Q&A Mediaedge: CIA’s Rino Scanzonimediaq&a

Hey, Rino! It’s been a long time!” booms the owner of Da Tommaso, a midtown Manhattan restaurant popular with Bcom3’s MediaVest staffers. It has been a long time—Rino Scanzoni left his position as evp and managing director of MediaVest in late 2000 and returned to the media business only last month. Vigorously courted throughout his yearlong hiatus—imposed by a noncompete clause in his MediaVest contract—Scanzoni is now president of the broadcast division at WPP Group’s Mediaedge: CIA.

During his 25 years in the media world, Scanzoni has honed a reputation as a creative deal-maker and an aggressive, analytical negotiator. He started out as a network TV supervisor at BBDO, followed by a stint as a senior media planner at Ted Bates. In the early ’80s he landed at Televest, which evolved into MediaVest.

The veteran buyer talked to Adweek about the thrill of getting back to work, the challenges of doing media in a new century and what lies ahead for the media agency business.

ADWEEK: You were courted by a number of different agencies. Why did you choose Mediaedge: CIA?

SCANZONI: [The former] Media Edge had a real history in the media agency marketplace. They were the first agency to have the philosophy that a media company had to provide a full array of services in order to grow. [At WPP], the focus, especially from the top, has been to form a media expertise that is second to none. The investment dollars and support to achieve and maintain that goal are there. This business is going to come down to a handful of players [because of consolidation].

ADWEEK: Who’s next?

SCANZONI: I’m wondering what will happen to [Grey Global Group’s] MediaCom. And there are still a couple of independent players that will either disappear or align themselves with one of the major players. There might even be opportunities for some of the major players to consolidate further.

ADWEEK: You’re known for your comprehensive analysis of the marketplace and your willingness to negotiate well into the night. How do you characterize your negotiating strategy?

SCANZONI: Both sides need to feel that there has been a success, not on every point but in general, at the very least. This is a business where you are dealing with the same people over and over again. It is very important that you make it clear where you’re coming from, what your point of view is, and if they disagree, they can then lay out their scenario and decide where to go from there.

ADWEEK: Most analysts expect the general economy to improve by the second quarter and the advertising economy to rebound by the third quarter. Do you agree with that?

SCANZONI: I don’t see a scenario right now that suggests a further contraction in the marketplace, but I don’t see any evidence of a significant expansion, either. I don’t have a good sense on spending yet, but my feeling is that it will continue to be moderate.

ADWEEK: What about the shape of specific ad categories?

SCANZONI: I’ve looked at a lot of categories through the fourth quarter, and there aren’t any positive categories. That said, the negativity varies. Generally, any category that tends to be a little recession-proof might fare better. The one category likely to be hurt less than the rest is packaged goods. But I don’t see that area as healthy—it’s just going to be less negative.

ADWEEK: What are you hearing from your clients in terms of advertising budgets?

SCANZONI: As it relates to media, the economy is very much on their minds and they’re all looking to get more for less. And I don’t mean just going out and looking to buy more GRPs for fewer dollars. They are clearly looking for ways they can partner with media companies and bring their advertising into content, where they can get a stronger connection with a product and get more exposure for their message. The clutter issue is a problem, and the solution is not just, “Let’s increase our budgets so we can buy more ratings points.” Everyone is trying to find ways to integrate their advertising so they can stand out.

ADWEEK: Are you mainly talking about cross-platform selling? Is that a real option or still hype?

SCANZONI: A lot of the cross-platform selling that has happened in the past six months was media deals put together as part of one package across multiple venues, instead of an agency or advertiser buying time sequentially. They decided it would be to their advantage, and the vendors encouraged them. A lot of it was driven by share of business. That will continue. The big challenge is, How do we go beyond just the media deal and integrate a client into the media? That is, a marketing campaign that is specifically designed to address a particular client’s needs. And that’s a much more difficult thing to do than just a typical cross-media-platform deal.

ADWEEK: So what is a truly integrated deal as opposed to just an aggregation of media vehicles?

SCANZONI: For one thing, it’s very difficult to get consensus and compromise [among buyers and sellers] when business is strong. When business weakens and everyone has a common goal—namely, to secure a higher share of existing advertising dollars from a shrinking pool—cooperation among the existing entities in a media corporation happens more easily. What is more complicated is how you come up with an overall campaign that goes beyond just buying advertising time. It might involve special sponsorships, programming, integrating your product into the content, promotional associations that tie into an overall campaign. Those areas are very labor-intensive and require a great deal of creativity.

ADWEEK: It’s a little early, but what are your predictions for the broadcast upfront market?

SCANZONI: I hate to be, especially at this stage of the game, a prognosticator of what the upfront is going to be. Anybody that tells you a number at this point doesn’t know what they’re talking about—especially given the kind of marketplace we’re in right now. In terms of where things stand, economically, we’ve fallen off the cliff, and I’m trying to find out whether we’re still falling or if we have hit the bottom. I’m not so sure yet, either way. So for me to estimate on the upfront, well, that’s kind of foolish. I’ll leave that stuff to Mr. [Bob] Coen [svp, senior director of forecasting for Universal McCann].

ADWEEK: You’ve been off for a year. Has the media business changed in the past 12 months? Is it difficult to come back after so much time away?

SCANZONI: This is a highly charged, fast-paced business. Sometimes, if you have an opportunity to take a step back and view what’s going on and think through what you see, you come back with a vitality and freshness that can make you more competitive in the long run.

The business hasn’t really changed that much. But over the course of my career, the differences are enormous. The real fundamental changes have taken place in the last dozen years, as media companies began evolving and eventually started being unbundled. Add to that the technological changes, such as the modeling tools and optimization software that started coming out, especially in the past nine years.

ADWEEK: How has the business changed in the past 25 years?

SCANZONI: When I first started, there were three networks that delivered 95 percent of the audience. And it was consistent. So it was really just a matter of, “Well, how do I split this pie up?” Now you have 75-odd choices, and the pie isn’t even consistent, because that can vary depending upon what’s being offered. If there’s more interesting programming from a viewer perspective, then the amount of viewing goes up. If the reverse is true, viewing goes down. So how do we portion this out and determine what is best for the client?

It’s not a decision that’s just based on trying to maximize audience delivery. What we’re trying to do is affect sales and business performance. And there are different approaches on how to measure that, but at the end of the day, our objective is to create business for our clients.