Assembly’s Jeff Brooks Talks Data-Planning Engines and the Infrastructure Age

Plus, a miracle on ice for the Rangers


Who Jeff Brooks

Current gig Chief commercial officer, MDC's Assembly

Previous gig CEO, M&C Saatchi N.Y.

Twitter @jeffbrooks1

Age 44

Thoughts about the current video marketplace for brands?

Enthralling and utterly confusing. There's never been greater video content for brands to leverage or co-create, distribution platforms to build reach, or targeting capabilities to isolate high-value audiences. But with all opportunities come challenges, a persistent one in this case being lack of measurement standards, and limited access to data across video channels and devices.

Do you spend more time thinking about mobile or data?

Data, for sure. Mobile is already scaled—to the point where singling it out almost feels dated. I just read an interesting article about the "Information Age" nearing its end as the "Infrastructure Age" emerges. So yeah, we as marketers have to come to terms with this. People love the bought/owned/earned media paradigm. I'd propose there's an emerging addition to that family: built media. Using tech to create time and space that didn't previously exist. That's cool.

Pick one thing to fix with a snap of the finger.

The aging process. Slow that shit down please so I can enjoy my kids a little longer before they leave for college. And deliver a Stanley Cup to the New York Rangers. Not necessarily in that order.

How do you, and MDC, define a modern media agency?

It's been over a decade since the last media agency of any scale launched. Facebook, iPhones and Uber didn't exist. If you were to purpose build something for today, it would naturally look different. For starters, it would have a true tech and data core. This is not to be confused with capabilities, often which live as silos or separate profit centers. I'm referring to an engine on top of which the agency plans, buys, measures and iterates daily. Another differentiator is talent, namely people who think of everything around them as a possible media opportunity for their clients, and who are comfortable working with that kind of ambiguity. That's a new and potentially scary mindset for some media folks.

What has you intrigued?

At the moment, it's the ongoing debate about whether automation means the death of creativity. I don't buy it. There's waste in every business. To the extent technology can remove labor-intensive, mundane tasks through automation, it means that our best product—our people—can spend more time adding strategic value for our clients. Algorithms will never generate insights or big ideas, but to the extent they can make those ideas work harder, all the better.

What is your creative vision for MDC's Assembly?

We want to make ideas bigger through media. Many other agencies don't share that vision, despite the seismic changes afoot. The clichéd take would be that it's now more about amplification than distribution. But it's bigger than that. When Assembly was formed, [MDC Partners CEO] Miles [Nadal] wanted it to be held in as high regard as MDC's other creative agencies.