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Lightwave’s founder dropped dentistry for Web design, in the Marketing & Media column



Sugar High at FCB; Mueller Opens China Offices

Dr. Robert Strain has swapped dentistry for Internet marketing after 28 years of working on teeth.

At the peak of the dot-com market crash, Strain closed his dental office in the Northwood section of Irvine last year and started Lightwave Media, a firm specializing in Web design and hosting and electronic business services, among other things.

Not a move you’d expect from most dentists, especially one that specializes in aesthetics. But Strain said he couldn’t think of anything but technology after talking with a patient eight years ago about putting full-motion video on a computer monitor.

“I went home and I couldn’t sleep because I started thinking about applying it, particularly in health professions,” Strain said.

Strain, still practicing dentistry, hooked up with a partner and started with educational videos distributed to dentists’ offices. Later he went on his own and shifted his business focus to the Web. Eventually things got “too busy” (juggling drilling with Web des-ign) so Strain said he decided to follow his heart.

Now, his company has eight employees and is in a former lima bean warehouse in Old Town Irvine. The space recently was vacated by a dot-com that flopped, he said.

It was a little nerve-racking to jump into the Internet world as other companies struggled, Strain said. But he said “being nervous” is just part of business.

“We always have to look at how we can work harder to beat out the competition,” Strain said.

His first clients were organizations and companies in health-related fields. Later, he branched into other industries, including office equipment and apparel. One of his clients is Redondo Beach-based Body Glove and its licensees.

“There is a need to use a Web site as a marketing tool,” Strain said.

Besides making Web sites look nice, Strain said he helps companies present information in an easy-to-navigate format. Plus, he said, he looks for ways to use the Internet to make doing business easier.

Lightwave has a few advantages over competitors that have struggled. He said his company doesn’t depend on advertising dollars or get multimillion jobs (it handles accounts in the $10,000 to $200,000 range), which means it stays lean.

“Because we’re small we can maintain more personal communication. People do really like that. It never goes away,” Strain said.


Got Milk?

Some cookie monsters showed their faces at FCB Southern California in Irvine last week. More than 100 ad types at FCB,minus fuzzy blue suits,gathered to munch cookies as part of an event co-sponsored by client Doubletree, which serves warm chocolate chip cookies to guests upon checking in.

Eighteen people participated in three heats and a sudden death playoff, where FCB employees tried to out-scarf each other for some prizes, including a $20 gift certificate to a bakery, a one night free stay at the Doubletree and a family-size container of antacids.

Dan Keston, an FCB copywriter, won the first heat by eating 3.5 cookies in 2 minutes. Brett Hollis, an audio-video technician, won the second and third heats by being the fastest to eat a single cookie (27.6 seconds) as well as eating five cookies in the record time of just under 2 minutes.

“The competition was fierce,” said Scott Anderson, an agency spokesman. “Fortunately nobody lost their cookies.”


China Opening

Mueller International, a global advertising and public relations agency in Irvine, has opened two new offices: in Chengdu and Shanghai, China.

The firm, which works with Fortune 500 and 1000 companies, already operates 15 offices throughout Asia, Europe and the U.S., including its Irvine headquarters.

Phyllis Mueller, chief executive, said the firm’s expansion into China represents its commitment to ensure a “competitive advantage” for clients, including Motorola Inc., IBM Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Sony Corp.

“In the long run, China represents one of the world’s greatest markets. In the short run, China fits into the plans of many of our client companies as a first-rate supplier and as a manufacturing platform,” Mueller said.

Mueller recently met with Chinese business leaders at the 2001 Western China Development Fair and Forum in Chengdu, where she was a speaker.

“They have excellent products, but they recognize that to penetrate the world market they’ll need the best possible marketing techniques,” Mueller said.

She said business leaders were particularly interested in revenue generation programs and electronic business strategies.

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