Next Media Stars: Natasha Stevens

OMD's Natasha Stevens is the first of strategy magazine's nominees for its 2010 Next Media Star awards. Find out how she became a high-flyer at the agency thanks to her airport expertise.

Strategy asked the top brass at media agencies across the country to give credit where it’s due and name their brightest young media minds. The winner will be selected by the strategy Media Agency of the Year jury and announced this fall.

Natasha Stevens, media strategist, OMD Toronto

Claim to fame
In just three years working in media, OMD strategist Natasha Stevens has become a bona fide authority on airport advertising, thanks to her work on the Rogers account over the past year. Pioneering media executions helped Rogers score a Place-Based MIA in 2009 for its U.S. roaming campaign – on which Stevens was the lead.

‘We were asked to target adults who travel to the U.S. at least once a year without their children, and these people really want to stay in touch with their family and friends,’ says Stevens. ‘We knew we needed to reach people in airports right before they left, so we wanted to dominate and do things that have never been done before.’

That led to glass decals on moving walkways, branded napkins distributed by flight attendants on Air Canada flights and a new medium in airport bookstores: bookmarks.

Rogers experienced five times the number of roaming activations within two weeks of launch and extended the campaign into 2010, growing it from a limited-time execution to a priority with year-round support and ultimately taking it international.

Other first-ever executions this year included digital screen danglers at the Calgary International Airport and new boards at Pearson International in Toronto.

Stevens and her team aren’t stopping there, looking into messaging on the back of e-cards, online booking printouts and security bin advertising that’s launched in the U.S. but has yet to appear in Canada.

Stevens’s frontier-busting isn’t just restricted to airports. She’s also bringing her DIY media penchant to the streets. For a Rogers consumer wireless campaign launching this month, she led a partnership with Vancouver’s Flow Media to bring large-format HD video-screen tech Ad Glass to Canadian storefronts for the first time.

‘It’s never been done, there’s audio on it, it’s really going to capture the attention of people walking by,’ says Stevens. ‘It’s a way to get a downtown presence other than cluttered billboards.’

The score on Stevens

For Stevens, 27, the rise to Next Media Stardom was swift. Originally from Brantford, ON., she went to Fanshawe College in London, ON., for its Business Purchasing program, then came to Toronto for Humber College’s Advertising and Media Sales program, graduating in 2006.

Her first media gig was as an account assistant at ZenithOptimedia, where she spent two years on brands like Fox Entertainment and Nestlé Infant Nutrition. But when OMD took on the Rogers account, she saw an opportunity she couldn’t pass up, and moved over.

Stevens joined the team at OMD a year ago and has taken flight. ‘I knew it was going to be a challenge,’ she says. ‘It’s such a huge account. I really felt like I was ready for something new.’

What’s the biggest untapped airport media opportunity?
‘We could do kiosks or sampling, where there is someone standing there to have a direct conversation with the traveller,’ she says. ‘We have yet to execute anything along those lines.’