News from the Aurora University community

Professor promotes new digital marketing academic programs

Posted by on December 9, 2013


Debra Zahay-Blatz, Professor of Marketing, worked in industry before earning a PhD, primarily for MCI Telecommunications (now Verizon) and Dun & Bradstreet.

Students wanting to study a growing area of marketing that combines technology with the art of product promotion have an excellent resource in Debra Zahay-Blatz, Professor of Marketing. Zahay-Blatz joined AU this fall and brings with her vast knowledge and experience in digital marketing. She has been teaching Internet marketing for nearly 15 years and is the co-author of the leading text in the field, “Internet Marketing: Integrating Online and Offline Strategies.” Zahay-Blatz will apply her expertise to two new academic programs at AU: the Master of Science in Digital Marketing and Analytics beginning spring 2014, and the minor in digital marketing, which will start fall 2014.

Zahay-Blatz has former students placed in all areas related to digital marketing, including search, social, email, web site design and usability as well as direct and database firms and general marketing positions. “At AU I see the same, if not greater, potential for our students,” she said. “We are doing something unique in terms of having a digital marketing minor that is cross disciplinary to some extent with the communication department. The minor will be open to all students, not just those in business, and will give students a valuable specialization to help them in the job market.”

Zahay-Blatz added that the master’s program will provide students with the marketing, management and research skills needed for a successful career in a fast-growing, high-tech, “big data” business environment. Big data, or database marketing and data analytics, is Zahay-Blatz’s area of expertise. The coursework also will include relevant real-world application.

Digital marketing, according to Zahay-Blatz, is more contemporary than interactive marketing, a concept dating from the mid 1990s. Interactive marketing is when there is communication with a customer and his or her response is remembered. The next time there is contact, there is a demonstration of what was remembered. An example is giving customer recommendations based upon their collaborative filtering processes. “You don’t need technology to be an interactive marketer,” said Zahay-Blatz. “The original interactive marketers were salespeople because they listened and responded. We are moving to ‘digital’ to reflect what is happening in the practice and in the job market. The digital technologies we are teaching include those enabled by the Internet and also digital media design.”

Zahay-Blatz specializes in projects where students can apply classroom knowledge and create work products that will help them in their job search. Projects range from integrated marketing communications campaigns to personal social media plans to the Google Online Marketing Challenge. The digital marketing programs will prepare students for many types of jobs. On a recent visit to, Zahay-Blatz reported that more than 26,000 jobs had “digital marketing” in the title or job description, with over 1,600 being in Illinois.

Because of the number of jobs available and the fact that digital marketing is everywhere, Zahay-Blatz encourages students to explore the field. “I like studying and teaching technology and how it can be used intelligently in marketing,” said Zahay-Blatz. “ The biggest reward for me is working with students and helping them realize they can contribute to our discipline.”