AdPR Alumni Spotlight: Daniel Dao

PR Alum Daniel Dao
Daniel Dao currently serves as Senior Vice President for a mid-sized experiential marketing agency called ignition. Headquartered in Atlanta, ignition specializes in national and global marketing campaigns, tours and experiences.

What was your major and when did you graduate?  
I was a dual major in Political Science and Public Relations, graduating in 2002.

What activities were you involved while in Grady/UGA?  
Like many college students, it seemed like I had ample downtime, yet somehow still never had enough time to do everything I wanted! I was an RA at Creswell Hall and member of the club Ultimate Frisbee team.  My other activities probably belong on a different blog.

What are you doing now and how did you get there?
I'm currently leading account teams and clients, responsible for business development, client retention and best-in-class account service.  The story goes...

As a junior at Grady, I realized that a summer internship might be a good idea for career placement.  I was fortunate enough to score a great opportunity interning for the Coca-Cola North America Public Affairs and Communications department, working for Scott Williamson, now VP of PAC for CCNA — an internship he still offers today only for Grady PR majors.  He had the unique position of coordinating PR efforts for Coca-Cola during city celebrations for the upcoming the Salt Lake City 2002 Olympic Torch Relay.  After that summer, I took a semester off from school to join the team full-time.  For the first time, I discovered what "Experiential Marketing" was all about.  From that moment on, I knew that this form of branded communications was the right path for me.

Predicated on real-life brand experience drive by the human touch, this is a 'get your hands dirty' type of industry, while also necessitating expertise in strategic brand and communications building.  After graduating, I went to work for ignition, the agency that activated the Salt Lake City 2002 OTR for Coca-Cola.  After more than 10 years, I've had an amazing run, working with amazing brands like Coke, Sony, Disney, Nike, Live Earth and Delta, creating real-life brand experiences for consumers in more than 70 countries around the world and leveraging global fan passion platforms like world-class musical artists, the Olympics, the FIFA World Cup, the NBA and many others.

What is your day-to-day like at your job? (Any interesting projects that you can share with us?)
Every day is a different day with different challenges, and that's what I love most about what I do.  On a single day, I could be involved with developing a core campaign idea for a globally-recognized brand, to working with an international charter plane operator to finalize a global tour itinerary, to working with innovative partners to design the next 'never been done before' live experience.  Mixed in every day, I work with some of the best and brightest team-members, partners, mentors and clients to co-create ideas and restlessly challenge each other to strive for better results.

Currently, our team at ignition is in the midst of launching an 89 country tour - the third ever FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour by Coca-Cola.  This journey will take place over nine straight months, leading up to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.  Our team has worked for more than a year developing the program strategy and idea, creating a global experience plan and working with 89 independent local project teams to execute.

We'll be sharing content and stories from our journey on Twitter at @trophytour and on Facebook at facebook.com/trophytour so make sure to follow along!

What part of your Grady experience (classes, professors, etc.) has been helpful in your career today?  
I never truly learned how to write until I spent one semester with Dr. Conrad Fink.  I took an honors Newswriting and Reporting class, which afforded me (or him?) the opportunity to consistently be under his watchful and critical eye.  He never missed a moment to directly challenge and teach us the right way to frame our thinking and communications.  This skill became the bedrock of the daily communications that I've delivered throughout my career.

What is your favorite Grady memory?  
I don't have any specific moments, but rather relationships.  I fondly remember my time with my Honors thesis mentor Dr. Jeff Springston as he coached me through my analysis of my time on the Olympic Torch Relay.  I also remember my campaigns class with Dr. A (Acosta-Alzuru).  We had a strong, little team developing a campaign for a local cause organization, and I gained friendships that I've held onto since that time.

What advice do you have for current AdPR students?
Be a sponge.  Learning never ever stops, and it's so important to find valuable lessons in every interaction, task and experience.  This takes humility, an open mind and desire to improve.

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