Ad Bigwig Walter Coyle On Why the Oscars are Still Important

The roster of media mavens, moguls and bold face names spotted today at Michael's.

lunch at michaels I was joined today by Walter Coyle, president of Pedone Media and Cynthia Lewis, who, because she knows everyone in the media business, suggested we meet. In preparation for our lunch I visited Pedone’s website and was intrigued by its concise yet creative representation of what the agency does. Under ‘who we are’ it says: “talent, not prima donnas, speed not lethargy and courage, not compassion.”

Diane Clehane and Walter Coyle
Diane Clehane and Walter Coyle

Interesting, right? Walter more than lived up to that introduction. Having started at the agency fifteen years ago as the media director, he has survived and thrived among massive changes in the industry and within his own agency — which he now owns. Ten years ago, Pedone underwent a transformation from a full-service advertising/marketing agency into a more niche business, focusing solely on media planning and buying when “a group of clients realized they needed a full-service media planning and buying agency.”

With an impressive roster of clients including Hermès, Lacoste, Laura Mercier, Eileen Fisher, bebe, Essie, Clarisonic and John Hardy Walter explained Pedone’s hands-on approach to media buying and planning this way: “A lot of our clients like Hermès and Lacoste have their creative done in Europe so we focus solely on media planning. We talk to our clients to really understand them. I’ve also worked at Hermès, built my own Clarisonic in their factory in Seattle and folded jeans at H&M to understand the ethos of the brands. That fortifies the media plan by really going inside to learn about their businesses.”

Walter, who is regarded as something of a mentor to young talent within the company, explained Pedone’s approach to teaching up-and-comers in the ranks. “We don’t leave them on their own to make media buys. We’re very cautious about having people sit in front of a client. When it comes to lunches we’ll saddle them up with a superior so they can see how it’s done.”

Ever since the Great Recession in 2008 and the emergence of digital platforms, Walter admits everyone — himself included — has been on a steep learning curve. When it comes to staying current with the latest digital innovations he said, “That’s the one thing that keeps me up at night — are we missing something?”

This is where having young guns on staff is most helpful. “I have a great team and we always hire very curious people.” But we both agreed there are both pluses and minuses in working with the millennial generation. Having grown up on a steady diet of reality television and the ‘everybody gets a trophy’ mindset, there’s a tendency among a certain circle of neophytes to want to jump to the front of the line and celebrate their every (perceived) accomplishment. Walter recounted the story of a young woman who’d worked at the firm for a mere nine months when she marched into his office looking for a raise. “She said she was tired of having her parents pay her rent,” he laughed at the memory. “I had to look around because for a minute I thought I was in an episode of ‘Girls.'” Suffice to say, she’s since moved on.

With a new app and digital platform seemingly introduced every five minutes, Walter told me he “reads everything” to stay current and makes sure to bring everything to the table when it’s time to strategize with a client. “Clients want to know about (new platforms) even if they might not be ready to sign on to them.” And while print and television ad buys still live and die by the numbers, when it comes to trying new digital platforms there’s “more fluidity in media plans. It’s a process.” That, Walter says, has resulted in some interesting ad buys that wouldn’t — and couldn’t have happened — just a few short years ago. “Through a partner, one of our fashion brands got on to Tinder and we integrated brand content in context in a top-line, superficial kind of way. There’s a lot more trial and error in this area.”

Emerging trends on digital platforms are changing the media landscape. Walter told me ad dollars are being siphoned off from both print and television and redirected into digital. With Hulu, on-demand opportunities and mobile are becoming increasingly popular. “Everything is more segmented and a lot of people are looking at a combination of Hulu, on-demand and digital versus one big media buy.” The big media companies have the potential to be even bigger game changers. “Everyone is curious about what the big publishing companies like Hearst and Time Inc. are going to do with their digital offerings.”

But there’s still a place for old-school vehicles like the Oscars — even though this year’s viewership was down 16 percent. “There are less people watching,” Walter explained. “But there are still a lot. The opportunity to be part of a live event like the Super Bowl and the Oscars, which is the Super Bowl of fashion and beauty, are few and far between and is still important.”

Then the conversation turned to television. His favorite shows are “Homeland” and “Downton Abbey.” (We both agree that “Scandal” has jumped the shark.) I had to ask Walter what he thought of “Mad Men,” which will (finally!) be coming back to AMC in April for the series’ swan song. “I love it,” he told me. “To me, it’s a reminder of how much has changed. I asked our founder (Mike Pedone) about all that drinking and he said it happened, but not nearly as much in the office as on the show.” Citing the now iconic episode where Don Draper (Jon Hamm) creates a pitch for a new Kodak slide projector he christens ‘The Carousel,’ (one of our all-time favorite episodes), Walter explained its allure thusly: “That really captured how people can fall in love with advertising.”

Here’s the rundown on today’s crowd:

1. Euan Rellie with three other movers and shakers

2. Diana Soloway

3. Wayne Kabak with Russ Salzberg

4. Mitch Kanner

5. Jack Kliger and three well-dressed gents

6. Walter Coyle, Cynthia Lewis and yours truly

7. Bookseller Glenn Horowitz and Carl Bernstein. Yes, that Carl Bernstein

8. New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia, who wrote about a dishy blind item he received from a Hollywood insider in his column today. Whoever could all those scandalous folks be?

9. Sarabeth Shrager

10. Bisila Bokoko

11. John Wilson

12. PR maven and sole sister Maury Rogoff (that is some tan!) who shared her shoe obsession with me for my essay on New York women’s obsession with high heels in the latest issue of Gotham.

14. Tad Smith and Hearst’s Steve Swartz

15. Harrison LeFrak

16. Stu Zakim with Janice Rowland and Shannon Treusch of Falco Ink

17. John Arnhold

18. LAK PR’s CEO Lisa Linden and Richard Schwartz

20. Playbill‘s Bruce Hallett another fellow we didn’t get to meet

21. Quest Media’s Chris Meigher and social swan — and designer — Cornelia Guest with another sartorially splendid chap

22. Steven Stolman with Maribeth Welsh, who recently retired from her post as executive director of the Irish Georgian Society, along with her sister, investment manager Ellen Welsh. A little birdie told me Steven’s latest book, Confessions of a Serial Entertainer (Gibbs-Smith) just came out and his next, 40 Years of Fabulous: The Kips Bay Decorator Show House, is due out in April. Congrats!

23. Penske Media vice chair Gerry Byrne and Thomas McGrath

25. PR maestro Tom Goodman

27. Gordon J. Davis from Jazz at Lincoln Center

28 Carl Schecter

29. Kirk Radke

Diane Clehane is a FishbowlNY contributor. Follow her on Twitter @DianeClehane. Send comments and corrections on this column to LUNCH at MEDIABISTRO dot COM.