Chris Allen Makes Moves to Starcom from GSD&M

Oct 17, 2007  •  Post A Comment

Just because you’re a new-media guy doesn’t mean you can go out and expense a new iPhone.
Chris Allen, who recently joined Starcom as VP/video innovation director, said he wanted an iPhone from the day it was released.
“The day they took $200 off of it, I marched down to the Apple store and got one,” he said. He reports that he likes it, but is finding it a challenge keeping it synched with his business contacts.
Since taking his new job, Mr. Allen also has begun streaming video and using online services such as Veoh.
An interest in new media is one reason Mr. Allen moved to Chicago-based Starcom after 13 years at GSD&M, where he was a VP in Chicago, overseeing national television and radio buying initiatives for clients including AT&T, whose account is now in review.
Leaving GSD&M was a tough decision, Mr. Allen said.
“I really grew up there,” he said, but “Starcom approached me, which of course was very flattering.”
Starcom presented an opportunity to work in new media, an area in which the company already has a great deal of expertise.
Mr. Allen caught the new-media bug while at GSD&M, but most of AT&T’s new-media work was handled out of GSD&M’s headquarters in Austin, Texas.
“It was something I was definitely interested in, but I just didn’t have the time to focus on that in addition to the traditional responsibilities,” he said. “I was seeing new and growing opportunities in some of these emerging spaces, and so it just felt like a natural transition to make the leap over to Starcom. They have a very well-developed video innovation team and [senior VP and video innovation director] Tracey Scheppach, who I report to, is certainly well known and well regarded in the industry.”
How does his background fit in?
“My role is to help bridge the gap between traditional media and the emerging platforms,” Mr. Allen said. “Tracey really has the expertise in and understanding of the ins and outs of these platforms and the technology behind them, and my expertise is to really understand the negotiation process, bring strong relationships with the sales communities over and just help to streamline the process, making things run more efficiently.”
Mr. Allen said jumping to a job in new media doesn’t mean he thinks traditional media is a sinking ship.
“I think from a career perspective, I want to be well-rounded in both areas,” he said. “I think there are ways to build synergies between platforms. There are a lot of areas with the technology that will help us provide more targeted messaging to consumers.”
Mr. Allen grew up in the suburbs of Dallas and was planning to be a magazine layout designer when he went to school at the University of Texas in Austin.
The program he enrolled in turned out not to be exactly what he was looking for. He took an advertising course and found it fascinating. The creative side of the advertising business appealed to him at first, but he later changed his mind.
“I found the fact that everything is very subjective to be very stressful,” he said. “At the same time, I happened to be taking a media course and found that there was an opportunity to be both creative and have a lot of the analytical data to support decisions that were being made, and so I was really drawn to it. Media really values people who can approach it from an analytical perspective but also be creative.”
After getting his Bachelor of Science degree in advertising, he joined GSD&M, where he did a little bit of everything. When the agency was looking to staff its new Chicago office, he raised his hand.
Mr. Allen was the sixth employee of GSD&M in Chicago. The office now has between 76 and 80 on staff. “It was a great experience to help grow that office,” he said.
In his spare time, Mr. Allen has been renovating the kitchen in his condominium. “The building has a very 1980s kitchen, so it really needed a do-over.”
Other than putting in a wine fridge, he’s unsure about the new design. “I’m just trying to do something different, trying to figure out what’s next in terms of what’s going to sell it when I’m ready to sell it in a few years,” he said. “Everybody’s got granite and stainless steel. I’m trying to figure out what the next options are. I’m innovating my kitchen.”
He also enjoys international travel and visiting his family back in Texas.
Who Knew: Someday Mr. Allen would like to open an event-planning and catering business. “I love to cook and I love to entertain, so that’s one of the reasons to renovate my kitchen,” he said. When he goes to an event, “I’m very critical,” he notes. He was planning to go to a friend’s wedding at Galleria Marchetti, a party facility in Chicago. “Supposedly it’s a really cool venue for wedding receptions, so I’m anxious to see how it turns out.”


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