Q&A: MediaLink’s New Managing Director on Why Ad Agencies Will Survive

Christopher Vollmer, previously with PwC, discusses the future of marketing

The new executive will report to founder and CEO Michael Kassan.

Today MediaLink, the advisory firm that has become a ubiquitous presence in the media and advertising industries, announced the hire of Christopher Vollmer as managing director. The newest member of the firm’s leadership team will work in its New York headquarters and report directly to CEO and chairman Michael Kassan.

Vollmer joins MediaLink from Strategy&, the consulting division of PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he was a partner and leader of the global entertainment and media advisory practice. He worked at Booz & Company from 1995 to 2014 before PwC acquired that group.

He’s also the author of 2008’s Always On: Advertising, Marketing, and Media in an Era of Consumer Control and a widely published thought leader who has been featured in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

“Chris has one of those rare, strategic minds that’s simultaneously focused on driving actionable change and impact,” said Kassan in a statement. “As a senior advisor in every sense of the word, Chris brings our clients incredibly valuable expertise at a time when their focus is squarely on strategic and operational transformation to accelerate growth and profitability. He has a distinguished track record in the industry sectors that matter the most to MediaLink.”

Adweek spoke to the executive about his new role and the positions that both MediaLink and its broad list of clients will play in the new media economy.

Adweek: What led you to move from a traditional consultancy to a firm like MediaLink?
Chris Vollmer: There’s an ongoing convergence and transformation of [media and marketing] businesses. They’re getting more interconnected and more complex, and I think, in that environment … they’re looking for advisors that not only have the insight and the foresight, but also the operational expertise and connectivity to make things happen. As I got to know Michael Kassan and the team here at MediaLink, I increasingly came to believe that marrying my expertise from the strategy consulting world with a set of practitioners and strategists that already live and breathe the changes happening in marketing and media every day would be an impressive combination that will help our clients win more often in the market.

"The concept of the holding company [is] aiming towards something that looks a lot more consultative than the traditional agency model did."
Chris Vollmer, managing director, MediaLink

How have you seen these industries changing in recent months?
The industry boundaries are pretty porous, and a lot of the traditional positions between publishers, platforms, agency holding companies and marketers are changing. The role of technology, data analytics and user experience, along with the desire for new revenue models and new routes to consumers, only continues to grow. MediaLink’s existing clients are asking for more advice and more of those kinds of services.

What sorts of advice are they asking for in particular?
My focus over the past year was looking at new revenue models for clients. A lot of the traditional places where they’ve been able to draw monetization have dried up, and they have to be able to do things differently. If you have a traditional ad-driven business, it now needs to be in the subscription world. They may also need to invest in things in-house, develop partnerships with other companies, rent those capabilities or acquire a company that adds those capabilities to their business. For example, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish is trying to develop monetization streams around not only channel licensing, which is the traditional business, but increasingly consumer products, events, advanced advertising, original productions and niche SVOD services, among others.

Many of the large CPG players in particular also face flat category growth prospects through their traditional channels. A lot of them are thinking about how they can develop new brands or develop new routes to market through digital direct-to-consumer to drive growth. A firm like MediaLink is positioned, ideally, to help them think through that.

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