Q&A With IPG's Bant Breen

NEW YORK Interpublic Group has tapped Bant Breen, 35, as the new president of its Futures Marketing Group, a unit the holding company set up in October to chart its course in the future of digital media. Formerly director of strategic development and innovation for IPG, Breen himself was an entrepreneur, founding his own communications consulting practice before joining IPG in January 2006. He previously worked for Leo Burnett Worldwide for five years.

Q: Explain the Futures Marketing Group.

A: Essentially, it’s Interpublic’s engine to do a couple of things. One is to invest. Those could be strategic investments or partnerships we make with clients in the emerging media space. The second thing is creation. We want to foster an environment of innovation across the company. I believe we have really talented people that have interesting ideas on new media business models, and we want to support that. We’re going to be announcing the first one in the next four to six weeks. We’ve worked with an employee to build out a business plan. We’ve incubated the development. We’ll be launching a company. That’s pretty exciting.

Q: Why is it important for IPG to look for new business ideas from within?

A: It’s always happened to a certain extent in agencies, but if a business model was dramatically different or in a new area, quite often it didn’t go anywhere. That generally means you have a talent drain. Some of the best people that a company like Interpublic has in our agency family leave. We’re trying to create a culture of intrapreneurialism. It’s someone inside a company that reinvents the way you think about it. That’s something we’re committed to.

Q: IPG’s invested in Facebook and Spot Runner. These aren’t agency businesses. Why invest in these type of companies?

A: It’s a fairly broad mix of structures for the investments. The thought is there will be potentially strategic investment opportunities to look at new media and marketing business models. Making an investment isn’t enough. It needs to be strategic in terms of our overarching Interpublic family of companies. If we make an investment in Facebook, that in and of itself is exciting and interesting, but it doesn’t necessarily weave into our infrastructure enough to say, We’re now building a strong capability in social networking. We’re structuring a group or agency or shared service with that company that no matter what happens with that investment, we still have a strategic relationship with that company going forward.

Q: What has IPG gotten from having .5 percent stake in Facebook?

A: The structure is we have a relationship with a spectacularly successful social network for 18-24 year olds. We’ve set up a group called Facebook Collaborative, which works with Facebook to develop solutions for our clients that have access that no one else would be able to have because we’re working with the heads of the business.

Q: Is helping build new ad platforms developing a new role for a holding company?

A: Every holding company is thinking of the same type of things. Business models in our industry are evolving very rapidly. How does that impact our business? How should we be rethinking our business models? In some cases, the solutions will come from the outside. We find a way to bring those ideas to life.