Brian Wieser: Magna’s New Oracle

Bob Coen had been Madison Avenue’s unblinking oracle for 60 years, and when he stepped down as chief forecaster at Magna last March, it was the end of an era.

And while the biz respectfully marked the occasion of Coen’s retirement, those who crunch numbers for their daily bread say Magna tapped a more-than-worthy replacement in Brian Wieser.

Three months after taking the reins as senior vp and global forecasting director, Wieser announced that he had torn up the traditional methodology that informed how the industry gauged its own health, eschewing calculations based on ad revenue in favor of an assessment of media supplier revenues. The new approach neatly side-stepped unreliable rate-card data and estimates based on anecdotal evidence for a more verifiable set of data points culled from Security Exchange Commission filings and a wealth of ancillary sources such as census data, employment data, etc.

In keeping with Magna’s global ambitions, the Wieser forecast also was expanded to assess 70 overseas markets. “The prevailing forecasting model was very Old World, and while Wall Street used the information, it still wasn’t very comprehensive,” said MagnaGlobal president/CEO Elizabeth Herbst-Brady.

Now analysts from a roster of firms that includes Barclays Capital, Deutsche Bank and UBS support that assertion. “We use Magna’s actuals as the basis of our model,” said Barclays Capital analyst Anthony DiClemente. “There just isn’t another source out there that provides such good data.”

A former Wall Street hand himself––Wieser joined Magna from Deutsche Bank in ’03––explained that some of his methodology reflected his experience on the firm’s cable and satellite sector equity research team.

“Most analysts who care about this industry aren’t so much concerned with what the marketers are doing,” he said. “They’re trying to understand what the owners are doing and how that’s affecting business. Ultimately, we’re trying to understand media owners too.”