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Advertising Week

Clear Channel CEO : We've Navigated Content Chaos Before

Bob Pittman on digital evolution of media and behavior
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Now that everyone is creating content, how do marketers navigate that chaotic landscape? Clear Channel chief Bob Pittman argues we’ve all been down this road before.

“Chatrooms at AOL became Facebook. It’s just natural and organic,” the former AOL chief and MTV founder said during Advertising Week in New York. “In 1980 when people were watching NBC, they didn’t Tweet but they were on the phone, they had a magazine on their lap. It’s not new behavior. ”

Pittman, in a question-and-answer interview with MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan, said what some people view as content chaos is what consumers expect as convenience and choice. “My kids think this is normal. We’re in the service of consumers and consumers demand a lot of choice.”

Radio has always had to live with consumer fragmentation, he said. When Kassan referred to Clear Channel as an "old-school" media company, Pittman was quick to underscore that in the digital age more people listen to radio than ever.  “There’s a real danger if you’re not where people are…People want to hear news, weather, sports, gossip. In that world music is content. “

However transformed by digital technology, the basics of successful communications remain unchanged. “Good marketers are always listening. They used to pay $10 million for what they got out of focus groups. Now it’s 10 cents on Facebook,” Pittman said, adding that consumer insights formerly gleaned over 6-12 months now are mined in real-time.

The executive, whose company just pulled off the iHeartRadio Music Festival as a branding exercise, described himself as being a marketer as much as a media maven. He remains bullish about the continuing role of agencies in the digital world.

“Ad agencies are more necessary than ever,” he said. “It’s not just about 30-second spots but rather, renting the consumer relationship. How big is the relationship, what’s the reach? And how engaged is it?”