The MadAve Journal 3-Part Interview Rolled Into One
By Wendy McHale, Publisher
Mr. Hirschhorn joined Sling Media in December, 2006 to preside over the newly created Sling Media Entertainment Group. The Sling Media Entertainment Group was formed to define and create even richer and more engaging experiences for Slingbox customers as well as their family and friends. Mr. Hirschhorn is tasked with delivering entirely new applications and services enabled by the Slingbox’s marriage of familiar TV programming and richly interactive Web-connected devices.
Before joining Sling Media, Hirschhorn was a Founding Partner at TripleH Media Advisors, a digital media consultancy. Before TripleH, Jason was Chief Digital Officer at MTV Networks. At MTV Networks, Jason was responsible for the company's digital media businesses and interactive strategy.
[Former President of Jupiter Research - which he helped build into a $65 million syndicated research business - and one of the world's first experts in online advertising.]
Peter Storck manages ThinkVine's agent-based modeling simulations business.
Prior to ThinkVine he was president of Points North Group, a research firm focused on digital media strategy, which he started after having been president of Jupiter Research, the $65 million Internet strategy consultancy.
Earlier in his seven years at Jupiter, he was senior vice president of research, and before that, founder, senior analyst, and director of the firm's online advertising practice, the first of its kind in the world. Prior to Jupiter, Mr. Storck served in state and national political campaigns dating back to 1984 and as an advisor in Congress, and he taught writing at Columbia University.
Mr. Storck is a member of the advisory board of leading online ad industry conference, ad:tech. He has appeared frequently as an interactive expert at ad:tech and other industry conferences and in media such as CNN, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and Advertising Age.
He holds a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Science in Industrial & Labor Relations from Cornell University.
Paul McEnany is a populist marketer who creates strategies and marketing programs which build lasting relationships with consumers. He is a specialist in participatory media, with a background in both traditional marketing and account planning.
As a New Media Marketing Strategist at Dallas-based full-service agency Levenson and Hill , he has worked with companies including Aaron Brothers Art & Framing, Gordon’s Jewelers, Greatwide Logistics Services, Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks, Warner Bros. Pictures, Church’s Chicken, and Glazer’s Distributors.
Paul has been instrumental in launching Ambush Interactive at Levenson & Hill. For the new division, he is developing talent, growing resources, and integrating new-media values with those of the traditional agency.
Paul writes one of the Top 25 marketing blogs globally, Hee-Haw Marketing, in which he advocates responsible marketing in ways that make companies and their brands more relevant in the lives of their customers. Besides the MadAve Journal, he is also a regular contributor to Top 25 Blog, Beyond Madison Avenue, which examines the changing advertising landscape. He also publishes his own blog, titled, Hee Haw Marketing.
A budding activist, he can be reached at email@example.com.
Before launching Madison Avenue Consultants and the Mad Ave Journal, Wendy McHale was a senior consultant with Vogue Magazine, the flagship Conde Nast publication, providing insight and sales support for their print and integrated marketing sales propositions.
She brings a 15-year background in sales and management with major publishers, including Time Inc. and Conde Nast, both of which have twice employed her in senior sales positions.
Wendy has significant experience working with start-ups, most recently as Executive Beauty Director for the Conde Nast Bridal Group. In 2002, Wendy won "Salesperson of the Year" at the Conde Nast Bridal Group for her sales growth using cross-platform solutions.
Over the course of her two stints at Time Inc. Wendy was hired as Fashion Director with InStyle Magazine at the launch of that extremely successful publication. She began her career in Time's College publishing division with Student Life Magazine, in circulation.
At Conde Nast, besides the Conde Nast Bridal Group, she has worked with Mademoiselle, Glamour and Architectural Digest and Bon Appetit. Before Time Inc. and Conde Nast, Wendy had stints with Murdoch and Reed Elsevier. Besides Fashion, her collective sales background has given her category knowledge of Beauty, Travel & Hospitality and Home Furnishings.
At Reed Elsevier, Wendy helped launch "The Official Cruise Guide" as Global Advertising Director. She was 28 and at the time, the youngest person ever to hold the Global Ad Director position at the company.
With a 19-year background in traditional media and 7 years in Interactive marketing to date, McHale is best known for his proactive leadership with integrated marketing. A self-described "Media Activist," as co-founder/managing partner of Madison Avenue Consultants and the MadAve Journal Publisher, he is responsible for the day to day operations of the two LLC's.
Tim has planned media and serviced over 150 B2C and B2B Brands, such as Procter and Gamble, McDonald's, Anheuser-Busch, Intel, MCI, Nike, Starbucks, British Airways, General Motors, Isuzu, American Airlines, Warner Bros., General Foods, Philip Morris, JC Penney, Exxon-Mobil and AOL among others.
McHale was co-founder and Chief Media Officer of Tribal DDB Worldwide, a separate division of DDB Worldwide (Omnicom). According to The New York Times, he was the first Interactive professional on Madison Avenue to be appointed to this title, representing the increased importance of media in the agency equation.
While at Tribal, he managed a 50+ person staff across 7 offices. He launched Tribal Connections, Tribal's global interactive CRM and strategy group. Before joining DDB, he was EVP, Director of Strategic Planning and Development at i-Traffic, a division of Agency.com (also Omnicom), also leading their business development efforts. Before forming Madison Avenue Consultants, McHale was co-founder and CEO of Underscore Marketing.
Tim began his career as an intern at Ogilvy & Mather.
Kurt has been collaborating with Wendy and Tim McHale on numerous creative projects for over 20 years. He is the cultural conscience of the MadAve Journal.
He spent 30 years on Madison Avenue as a writer and creative supervisor at Grey Advertising, Cunningham & Walsh, Benton & Bowles, and McCann-Erickson. His accounts included P&G, General Foods, Drackett, Texaco, American Home Products, The U.S. Navy, Heublein, Gordon's Gin, Van Heusen, Buick, MGM, and RCA Records.
He also organized and staffed RCA's first in-house agency as creative director of advertising/sales promotion for all of the label's artists, working with David Bowie, Lou Reed, Elvis Presley, Jefferson Airplane, The Guess Who, John Denver, Waylon Jennings, Harry Nilsson, Townes Van Zandt and Chet Atkins. On the agency side he wrote the Texaco campaign with Jack Benny in all media for four years, and created ads for other show business legends including George Burns and Harry Blackstone, Jr.
Since 1986 Kurt has taught "All About Advertising" to undergrads, grad students and working professionals at New School University in New York City. His classes welcome guest specialists like media entrepreneurs Wendy McHale and Tim McHale as well as Stephanie Blackwood, co-founder of the leading gay/lesbian agency, Double Platinum. Kurt also teaches "The Big Idea," a new three-credit copy design course that partners New School and Lang students who want to try writing advertising with Parsons' students who want to try designing ads. Non-credit working professionals can also take the course and partner each other. "The Big Idea" meets 15 Monday evenings from 8:00 to 10:00 starting September 10.
Additionally at The New School, Kurt taught in the Humanities Division for 10 years, alternating "Pulp Fiction" (a history of pulp magazines and their major authors from 1890 to 1950) and "Killer Writers" (a study of crime noir writers and novels from Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Jim Thompson, to Chester Himes, Patricia Highsmith and Donald E. Westlake).
Kurt also teaches a continuing film series at the 92nd Street Y, "Killer Movies: Lost Films Noirs" (the fifth annual installment begins February 5, 2008), focusing on the best and most obscure crime dramas of the 1940s. Kurt is also launching a new film series, "Lost Weekends: Alcoholism At The Movies," focusing on classic drinking films of the 20th century. This ten week series begins October 2 and runs for ten Tuesday evenings (7:00 to 9:30 p.m.) at The New York Society for Ethical Culture, 64th Street and Central Park West. Info at nysec.org, hit Table of Contents, hit Other Events.
Kurt holds M.S. and B.S. degrees in Journalism, both with advertising majors, from the University of Wisconsin, writing the first thesis there on television commercials. He also taught advertising at the University of Illinois, sharing a faculty office with the legendary direct mail specialist James Webb Young. He is married with four children.
Kurt's son, Chris, is a rock musician with three solo CDs in international distribution, plus 20 years' experience as lead guitarist recording and touring with Come, Consonant, Steve Wynn, and Evan Dando; Chris also played drums in the seminal slo-core band Codeine, and plays drums currently with The New Year. Kurt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ritesh Patel, Co-Founder, Avivocom LLC
You can never get Ritesh to talk much about himself, which is why we are delighted to do so here. His contributions and influence within the media technology industry have been felt across many of the most respected Fortune 500 companies.
Mr. Patel has over 15 years of operations and information technology experience. His professional profile includes senior positions with Euro RSCG, Dimension Data, Agency.com, Conduit Communications, Perot Systems, Forte PLC, Hospitality Perspectives, Inc, Citicorp/Citibank, Holiday Inn International, American Express TRS and BPF Travel, Inc.
As co-founder, Ritesh has been instrumental in the success of the company's offering. Currently, Avivocom's technology uses a combination of video, VoIP and text chat to let its enterprise clients converse with online prospects. The company offers two products, LiveGuide and LiveBanner. It is widely used by IBM to support their Express Advantage product suite aimed at mid-sized businesses.
According to Click Z, IBM believes the ad unit helps it be accessible to the SMB community, which tends to think of the company as monolithic and aloof.
Prior to joining Euro RSCG, Ritesh worked for Dimension Data, a South African Systems Integration services business where he was responsible for the Architecture of solutions for global 1000 customers. The focus was mainly on Service Oriented Architectures for clients in the financial services, retail and health care industries. Ritesh joined Dimesion Data after 4 and a half years as the Vice President of Technology for AGENCY.COM in New York, where he was responsible for managing a team of nearly 40 professionals to create the technical infrastructures for web based applications.
In 1998, Ritesh was the Managing Director for the New York Office of Conduit Communications, an Interactive Strategy Consulting and Development company headquartered in the UK. During his tenure, Ritesh was responsible for building the NYC office and working with clients in the financial services, travel, health care and insurance industries. Ritesh joined Conduit after having worked in the Information Technology Strategy & Planning department for U.K. based Forte Hotels, Europe's second largest global hotel company.
Earlier in his career, Ritesh spent five years as the co-managing partner/founder of an information management consultancy that advised clients in the travel, financial services and catalog industries. He also spent four years with Citicorp Information Management services where, in the role of vice president of product development, he shared responsibility for the development and evaluation of information-based business opportunities in the corporate and consumer travel markets for Citicorp.
Eric Frenchman, Chief Internet Strategist, Connell Donatelli Inc.
Eric is an online advertising and marketing consultant from "the great state of New Jersey" and Chief Internet Strategist for the D.C-based online advertising agency, Connell Donatelli Inc.
He is currently working on the online advertising team for John McCain for President, 2008. In 2006, Eric planned and purchased online political advertising for a number of high-visibility candidates.
Since 1998, Eric has managed multi-million dollar online advertising and CRM campaigns for AT&T, DLJdirect, Harrisdirect, and BMO Investorline. In 2003, Harrisdirect was recognized as Best Financial Advertiser. By 2005, it was ranked 17th largest online advertiser in the US.
Eric is a frequent columnist for MarketingProfs.com, one of the most respective and influential blogs in the business, subscribed to by 250,000 professionals.
An avid gamer, Eric shares his expertise and insights about online political advertising, WoW, and life in the digital age on his PardonMyFrench blog at www.ericfrenchman.com.
Eric holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from Rutgers University and a master’s in business administration from the Rutgers Graduate School of Management.
Wendy: How's it going?
Marjie: It's going very well!
Wendy: Excellent! Before we get into talking about Ignited and the industry, would you tell me a little about your background and how you got into the business?
Margie: Well it's kind of funny, my Dad had a company that he took public in the 1980's. He manufactured portable hard disc drives. It was interesting for me as a kid to watch all this going on around me and I was surrounding by the explosion of new technology.
Wendy: That's interesting.
Marjie: By the time I got to college to figure out what I wanted to do, it was a choice between becoming a doctor and doing something in the tech field. I ended up majoring in Managing Information Systems and when I graduated I started off as a programmer. It was a good time to be a programmer because it was the Internet boom. I began with job at Warner Brothers where I programmed their DVD's.
Wendy: Wow, what a cool job just coming out of college.
Margie: It was great, because it was really new. Not that many people were doing it. Looking back, the entry into was relatively easy because there weren't that many people with experience
Wendy: Was that in the late 1990's?
Margie: It was around 1997.
Margie: It's funny because if you try to get a job like that today, it's almost impossible. You must have experience because everyone is trying to get into the field. While I was programming I quickly figured out that I liked the social interaction that comes with beign a project manager. I really enjoyed it and became good at it because in part, I knew the pet peeves of my programmers!
Wendy: That makes sense.
Margie: Other managers didn't understand these things and what it took for a programmer to get their job done. One thing we would do that was different back then was to have brainstorming sessions. I thought that was really useful. It's how we operate here at Ignited.
Wendy:Great. Where did you go to school?
Margie: Long Beach State.
Wendy: Have you always lived in California!
Margie: Yes, I'm so local it hurts! (LOL) But seriously, I come from a tight knit family. Everyone is here so California is home to me.
Wendy: Do you see yourself today more on the technical side or the marketing side?
Margie: It's kind of an even split. That said, I lean more to the technical side, based on my experience. I think having a technical understanding can be an excellent background to develop good marketing and strategic skills in our business. For one, it definitely increases the chance your tech recommendations will line up with the overall creative direction.
Wendy: Who are some of Ignited Minds' clients?
Margie: We work with Sony VAIO Latin America, LA Weekly and NBC Universal, among others. We also do work for several gaming companies. That's how our company originated. Ignited's founders came from Activision. We're pleased with the diversity of our client list outside of the gaming world. Some people just think of us as a gaming advertising agency but we do much more than that.
Wendy: Tell me what technology is coming down the road that you like.
Margie: There are a couple of things that come to mind.
Wendy: Like what?
Marjie: Well, I like to push my vision out beyond the immediate future. While this doesn't sound revolutionary, I get very excited about the convergence of various mediums.
Wendy: So do I.
Marjie: The next area is the integration between Television and the Web. The reason clients like the web so much is because it's measurable. I have a vision of walking into my house one day and have one server that does it all.
Wendy: We're definitely on our way there.
Marjie: The excitement for me is to offer consumers the kind of things which will give them more control. Which is another reason why people like the web. Consumers are multi-tasking. Consumers are watching TV and playing games at the same time. They actually can measure where they are with the live game on television. I think it's cool. It excites me to find out what people are doing and what they like. It helps me do my job better.
Wendy: We interviewed the founder of LiveHive, a company that does just that kind of thing. You can be watching an NFL game on TV which is in sync with the game, only it's on the computer. It allows you to play with your friends through a network so you can make predictions about what is going to happen in the next play. It's a whole different type of stat.
Margie: I agree. But many marketers think, "Well, what's the likelihood that someone is going to be watching and playing along at the same time?" I think it's just like doing your homework while watching TV or listening to the radio. It's the same with games.
Wendy: What about mobile TV, watching video on your cell phone or personal communication device?
Margie: I'm struggling with finding the right balance that PDA's should have in your life. I work quite a bit. I make it a point to stay at the office later so I can get the work done. When I go home I can shut it off. I can't always do that but it's nice to have time to yourself once in awhile. This is a nitpick but I find it rude to be checking email when you're supposed to be giving someone your full attention in a meeting. I like other little gadgets. For instance I have a PSP so I can actually watch movies when I'm at the gym, which is very cool.
Wendy: I get where you're coming from. As we were talking about convergence one of the things that is being talked about is how to reach consumers on their mobile devises in a way that will be non-intrusive, using for example, behavioral targeting. What do you think of the idea of a marketer delivering a text message while you're walking by a Banana Republic?
Margie. It's a great concept, but we have to be careful not to be intrusive because that will turn consumers off. One of the beautiful things about the Web is that it's user initiated, and consumers can choose to engage or not. If it's advertising on a mobile device I think the message has to be relevant. I think advertisers have to be careful not to make the same mistakes that are done on TV everyday, bombarding consumers with things that have no relevance in their lives. That's one of the reasons DVR's are so popular.
Wendy: It seems marketers are cautious about jumping into the mobile space in part because they don't want to alienate consumers. I saw a survey recently that suggests a large majority people are opposed to the idea of mobile advertising because they see it as intrusive. The value prop to consumers is still not clear.
Margie: Many marketers don't give consumers the credit they deserve. If you serve a consumer an ad at a time when they're not open to seeing it, it could have an adverse effect on the brand.
Wendy: What do you think of UGC and the effect it's having on how a brand markets itself today?
Margie: I have a different take on UGC. It's a balance between freedom and censorship. The whole point of having UGC on your site is so people will come back and visit. The only way they're going to do that though is if they feel it's a free forum. Of course you don't want them on your site saying terrible things about your brand. But if you censor heavily, people will question how authentic is it? There's still a level of respect you must give to your consumers and to have faith that they're not going to talk too trashy or use inappropriate language.
Wendy: It's a delicate balance. Brands need to be transparent and consumers need to be respectful of their sites.
Margie: I think it's a good idea to have several employees on the site monitoring what's going on and what's being said, but you should also allow consumers to police themselves. We built LA Weekly.com and its UCS. The way we built the logic into the system is that we are not policing it and they are not policing it, they're allowing their consumers to have a free voice.
Wendy: Give me an example.
Marjie: The model is sort of like Flickr, you can upload an image and assign meta tags to them and say what you want, but if something is inappropriate and someone flags it, a warning is sent to the user. If the image is flagged a second time it's pulled down. That user gets put into a warning bin. If that happens they have to sign up again or a member of LA Weekly contacts them and tells them they've going to have to watch what they post or they'll be removed from the system.
Wendy: Interesting model.
Margie: The self-policing works very well. A lot of people like that site. We just won an award for the LA Weekly campaign.
Wendy: Congratulations! I'm curious; did you use EyeWonder for that campaign?
Margie: We didn't do online advertising for them. We just created the site. We use EyeWonder for many campaigns. It's not that we don't use other companies, but the customer service with some of these other companies just isn't there. We would be missing deadlines. And in our business as in most, projects sometimes come up very quickly and you have to turn projects around very quickly. It's essential that the vendor you choose is sensitive to that and respects your deadlines.
Margie: To me customer service is probably more important to me than almost anything. Being a project manager, I have to juggle projects in various stages of development and many deadlines. I talk a lot on the EyeWonder testimonial about the excellence of their customer service and the relationship we have with them.
Wendy: Yes, it seems to be a core theme throughout the testimonial campaign.
Margie: I know the guys in the LA office really well. They're just the nicest people. They will also take the time to come out and see you. They go over and above. Even if it's something they've done before they have no problem coming out 3 times in a row to do the same capabilities meeting because you've hired extra employees.
Wendy: It makes a huge difference in terms of differentiating yourself from other competitors because customer service in any service business is not necessarily the norm these days.
Marjie: That's for sure.
Wendy: Let's switch gears. Tell me what you like most about what you do and then what are the biggest challenges you face?
Margie: I like many aspects of my job. If I had to choose between being on the client side versus the agency side, I would choose working at an agency. It gives me access to all the different companies we get to work with and the challenges they provide us.
Marjie: Some of the challenges, especially being in the interactive space are getting clients who are willing to take risks. People are afraid of losing their job, so they'll do an iteration of what their competitors do because no one's ever lost their job for doing something that seems to be "proven". We're getting to the point where clients are putting funds behind truly innovative concepts; ones that span across many mediums, but we have a long way to go. Occasionally when you have a client who wants to do something completely different, we say, "You've come to the right place!"
Wendy: How do you measure the effectiveness of a campaign? Do you set up a system to measure the results beforehand? Do you build that in or do clients do it themselves based on whatever their goals happen to be?
Margie: We have a media division at Ignited so it comes from that group. In every campaign we develop we know what the measure of success is going to be. That's critical to developing the solution. We're going to be providing multiple solutions, multiple messaging, multiple types of creative and we're going to recommend that we optimize their campaign along the way to provide weekly reports. Very often we are analyzing the reports in real time and are making recommendations from what we see.
Wendy: What's the most ideal metric you could imagine to measure success?
Margie: One that measures the consumer every step of the way. For example, synchronizing your messaging based on a person's web expeience. Let's say you're a brand like Coca-Cola. You cookie a user who saw your ad asking them to register for something on your site. Then they go to Google and there's another Coke ad and it asks "why haven't you signed up yet?" If you can start to get that granular it's just amazing the types of solutions you can come up with. The metrics will be a key part to optimizing that kind of campaign in real time.
Wendy: Great example. Okay, last question, we spoke about your experience about breaking into the new media space at the beginning of this interview. You said it was relatively easy to break into the new media space. It's an even more competitive market now than it was then. What advice would you give a college grad who's considering a career in this field?
Margie: Well it's funny; when I started I didn't realize how much this business is really all about marketing, Had I had that kind of framework I may have tried to get into the agency business straightaway. What I would recommend to kids these days coming out of school is that they consider that the job market in the digital advertising field is going to continue growing. Take advantage of it. All agencies need programmers, project managers, designers and media people.
Wendy: I was talking to an executive in the media department of a large digital agency in New York and he was saying that talent is scarce because college grads don't really have access to advertising classes in school. They don't really know what opportunities exist. Do any agencies you know do job fairs?
Margie: What you learn in school doesn't always apply to the "real world". When I was in school I took database classes and HTML classes. When I got my first job I asked myself, "Okay, how do I apply this?" I actually needed a mentor to help me break in to it because there was a disconnect between what I studied versus what I was doing on the job.
Wendy: Makes sense.
Marjie: I was President of the largest club on campus for Management Information Systems. We would actually set up job fairs ourselves. We were able to get Boeing to come out. They recognized that students were learning what was going to impact their industry. Once companies learned about our job fairs, it was amazing how many would come out. They would give a presentation and collect resumes at the end.
Wendy: So the school-side that was the driver.
Marjie: Definitely. That raises an even larger issue. I think there needs to be more "real world applications" in class to help students apply what they learn in the text books. It would be helpful to have someone from the industry teach the course. Not a professor who's been stuck in a college for 20 years.
Wendy: When I was in school I took as many co-op credits and internships as I possibly could because I knew that the classes I was taking in communication and marketing were theory-based versus action-based.
Margie: I tend to save everything. I was just going through some of my old college textbooks and none of them apply to where I ended up or what I'm doing right now.
Wendy: Do you hire interns?
Margie: Yes, we're very close to Loyola Marymount here. We recruit many interns from there. Every 2 years or so I get out to Long Beach State and I'll speak to the same group I was president of to make sure that I'm still mentoring and trying to give something back.
Wendy: New recruits are important. I've heard many times that the lack of qualified people means that companies just end of poaching from each other.
Margie: Yes, but we've had people leave Ignited and then come back because after working at other companies they missed the company philosophy. I been here 3 years after working at several other companies and the difference here is that our management cares.
Wendy: That's great!
Marjie: We're 40 employees now and there is not one time a person can't walk over to anyone and talk to them about issues. They're available and their philosophy is that everyone has something valuable to contribute. We have company staff meetings regularly so everyone feels as if they are plugged into the agency and what is going on.
Wendy: That is the exact opposite of the type of environment I worked in for the last 20 years in publishing. I worked in extremely corporate environment which probably accounts for why I decided to become an entrepreneur! I think it's great that all of these small and mid-size companies exist now to give people a real sense that what they do directly effects the company they work for.
Margie: Although our intention is to grow, we don't want to lose that "boutiquey" feel. It allows us to provide a level of customer service that our clients have come to expect from Ignited. My own philosophy on customer service is it's not just about servicing clients. It's also about how you treat each other in the office. As a project manager I think it's important for me to be there for the programmers. The account people need to have a "what can I do for you today" approach. My whole team has read the book "Customer Service for Dummies". We take turns reading it and discuss it in our producers meetings. A lot of it we already know but it's a good refresher anyway.
Wendy: That's so cool!
Marjie: You know, if we're going to be spending all these late hours together, we better like each other!
Wendy: I couldn't agree more. Margie, this was great. Thanks so much!
Marjie: You're quite welcome, Wendy!
Why? ...due to the prediction/dream he made over 15 years ago about his hope for the future of film-making. See it below.
Do see the documentary that this quote/verbatim was included in: Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse; about the making of the film, "Apocalypse Now."
In light of this weekend, where we experience all types of freedoms and remember those who paid the ultimate sacrifice, one thing we should also remember is the very ignored necessary ingredient that made all of new media possible; the freedom of speech. If it wasn't for that, there would be no file-sharing, no blogs, no online communities... in short, no nothin'. You make up your own mind. Here it is, spoken in 1991.
"To me, the great hope is that now [that] these little 8-millimeter video recorders and stuff [have] come out, some... just people who normally wouldn't be making movies, are going to be making them. You know, that suddenly one day, some little FAT girl in Ohio is going to be the next Mozart and make a beautiful film with her little father's camcorder. And for once, this whole "professionalism" about movie making will be destroyed forever and lead into an art form... That's my opinion." -Francis Ford Coppola
The MadAve Journal recently received feedback in response to our holiday tribute to Mr. Ron Rosenfeld, Cheers & Tears: Ron Rosenfeld & His Agency Party Tradition. As we begin 2006 together, we would like to share them with you, the MadAve community.
Gene DeWitt knew Ron very well. Here'a note about how Ron touched him personally and professionally.
Your Ron Rosenfeld essay made me think of how much I learned at RS&L and how that agency formed me professionally.
1. How to pitch new business. We won 29 accounts in the first four years including media buying and field service for McDonald's New York region in competition with the very much larger media departments of JWT, B&B and Grey. In fact, when the chairman of Benton & Bowles was told that Rosenfeld Sirowitz & Lawson had won the account, he was rumored to have replied, "Rosenfeld Sirowitz & Who?".
2. How to build and manage an agency. We had a small Executive Committee which ran the place; Ron, Len and Tom were incredibly open to suggestions, ideas and initiatives from the entire team. It was a dream place in which to work, those guys were so nice.
3. How to be a complete advertising and marketing person. When the giant agency holding companies of today talk about "holistic" strategies as though they invented them, it kind of makes me laugh for two reasons. First, because their fragmented holding company structures makes the mere coordination of multiple units quite a challenge and most often just an unrealized goal for the. Secondly, because the "new" agencies such as Anomaly and Taxi seem to me to represent exactly that, places where multiple disciplines and perspectives can be joined together in groups of specialists working as teams to create wide-ranging strategies and executions.
Here's a personal note from a copywriter who knew Ron.
Here's a personal note from a media director who worked with Ron
Tim: Let's begin with your immediate future. You're about to change lifestyle to some degree. You're .moving on from the IAB after, what, 4 years?
Greg: Actually, I'm not really so sure my lifestyle's going to change. I work from 6 in the morning until 10 at night as it is. I don't know how that's going to be different when I go on and start off. You know, I wouldn't mind going to a big needy company as long as they were really committed to change and they really let me do it.
Tim: Have you decided what you're going to do next?
Greg: I think the likelihood is that I'll end up go running an early stage business.
Tim: That makes sense. I find one difference with being an entrepreneur is that my energy and my ideas drive the work rather than pushing it out.
Greg: Well, as Confucius had said, if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life. Yeah. I mean, I was first born. I was president of the student body. I was captain of the tracks team. For me I have always been in charge. It just is my nature; I have to be in charge. That's the use for me. And in fact, where I've always been the most successful is when the company gives me the room to move the ball forward.
Tim: Is that the reason you wrote "What Sticks?
Greg: So I'll tell you the reason I did the book. I did the book because I love advertising. And I love the business, and I love the people in it. But I think the business is killing itself. And so this is an intervention. It's my role to try to help save the business. But at the end of day the business we are in now doesn't actually recognize it's killing itself. And so I hope What Sticks creates great change in the industry. I hope it's in the beginning of a giant revolution in advertising as important in the creative revolution that happens back in the '60's.
Greg: Because I think that that's really what's needed. We all know that there's little trouble. But, you know, like those in denial, it doesn't mean that necessarily everybody jumps on board with that solution and acts against it. So that's what's going to be interesting to see what happens. And it's meant to be a prescription. Rex and I decided we could have gone in the depths - a bunch of different ways. Originally, we thought the only way to do this was to have to just attack the business. That's the thing. We didn't really want to write that kind of book. So we agreed to try to chart a path. I don't think What Sticks is the final answer. We're hoping that it creates more discussion and debate and that more people will work for the solution. Because at the end of the day, we don't really care how the industry necessarily gets recovery just that it gets it.
Tim:: Well, I think we'll always have a business but I disagree with you to some degree in terms of recovery. I think that's a dramatic way of putting it. At the end of day, I think advertising and marketing is Darwinian.
Greg:: I don't know, Tim. It's pretty bad. Roughly 112 billion $$ are wasted each year. We came to that figure based on 30 studies that we did against the billion dollars in advertising. I don't know of many tests that have the opportunity to closely monitor that amount of cash over 30 brands, all of which are blue chip
Greg: So in truth, the waste is significantly higher than 112 billion. I'll tell you Tim it's very clear in talking to marketers. They really don't know how advertising really works.
Greg: There are series of miss and misnomers and half truths and poor logic that rule in the business. I mean, it's pretty bad. We analyzed that 47% of the marketers we worked with either did not get their motivation right, did not really understand their consumer's or did not get the message right. In other words the message didn't resonate with consumers. That's the nature of denial.
Tim: Let's switch over to your experience at the IAB. Clearly that view led you to the conclusions you've made in the book. Besides working with so many advertisers you've overseen many different task forces to tackle specific issues. I mean, in 2002 when you and I began working together the IAB had just a handful of committees. How many are there now?
Greg: We have 700 people involved in our committee now today. The last time I counted there were about 18 committees plus or minus.
Tim: I wanted to ask you. With every committee formation, were there a few similar factors in each that prompted you to say, "Okay, let's pull a group together and study this issue."
Greg: You're asking me how do we decide which committee to start?
Tim: Yeah. Exactly.
Greg: It's probably less science and more sort of art. I mean, certainly, the biggest challenge is that in an industry as early stage as the internet ad industry is, there's no shortage of things that need be done.
Greg: So, what we try to do is go through a process of, you know, a combination of things where we think there was high value and where we really believe that we could be successful. It's a combination of both those things. "Let's make sure that we're going to solve a real problem here or fix something that we'll have substantial impact on the business." But let's also make sure that if it's going to be painful, let's make sure that we have a reasonable threshold of competence with the right group in place that we can succeed at it.
Tim: Which means creating a ground swell of interest to bring the right companies and people together to do more than just having a standing committee as a political decoration.
Greg: That's true. There have been cases where we walked away from some things. When I didn't sense that there was enough motivation by the participants. If I didn't hear a real commitment from that group in very short order to get together and work on something, then I have abandoned some of those things in the past. If they're not really committed or don't have the resources and the time, it's just not worth it.
Tim: Let me play devil's advocate for a minute. In each committee, you have companies who are in competition with each other. How were you able manage the self interest of a company participating to keep focusing on the enlightened self interest of the industry coming together versus fighting to skew an issue to benefit them versus the other guy.
Greg: That is the magic of my job.
Tim: What do you mean?
Greg: The IAB is managing an industry on hyper speed. That's been a big factor in managing and aligning similar interests.
Greg: And so, we very much looked for projects where we could find individual self of interest that was sufficiently motivated to take on a task that was actually also for the greater good.
Greg: That is of course the goal and intent of a trade association. We've always aimed for the greater good. But it's got to also operate it sort of an individual company's self interest. If it doesn't then, you know, "this is not going to work."
Tim: Right. You know, we've talked a lot about fears and predictions of Hollywood taking over Madison Avenue. Creation of content over advertising. To some degree, I've seen them exaggerated. What do you think?
Greg: You know, I'll tell you what makes me nervous about Hollywood getting involved in the business. I'm happy if somebody thinks they can prove me wrong. In my opinion, it's not about creating content, it's about selling. I think if there's another line of message and what sticks, it really is that at the end of the day, we are not focused on selling. I'll give you a perfect example. We had a number of the 30 companies come back to us at some point after we did a post of their campaign tell us that the campaign had been successful because the press has covered it because they got a lot of publicity for the campaign.
Tim: I saw that in your book. That was great.
Greg: And yet I have never in my life, in my 25 years in advertising, ever seen a creative brief state that the goal and objective was publicity for the campaign.
Greg: That's retrofitting goals to meet success when we should be really clear of what the goals are and then let's be sure that we're meeting that goal. You Tim, it's a not until you run a business that you get a real sense of clarity around that you think to yourself "Oh, my God. We're got all the resources focused on the long goal."
Greg: I've been in a meeting and watched the CEO of one of the domestic auto companies ask his head of marketing the same question five times. And that question was in essence, "What do you mean that we spend hundreds of millions of dollars and we don't know what it does?"
Greg: He was asked five times and still couldn't get a clear answer. That's a problem.
Tim: Got it.
Greg: So, to answer your question, Can Hollywood sell? I don't know. I'd loved to see the ad business to get more focused on getting motivations right and getting the message right.
Tim: What you're talking about is the ability to measure the impact of something, the quality of the research, depending on how you measure it.
Greg: Right. And just be clear, you know, I'm not trying to take the art out of the business, the problem is that, you know, right now, it's 95% art and 5% science and that's absurd. That's absurd when you're spending money. I think the CEOs are fed up with it, you know, and I think CFO's are fed up with it as well.
Tim: But isn't the CFO the main driver of many companies today?
Greg: The business has changed. Advertising is just not as important any more. Many companies don't let sales and marketing people run businesses anymore. They're letting finance people go run the business, where everything is "Six Sigmatized." where they figured out how to squeeze every bit of operational efficiency. The thinking is, "Smoking kills and advertising people don't know what they're doing. Those are the facts."
Tim: LOL. I agree with you in those cases where you're in a mature industry which most brands are perceived more as commodities, which has led to so much consolidation. But if you're talking about a start up, if you're talking about a niche, or a brand new category, you see a different management pattern. It's more needs-based than process-based.
Greg: I think that there is a different kind of frustration working in a big company. I know a lot of very smart, very talented people, who have gone from growing small companies get absorbed into a very big corporation and then have their careers totally side-lined. And so, it's funny. It's always funny to me when people say, "Oh, you know, they don't want to do starters because they're risky." I actually think there's more risk in not being a master of my own domain. You know, that's what consolidation doesn't provide. At end of the day, this is people about people, right?
Greg: And so, you know, consolidation never serves people, it serves corporations but it never serves people.
Tim: Which brings us to the next question. The IAB is works with both big and small companies. What's the difference between working with each? Is there a difference between how you deal with the major companies versus those with a small but important niche?
Greg: Well, they have different assets and different needs to bring to the table. The big companies are focused on sort of "uber" issues, you know, grand standards that require significant changes in the way that the business is conducted. That becomes really important to them. Whereas the small companies tend to – and by small I mean companies which think, "Where do I get my next million dollars of revenue?" - They're looking for some innovation and insight in a way that the big companies aren't focused on.
Tim: They say that the biggest inhibitor from a small company growing beyond it's threshold size is the ego of the founder. They can't get out of the way, they can't let go to give it on to somebody who can then take it to a higher level.
Tim: Clearly, you have a lot of entrepreneurs who are members, who are adamant that their way is right, even though either the marketplace or the committee is going into a different area. I'm sure that can sometimes create a fair amount of tension in any committee. Now you're about to become an entrepreneur. This is not the first time, is this?
Greg: No. Before the IAB, I was running the venture back business on San Francisco.
Tim: Right. Okay. So, you have that experience on both sides.
Greg: Yeah, let's talk about that because it's relevant to this issue. I was only asked to do the IAB in an interim basis but I didn't agree to those terms. My thinking was based around a number of things. First, I saw a big opportunity to serve. I've always been kind of oriented that way. I like helping to resolve people's problems. It was clear to everyone ultimately that this is what was needed. From the beginning, the board agreed to let me run the IAB like an early stage business.
Greg: You know, that's why we took on $5.8 million in investment capital. I mean, tell me another nonprofit that ever done that. I've never heard of it. I call this association within an association. And the result is that we used to be 100% dues. We're now 55% dues based in revenue, right? We have four business lines at the IAB that we built out.
Greg: And, you know, some of those are now recurring revenue streams that will go on for years that will be evergreen for the IAB. Because at the end of the day, having resources is what was critical to fix with the industry. But that's in my opinion.
Tim: That makes the IAB a case study for reinventing the association. I would imagine a lot of industries would have a real problem with that, especially when 45% that are not coming out of dues. They might be threatened somehow. I don't know.
Greg: Well, you know, change always creates angst. I guess is that's part of what you're saying and change creates, you know, can create a certain amount of uncertainty for sure. But it's a testament to the board that they remained committed to really pushing the envelope very hard. I don't know if I said it before but the IAB is up 500% revenues since I took over.
Tim: I know, it's a tremendous growth.
Greg: In four years, that's a phenomenal shift. Tell me any other business that's going 500% in four years. Right? There's not many, it's a short list. And so, you need to have a certain amount of courage, you need to have a certain amount of commitment to go do that. And you've got to have a board to support that vision.
Tim: Let me ask you this; with regards to government, I assume the IAB has been a driver in getting consensus from the board on particular issues. The biggest issues are tax and privacy based issues. Is that how you see it?
Greg: Washington has become interesting. We're in the process of setting up a public policy of the IAB and trying to identify a leader for that space right now.
Tim: A lobbyist?
Greg: But I wouldn't label this position like that. It'll be head of public policy to bring the membership together to solve common problem and address common issues with a Washington focus.
Tim: I would imagine other media companies which already have representation will be working in concert next to the IAB public policy. I would imagine that a public policy leader would be more of an advocate role rather than someone who is going to be contributing PAC funds.
Greg: I think that we need to kind of set that strategy, to determine what are the elements for success. I think the overwriting theme to all of this is that the IAB have been focused on helping to build the industry. Most of what we have done is focus on growth. The industry will become $17 billion strong this year versus $6 billion when I started. A lot of our efforts in the first three years in Washington will be just around simple education.
Tim: Do I think the government has been hands on?
Greg: Not necessarily hands on but we have had to deal with more pressure, unwarranted and irritating pressure from Washington. I'm incredibly concerned about the whole Washington arena and have been for some time at the board level now for four years. The board is now taking the importance of public policy and government relations much more seriously. You know, when you see issues like net neutrality which I think is terribly misguided. And the before that, the whole cookie debate. Washington blew that way out of proportion and made it really problematic.
Greg: Right. That's actually a really good question . I love that. You know, I had one of my board members say something to me recently, "Greg, what's your passion in life?"
Greg: Honestly, you know what, it's what I do right now; interactive digital marketing, consumer interfacing. This is really what I love to do. This really is my passion. I do what I love to do. So there isn't anything else other than that. I would say the thing that really gets me going though is similar to the IAB; a transformational opportunity. I've had three or four of those in my life so far. One at Y&R, one when I was a student body president, one at Y&R and now this one at the IAB. These have been transformation roles. I had a real opportunity to play a big role in really changing the world. And so for me if I can find something that also as transformational that would be really exciting to me.
Tim: What do you think that will look like?
Greg: I want to run a business. You know, my next one is I want to run a business of 100 to 200 people.
Greg: And then I hope to grow it to a business of 1000 people and then we'll see where it goes.
Tim: What else can you tell us?
Greg: I'm talking to the VC's right now. I've been asked to join a number of boards at this point. I think I've got like seven companies that have pursued me about board roles.
Greg: And so I'm pursuing that because I'd like to keep my hands in a couple of different sectors. You know, I'd like to be involved in wireless. I'd like to be involved in iTV. I'd like to be involved in user creative content. I'd like to be involved in broadband video, you know, I like those. I like emerging markets like China, you know, so I will take on probably a couple of board roles in addition to finding an operating role.
Tim: Well, my view of just hearing that is your hands on all of the different process of the business is not going to change. You're just not going to be doing it from an association standpoint as much as from, you know, doing it from the private sector.
Tim: What has been like leading the IAB, what's been your most satisfying experience and at the same time, your most challenging experience?
Greg: I would say that there's a couple of very fundamental things that we did that really helped transform the business.
Greg: Raising the money was incredibly satisfying.
Greg: I would say XMOS - actually getting the XMOS studies done was incredibly satisfying because that is landmark change the world kind of stuff in XMOS.
Greg: I would say doing the global measurement standards which really gave the Internet industry to take advantage versus all of the media and really settle a whole new high bar for media measurement. It was electrifying. They have the industry set a high bar for themselves. If I can someday tell you all what it really took to accomplish that - you would understand too. You know, those are things that will impact the business for 100 years to come.
Tim: What advice could you give to people getting into the business?
Greg: You'd be crazy not to. You know, I can't imagine a place that's more fun with more excitement and more opportunity. And honestly I've never found a better group of people than what I found in the Interactive Ad Business. Absolutely.
Tim: How about to the next IAB CEO?
Greg: Don't be afraid to do the right thing.
By Kurt Brokaw, Culture Editor
Two years before the making of Bamboozled, Warren Beatty's political satire, "Bulworth," posited an exhausted senator who orders and pays for his own assassination, and then - in a final bid for what Putney Swope would have called truth & soul - starts telling various constituencies (African-Americans, Jews, Hollywood fundraisers) the buried no-no's of political life. "Bulworth" stayed on safe ground (well, mostly safe ground) because Beatty was nearly always giving a rich white man's perspective of what he felt minority audiences needed and perhaps even longed to hear: raw truths.
Beatty never crossed an invisible but quite clear audience line; he mocked and insulted himself, not his audience.
Even when he starts rapping his message, and he's very good at this, Beatty is a cartoon politician, not a put-down artist. The fact that he's drawn to no less a beauty than Halle Berry, and she to him, helps the overall perspective Beatty gives to viewers, and viewers accord back to him. Audiences cut him a lot of slack. The picture got fairly mixed reviews and never made much money, which probably didn't surprise Beatty one bit.
Spike Lee's "Bamboozled" has a whole different set of pitfalls. In the first place, as an artist and director, Lee is the first major black filmmaker with a top Madison Avenue affiliation - Spike DDB, a vigorous and ongoing concern with some outstanding clients. But as a movie maker, Spike Lee has always marched to his own drummer, and here the drummer is like that black kid who carries around, sets up and pounds a huge set of pots and pans on the sidewalks of New York - he's a real noisemaker, a traffic stopper. This kid can stop a lunch hour crowd in its tracks and hold them for half an hour. "Bamboozled" has the same kind of power.
"Bamboozled" starts with a peculiar and charged situation at that mythical TV network in midtown Manhattan. A young Harvard-educated black producer (Damon Wayans) needs a higher-rated show for his foul-mouthed white boss (Michael Rapaport), who by the way happens to have a black wife and two biracial kids. Wayans seizes on two young street dancers (Savion Glover, Tommy Davidson) who are performing downstairs on the sidewalk for chump change. Wayans' million dollar idea is to put them in burnt cork blackface and star them in a hackneyed vaudeville-style revue with every black stereotype in the history of the stage and screen. (In case we think Lee just dreamed this up, the closing credits show us a montage of editorial clips echoing all the stereotypes we've watched in his movie.)
The revue, "Man Tan: The New Millennium Minstrel Show" is dazzlingly colorful, superbly choreographed and danced by a large black cast supporting Glover and Davison, and, yes, filled with offensive remarks, songs, costumings, props and actions. We don't know quite how to respond to this outrageous display, so Spike Lee cues us - the large, all-black audience watching the show live in a TV studio is taken aback for a while, but then slowly comes to enjoy, affirm and finally celebrate the show. Lee is similarly inviting us, the audience watching his movie, to do the same thing. And so we do - or don't. A lot of name critics reviewing the move bow out at this point, saying they can't condone racism on the screen, period, well-intended or not, directed by a black director or not, enjoyed by a black audience or not.
The satire deepens as the show gains national popularity. Wayans' white network boss is thrilled. Wayans' assistant (a street-smart Jada Pinkett-Smith and one of the key characters we watch carefully for reaction) more or less accepts the show's success, though she's uncomfortable with the elements of extreme prejudice. But there are warnings of trouble. The two stars become weary of their roles as Man Tan and Sleep 'n Eat, particularly when they return to their roots in their uptown 'hood. A number of young blacks called the Mau Maus, an Afrocentric rap group who know the stars, respond with anger and hostility to what they view as a racist show and a betrayal by their brothers. Wayans' own father, a nightclub comic in his twilight years with a traditional, old-school, routine, is not happy with his son's work.
One of Spike Lee's not inconsiderable talents is in projecting growing waves of tension and lurking violence. The film does explode in violence and death – a payback of sorts that is best not revealed here. One's responses at the conclusion are, to be sure, mixed and confused.
Lee is challenging the way we look at television, at advertising, at movies, at society, at history, at violence, and at ourselves. This is his job as an artist, and he has done it with care, surety and brilliance. How we respond is the question mark. But this movie is, at least outwardly, like the original 1984 Apple commercial done by Chiat-Day (directed by Ridley Scott), and telecast only once on the 1984 SuperBowl. It was a teaser spot so different, so haunting, and so outwardly negative, that all of top management under Steve Jobs didn't want to run it at all. Chiat-Day's creative head Lee Clow (it is said) told Jobs he'd put up $500,000 out of his own pocket to air it if Steve matched him with his own $500,000. Steve reportedly laughed and said, heck, if you believe in it that much, I guess we'll have to run it. The rest is history.
"Bamboozled" needed that same kind of angel going in, maybe a vote of confidence and chorus of approvals from black leaders or black opinion makers or black cultural heroes, in its initial release. Instead, the film's logo and poster puts up Man Tan and Sleep'n Eat in all their burnt-cork glory, crouching behind a medicine show poster that flags and fans all the film's controversies – practically an invitation to come in and dislike the movie. Or stay away from it and dislike it more. And, unfortunately, that is exactly what happened.
Much gratitude is felt for the following companies and people who were helpful at one point or another with education, inspiration and cooperation that has led to the launch of this next venture. Their contribution will never be forgotten, nor will it ever be ignored, even in those rare cases where disagreements caused us to move in different directions. That’s just a part of life.
This Journal is dedicated to Chris Hanley, who is profiled in