Execs Explore Ads in a Consumer-Controlled World

NEW YORK “Planning in this business is like target shooting from a Ferrari going 200 miles per hour,” one CEO intimated to Ernst & Young partner Kathie Eagan, who moderated an hour-long discussion about convergence as part of day one of Advertising Week today.

Six industry executives explored the topic, “Inside Convergence: The Crossroads of Advertising & Media,” in front of about 50 audience members at the screening room on the 10th floor of the Time Warner Center in Manhattan.

With use of digital video recorders, broadband Internet access, mobile phones and other new devices on the rise, technology is undoubtedly driving change in the advertising and media business.

But, as summed up by panelist Laura Desmond, CEO of Publicis Groupe’s MediaVest, “Technology is not in control. Consumers are in control.”

Consumer control is nothing new; after all, an archaic version of the remote control existed some 50 years ago, pointed out panelist Paul Woolmington, CEO of The Media Kitchen, a part of MDC Partners-backed Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners.

No longer is the goal to expose consumers to a marketing message; it’s to engage them, panelists said.

Mark D’Arcy, chief creative officer and senior vice president at Time Warner Global Marketing, advocated invitation- as opposed to intrusive-based ads, adding that they should be “charming, informative and compelling.”

A marketer’s message “needs to be much more invitational, much more experiential. … Anything that gets pushed gets pushed out,” said Robert Feldman, president and CEO of Grey Global Group’s GCI Group. Desmond agreed, saying, “Those marketers who can deliver the experience at the time of receptivity … will end up winning.”

In addition to more “experiential” and “engaging” advertising, the panelists also called for better ways to measure campaign effectiveness. At the same time, Feldman cautioned that measurement “ain’t everything.” “As the communications channels become technologically driven, measurement becomes easier,” he said. “We’re so metric driven. You have to measure the ROI on everything. ROI [equals] safe communication and safe communication is never breakthrough.”

To come up with breakthrough ideas, the industry has to foster a “new era of collaboration,” said D’Arcy. The Time Warner executive said that he wasn’t suggesting sharing the “same building or same letterhead, but the same pub for a few beers each week.”