CEOs Mull Changing Media Landscape

NEW YORK At one point during an Advertising Week panel session at the new Renzo Piano-designed New York Times building here, an executive from CBS stood up in the audience and lamented what he called the “chaos” that seems to be at the heart of relationships between marketers and their creative and media agencies.

As the media landscape continues to change, the executive said, media and creative shops are tripping over themselves trying to shepherd clients’ strategic plans even as consumers take greater control over the media they choose to consume.

“It’s wasteful and inefficient,” the executive said.

“Deal with it” was the basic response from the panel, which consisted of CEOs of six top media companies.

The CEOs didn’t disagree, but countered that while the process might be disruptive, it ultimately provides results. “It’s a game of survival of the fittest,” said Matt Seiler, North American CEO at Omnicom’s PHD. “Good ideas can come from anywhere.”

Scott Neslund, North American CEO at WPP’s MindShare, added, “It may not seem efficient, but it leads to greater creativity and better service to the client.”

Richard Beaven, North American CEO at Interpublic’s Initiative, said, “Change is feeding on itself. We need to work with clients to navigate the change and translate what to do in media into marketing results.”

Change will continue to accelerate, the agency leaders said. Laura Desmond, CEO of Publicis Groupe’s Starcom MediaVest Group/The Americas, said that by the end of 2008 digital media would be the third-largest spending category for the agency (behind national and local television). Consumers’ growing appetite for digital media is driving that trend and “we’re following consumers there,” she said.

Added Desmond: “We need to lead our clients into the future,” a future where likely 50-60 percent of all billings will represent money spent on digital media.

All the change is having an impact on agency recruitment, although there was disagreement on whether it’s getting harder to attract and retain talented experts that can do the work effectively.

“There are so many competing specialists that it’s becoming tougher and tougher to surround ourselves with a galaxy of stars in terms of talent,” said Charlie Rutman, North America CEO of Havas’ MPG. “We spend a lot of time on training and retaining good people.”

But Seiler countered that the remedy—at least what’s working at PHD—is to seek talented people outside the media world, which has resulted in fresh ideas and solutions that media-centric personnel may not originate.

Nick Brien, worldwide CEO at IPG’s Universal McCann, said most marketing is not keeping up with the rapid pace of consumer changes in media usage. “We often confuse movement with progress,” he said. “It’s now much more about creating consumer experiences, not just reaching them.”