Profile: Tom Bedecarré '81
School graduate makes marketing interactive
the CEO and founder of interactive marketing company AKQA
Inc., Tom Bedecarré '81 has built a successful career in advertising, but
that wasn't always his plan.
a Kellogg marketing student, Bedecarré says he expected to
go into brand management. It wasn't until after he received
five offers from top brand management companies that he heeded
the advice of a recruiter and began to interview in advertising.
He says he felt a different energy in the ad agency setting,
and he was attracted to working in a downtown environment
with other creative minds.
didn't really have any exposure to advertising except watching
[the 1960s sitcom] 'Bewitched' and seeing what Darrin Stephens
did," he says. "It wasn't really a career I had
spent a lot of time thinking about."
Bedecarré earned offers from Ogilvy & Mather, Leo Burnett
and Needham Harper & Steers. He chose Ogilvy & Mather
in New York City, then later moved to the San Francisco office,
which had been bought out and renamed Hal Riney & Partners.
After nine years in advertising, Bedecarré left the firm to
form Citron Haligman Bedecarré with two other colleagues.
"We got the entrepreneurial bug and launched our own
agency in 1990," he says, one that soon became the top
independent advertising agency in San Francisco.
company was approached by many dot-com and technology startups.
"We shifted our business to be more focused on both advertising
and online marketing," he says. With Adweek naming
Citron Haligman Bedecarré the West Coast Agency of the Year
in 1996, the company proved its strong reputation, which it
had built working with national clients such as Sony, Dreyfus
Corporation and PowerBar.
2000 the company received an investment from private equity
firm Francisco Partners and from Accenture to build a bigger
global interactive marketing company. Bedecarré bought three
other Web design and interactive marketing companies and renamed
the new conglomerate AKQA, which was the name of the London-based
company in the merger.
went through sort of a transformation and have been focused
for the last seven years on Web design, online advertising
and mobile marketing," he says. AKQA has become the largest
privately held interactive agency in world, with offices in
San Francisco, New York, Washington, D.C, London and Shanghai.
opened its Shanghai operation in 2006. With clients including
McDonald's, Visa and Coca-Cola, Bedecarré says it was important
to open a China office to support global customers, especially
those who are sponsors for the 2008 Olympics, which will be
held in Beijing.
is an exciting time for the industry, Bedecarré says, as people
are multitasking and spending more time online. Almost all media are becoming digital,
he says, and a lot of dollars are shifting from traditional
media toward online and digital marketing. Internet advertising
revenues are reaching new records: According to the Interactive
Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, ad revenues
were up 33 percent in 2006 over the previous year's Q3 numbers.
has expanded its online presence recently by opening an office
on Second Life, a virtual world that is "inhabited"
by more than 5 million users worldwide. "Our goal was
to create a place where we could recruit people in Second
Life and create a venue for virtual presentations or seminars,"
he says, adding that it also provides the opportunity for
AKQA's creative staff to experience developing virtual worlds
like Second Life.
least one person has been hired through Second Life already,
although Bedecarré notes that most of his firm's focus is
on real-world expansion.
built the company up to more than 500 employees, serving global
clients and with revenues of $100 million," he says.
It's a large business and requires a lot to stay on top of
the industry, but Bedecarré says earning an MBA has proven
to be an invaluable tool in reaching success. "I certainly
have felt that everything that I'd learned at Kellogg was
critical in my being able to not just be a good marketer,
but to be a good business manager as well."