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Erlich’s Game-Playing Pays for StarLink

Aug 29, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Playing Creative Cat during a new business pitch for the Cranium account was a natural for StarLink’s Rebecca Erlich, who was promoted to media director in June.
For one thing, she’s an avid board-game player who was very familiar with Cranium and its four decks of cards—Data Head, Word Worm, Star Performer and Creative Cat. She’s also known for being creative in using consumer insights while working for clients.
For Cranium, Ms. Erlich helped categorize its consumers, calling them “enlightened optimist singles.”
“It’s like a lot of people who work around here,” she said. They are people who are more urban than average, a little more progressive and educated, and who value spending quality time with their family and friends.
“Board games and interactive games are a great way to do that,” she said.
StarLink is putting the finishing touches on the media plan for StarLink, but Ms. Erlich said the agency was working on a unique program with one of the social networking sites.
In her new job, Ms. Erlich said she’s got more management-level responsibilities, such as revenue forecasting, business planning and being involved in task forces formed by parent company Starcom MediaVest Group.
She talked enthusiastically about being the liaison for some new human resources processes being implemented at the agency, but she admitted it’s her client work that gets her most excited.
After her promotion, Ms. Erlich remained responsible for several StarLink clients, including Cranium, Chuck E. Cheese, Del Monte Brands, Natuzzi Furniture, the New York City Board of Tourism, Chaotic/4Kids Entertainment and Virgin Mobile.
One of the client projects she’s particularly excited about involved a Del Monte packaged-goods brand that’s combining digital and traditional elements in a unique way. She declined to name the brand, because it is still in test markets.
Ms. Erlich and her team figured out that the Del Monte brand’s consumer is spending a lot of time online as well as with traditional media. It turned to the Internet Broadcasting Systems— the company that operates Web sites for dozens of local TV stations— and bought ads on their pages and time on those stations.
“We negotiated some television exposure,” she said. The stations ran 10-second ads featuring their anchorpeople that drove people online. The agency calls the spots “TV Web drivers.”
“It was a great way to get some television exposure with an online buy, which is kind of a new way of looking at things, it kind of turned it on its ear,” she said. “We’re used to paying for traditional media and getting online as added value, but no longer. Online was really the driving force here, which is what I think made it pretty fun.
The campaign also used newspaper ads, spot TV and online programming. It was so successful that the campaign will be rolling out in five times as many markets this year.
Despite the campaign’s success, Ms. Erlich didn’t think the problem of integrating traditional media with online had been solved.
“I don’t think there’s a magic formula. I think it’s really figuring out who your target audience is and what insights you learn about them to figure out what is the best way to fuse the digital and the more traditional media,” she said.
Ms. Erlich grew up in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park and graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor of communication degree.
She wanted to be a novelist and has written some short pieces. Nothing’s been published yet, but she plans to keep trying.
She turned to the advertising business as an opportunity to blend the business and creative ends of things, and the choice was cemented after internships at ad agency Jordan Tamraz Caruso and PR firm Bozell.
Ms. Erlich started at Leo Burnett Media right out of college, handling accounts including Lego.
When sister agency StarLink won the Chuck E. Cheese account in 2004, Ms. Erlich was asked to move over to take advantage of her expertise with kids’ brands.
Ms. Erlich lives in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood with her husband—“he’s an attorney, the good kind”— and her 2½-year-old daughter. They’ve just finished some home remodeling projects. She said she also loves bike riding, traveling and spending time with family and friends.
Who Knew: Ms. Erlich said she never went to kindergarten. “My parents pushed me ahead. I completely skipped kindergarten and went directly to first grade,” she said. That meant she was always a year younger than the kids she went to school with. That wasn’t an issue until she was 20 and everyone else was 21. “I’m a play-by-the-rules kind of person. My friends were great and accommodated me,” she said. She joked that when she did turn 21, she made up for lost time, but demurred, saying that “makes me come off as a little more of a party animal than I am.”

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