer, Sue was able to learn about the entire spectrum by representing Reactrix on OVAB’s Board of Directors. “I was then recruited as the DPAA’s President and CEO, and the rest is kind of history,” smiled Sue.

“I loved my time spent with the DPAA,” said Sue. “I originally entered the world of cable because I was attracted to the prospect of building something new, evangelising and motivating people to adopt new behaviours. Decades later, I found the same fantastic challenge within digital place-based. It was fun to think of the industry from a 30,000 foot view and aggregate member research and activity into a story that could help advertisers understand the value of reaching consumers away from home. It was a fabulous canvas to work on and bring to life.”

As if her soft spot for DPb is not contagious enough, Sue is an advocate of the medium’s strength moving forward. “I don’t know that many people will say they love the advertising that gets in the way from watching a YouTube video,” she said, “but I do know that consumers actually enjoy seeing ads in malls, where they are in a favourable frame of mind and absorbing what is available to them. Advertisers are feeling vulnerable as ad-skipping technologies proliferate and the out-of-home realm presents tremendous opportunity to morph one of the oldest elements in the media landscape with the newest digital applications.”

Regarding other changes to the advertising industry, Sue commented on the shifts within the agencies themselves, in that the once-distinct divisions between media types have blurred. Media planners and buyers tend to have difficulty placing digital place-based into a silo because it equally fits into categories ranging from television and mobile to digital and out-of-home. Now that internal shuffling is beginning to eradicate media divisions and strategy is being evaluated in terms of brand groups, advertisers will be able to place digital place-based with a brand and benefit from the versatility and flexibility of the medium.

“I see the industry continuing to grow in the way it has thus far, but I think it will do so along strategic lines of which we’ve only just started to scratch the surface.” Given Sue’s track record, this vision is more like a positive self-fulfilling prophecy.

About Susan

Susan Danaher took the helm as EVP/CRO at Adspace Networks in April of 2013.  She brought to Adspace a unique industry perspective from her time as the DPAA President/CEO.  Danaher has a blend of agency experience (in research, planning and buying), an understanding of how to grow a medium from her work in cable television during its formative years, as well as experience at a VC-backed, entrepreneurial digital out-of-home company (Reactrix).  She has put all of these skills to work in leading Adspace Networks’ sales team, and driving incremental revenue in 2013.

Before joining Adspace Networks, Danaher led the DPAA as its president and CEO, sat on its board in 2007 and 2008, when the organization was known as OVAB. At the time, she was president of Reactrix Systems, Inc. Reactrix provided interactive media experiences, based on projection technology, in shopping malls and theater lobbies. At Reactrix, Danaher developed new distribution channels and sold the medium to numerous Fortune 500 advertisers.

Danaher joined Reactrix from MTV Networks, where she spent 13 years (1993-2006) in a variety of ad sales roles. As executive vice president/general sales manager from 2001-06, she oversaw sales for Nickelodeon, Nick on CBS, Nick@Nite, Noggin, TV Land and Spike TV, as well as for various MTV Networks web properties, Nick Recreations and Tours, Nickelodeon Hotel and the Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. Family magazines.

Before joining MTV Networks, Danaher was vice president, western region ad sales manager for Turner Broadcasting Company from 1988-93, overseeing national sales for TBS, TNT and Cartoon Network. She joined Turner in 1988 as an account executive.

From 1985-1986, Danaher was an account executive in the ad sales group at USA Network, following six years on the agency side of the business with Benton & Bowles (media planning) and Young & Rubicam (media research).

Danaher earned a bachelor’s degree from HamiltonCollege in 1979.