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PHD’s Craig Daitch Caught Mobile Bug Early

Sep 5, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Craig Daitch, VP, director of interactive strategy at PHD, says it was his father’s beeper that first got him interested in the world of new media.
“I was fascinated by the pager that my father had on his belt, because no matter what we were doing, we could be at Sea World of all places, and if that pager went off that immediately took instant priority over anything else in our lives,” he recalled.
Unlike most people preoccupied with contemplating their BlackBerries, pages to Mr. Daitch’s dad could literally be a life-and-death matter: He was a doctor.
The lesson about the immediacy of wireless messaging stuck with Mr. Daitch. When he returned to college and got a hand-me-down cell phone, his interest was piqued when it wouldn’t work with the carrier he approached first.
“When I asked why, they said it was a different protocol, a different standard. I had no idea what that meant,” he said. “I was actually a history major, but it certainly intrigued me. I started doing research on my own terms of what the different standards in mobile were and why it was somebody could receive a text message on one device versus another device.”
Mr. Daitch took that research and put it into a business plan for a new company called Simple Wire, which became one of the first text-messaging aggregators in the U.S.
“A few months later we had thousands upon thousands upon thousands of developers building applications using text messaging as the base of that application and embedding our product in theirs,” he said.
“One application that came from overseas was the ringtone. We’d never heard of a ringtone before and all of a sudden people are sending sounds that are very familiar to other people, and a whole new industry was created,” he said.
He also started looking into other nascent technologies, such as social media and in-game advertising.
All of this was going on as the Internet bubble was bursting.
“I made enough to pay down on a house and I was intellectually rich,” he said.
He started another company, Eiko Media, which created integrated campaigns for companies including Chrysler. With the money from selling that company, Mr. Daitch was able to pay off his car loan.
But after his wife became pregnant, Mr. Daitch gave up the entrepreneurial life to work for advertising giant Omnicom. He’d formed a relationship with Omnicom agencies BBDO, Organic and PHD while working on Chrysler projects, starting with Organic in Detroit and then moving to New York to work with PHD.
He’s enthusiastic about some of the campaigns he’s helped put together for such PHD clients as Discovery Communications.
For the Discovery Network show “Future Weapons,” about recently declassified weapons, PHD put together a campaign to reach hardcore gamers who play shoot-’em-up and fantasy games built around Gears of War, one of the first games on the XBox 360. Discovery gave away downloadable content for the game and fee points on XBox Live. The campaign was supported with tune-in ads bought through Massive, Microsoft’s in-game advertising network.
When the show’s second season premiered, ratings were up and the client was happy, Mr. Daitch said.
PHD also is putting together text-and-win campaigns for Discovery and has widgets running on Facebook for Animal Planet’s “Meerkat Manor.”
Mr. Daitch was born in Evanston, Ill., and grew up in Detroit. He studied history at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. He’d planned to be a history teacher until the entrepreneurial bug bit.
Now he lives in New York with his wife and daughter, two dogs, two cats and a bunch of tropical fish. At one time, he had Southern flying squirrels as pets.
“My wife’s like Steve Irwin Jr.,” he said. “She’s all over animals.”
His daughter is “3 going on 30,” he added. “She’s very smart, very opinionated.”
Mr. Daitch said he loves to play guitar (he said he’s played in public and has a video up on YouTube), surfing the Web and playing video games.
Favorite sites including GigaOm and Autoblog, and he also admits to catching up on the gossip on TMZ and the Drudge Report.
He enjoys Wii sports games, boxing in particular. He said he once knocked out the producer of a video game who was also a client.
“He couldn’t show his face. He got beat by an ad guy,” Mr. Daitch said.
WHO KNEW: Mr. Daitch said he was a state champion singer in high school. “I’ve got a gold medal and a cheesy picture of me in a tuxedo somewhere in my mother’s house,” he said. He also sang in the University Chorale. These days, he can still “sing a mean ‘Phantom of the Opera,’” typically for an audience of two—his wife and daughter.

28 Comments

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