CEOs Stress Less Talk, More Action

NEW YORK Less talk, more action is key to getting consumers to meaningfully engage with brands these days, according to four agency CEOs who discussed marketing in an age of consumer control during an Advertising Week panel discussion this morning.


“It’s not about what brands say, it’s about what brands do,” said Nick Brien, CEO of Interpublic Group’s Mediabrands. “It’s about authenticity of marketing.”

BBDO worldwide CEO Andrew Robertson added that the focus now is on “creating experiences that by participating in them, consumers change their behavior.”

Echoing that sentiment, Aegis Media North America CEO Sarah Fay said that a core question facing marketers today is “not what do we want the consumer to see or hear but what do we want the consumer to do?”

Fay, Robertson, Brien and Group M worldwide CEO Irwin Gotlieb spoke at length about the ramifications of consumer empowerment during the CNBC CEO Summit event, which lasted an hour and was moderated by CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo.

The panel also reflected on the downturn in the U.S. economy, acknowledging that it has and will continue to impact both client and consumer behavior.

Particularly hard hit have been the automotive, travel and leisure categories but others, including cosmetics, continue to thrive, the panelists said. Some marketers are also re-thinking marketing messages.

“There are definitely clients [for whom] the value message is going to become a much bigger component” of their marketing plans, said Robertson.

Gotlieb argued that consumer confidence is better than one might expect given the downturn in the economy and rising fuel prices. One explanation may be that “the consumer can’t comprehend what has happened” on Wall Street, he said. “Time will tell.”

“The issue is now whether the level of confidence is going to get shaken” more, said Brien, who added that for agencies, “it’s a much more challenging environment.”