Ad Bigwig Walter Coyle On Why the Oscars are Still Important

The roster of media mavens, moguls and bold face names spotted today at Michael's.

lunch at michaels I was joined today by Walter Coyle, president of Pedone Media and Cynthia Lewis, who, because she knows everyone in the media business, suggested we meet. In preparation for our lunch I visited Pedone’s website and was intrigued by its concise yet creative representation of what the agency does. Under ‘who we are’ it says: “talent, not prima donnas, speed not lethargy and courage, not compassion.”

Diane Clehane and Walter Coyle
Diane Clehane and Walter Coyle

Interesting, right? Walter more than lived up to that introduction. Having started at the agency fifteen years ago as the media director, he has survived and thrived among massive changes in the industry and within his own agency — which he now owns. Ten years ago, Pedone underwent a transformation from a full-service advertising/marketing agency into a more niche business, focusing solely on media planning and buying when “a group of clients realized they needed a full-service media planning and buying agency.”

With an impressive roster of clients including Hermès, Lacoste, Laura Mercier, Eileen Fisher, bebe, Essie, Clarisonic and John Hardy Walter explained Pedone’s hands-on approach to media buying and planning this way: “A lot of our clients like Hermès and Lacoste have their creative done in Europe so we focus solely on media planning. We talk to our clients to really understand them. I’ve also worked at Hermès, built my own Clarisonic in their factory in Seattle and folded jeans at H&M to understand the ethos of the brands. That fortifies the media plan by really going inside to learn about their businesses.”

Walter, who is regarded as something of a mentor to young talent within the company, explained Pedone’s approach to teaching up-and-comers in the ranks. “We don’t leave them on their own to make media buys. We’re very cautious about having people sit in front of a client. When it comes to lunches we’ll saddle them up with a superior so they can see how it’s done.”

Ever since the Great Recession in 2008 and the emergence of digital platforms, Walter admits everyone — himself included — has been on a steep learning curve. When it comes to staying current with the latest digital innovations he said, “That’s the one thing that keeps me up at night — are we missing something?”

This is where having young guns on staff is most helpful. “I have a great team and we always hire very curious people.” But we both agreed there are both pluses and minuses in working with the millennial generation. Having grown up on a steady diet of reality television and the ‘everybody gets a trophy’ mindset, there’s a tendency among a certain circle of neophytes to want to jump to the front of the line and celebrate their every (perceived) accomplishment. Walter recounted the story of a young woman who’d worked at the firm for a mere nine months when she marched into his office looking for a raise. “She said she was tired of having her parents pay her rent,” he laughed at the memory. “I had to look around because for a minute I thought I was in an episode of ‘Girls.'” Suffice to say, she’s since moved on.

With a new app and digital platform seemingly introduced every five minutes, Walter told me he “reads everything” to stay current and makes sure to bring everything to the table when it’s time to strategize with a client. “Clients want to know about (new platforms) even if they might not be ready to sign on to them.” And while print and television ad buys still live and die by the numbers, when it comes to trying new digital platforms there’s “more fluidity in media plans. It’s a process.” That, Walter says, has resulted in some interesting ad buys that wouldn’t — and couldn’t have happened — just a few short years ago. “Through a partner, one of our fashion brands got on to Tinder and we integrated brand content in context in a top-line, superficial kind of way. There’s a lot more trial and error in this area.”