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The Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG) just announced a minority investment in Samba TV. Props to Michael Roth and Chad Stoller. This looks like money well invested.

I’m always looking for the Is-Does when it comes to brands and Samba TV seems to be an analytics company. One tapped into 10 million household TV cable boxes. The Does of the Is-Does may be best described by co-founder and CEO of Samba TV, Ashwin Navin: “We think that more data will allow brands to reach more people they care about and waste less of their media budgets.”

This bulls eyes the famous John Wannamaker quote “I know half my advertising is working, problem is I don’t know which half.” Samba TV may not corral the missing half, but it will start to get close.

Nice to see IPG getting back up on the horse again. It’s good for business. Peace!


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ITT announced yesterday that it will split into three companies.  Sara Lee is considering splitting into two companies. And as you know, I believe Google will split into 3 companies in the next 5 years.  All this makes me wonder what’s in store for the big public ad agency holding companies?  What will IPG, WPP, Omnicom and Publicis look like in a decade or two?

The drivers of divestiture are usually varied margin and profitability spans.  In the case of ITT, the military business is not as profitable as the water pump business.  In agency holding companies, I wonder if there are discreet businesses with differing margins? 

Our business has changed much in the past 5 years thanks to the computer and digital marketing.  Analysis and reports, once the provenance of humans are now much more automated.  Translating the big selling idea across platform was always the heavy lifting, but today many media forms are converging. Content is still where the money and margin is in marketing.

If I were a betting person, I’d suggest a bifurcation of creative and analytics. Move the analytics companies nearer the energy plants so the computer farms are cheaper and run the creative companies in urban centers closer to all the stimuli. Patsy Cline? Fast forward. Peace!

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 Branding is about creating muscle memory around a selling idea. It’s not about the color of the idea. Or the smiling faces.  It’s not about the talent or the sing-songy tagline.  It about finding a powerful selling idea and organizing it in a way that consumers can play back.  It’s what good brand managers and their agents go to school for. 

What makes one hospital better than the next?  The stuff that’s been planted in your head.

Social media and its ability to make everyone a media mogul is having an impact on brand management.  The Brett Favre brand has just taken a major hit thanks to recorded cell phone conversations and some unseemly texts.  Sorry Wrangler Jeans. Social media created a torrent of unintended and, often, untended information about brands.

“Hi, I’m Amanda.  I’m from DDB Tribal. I teach clients how to use Facebook.”

As an ad agency kid in NYC I once suggested giving away free tee-shirts sporting our logo to bicycle messengers. Messengers were everywhere in NYC…in and out of some of the world’s most important marketing offices. My boss said “No, what if a bike messenger broke the law and got his picture in the paper.” Like it or not, that’s brand management.

The pop marketing psychology of the day is “Companies don’t own their brands anymore. Consumers do.”  I argued this point with the chief strategy and innovation officer at an IPG promotion agency earlier this year.  He agreed with the pop marketing thesis. I do not.  As social media allows more and more consumers to make fake ads and weigh in on products that others spend millions to build it becomes more important for brand managers to tighten up. We can’t silence the masses but we can friend them, hopefully program them toward our way of thinking, and maximize the share of message to noise.  

Find your selling idea, campaign it, refresh it, invest in it.  And manage it. Because social media for all its good can create noise that is not always brand and sales-positive.  Peace!

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Twitter and Skype just made executive moves at the top in efforts to take their fast growing, oft used businesses in the direction of profitability.  Both companies are moving past their infancy. The venture partners helping drive the strategy of these two exciting, brilliant tech companies are pushing for stronger, more “grown up” management.

This makes me think about digital marketing shops — other businesses coming out of the infancy stage.  Do big holding companies like IPG, WPP, Omnicom and MDC Partners cut digital companies more slack than traditional marketing companies? My bet is they do.   The young, filled-with-promise always get the benefit of the doubt. Plus, I’m guessing the financial people at the holding companies don’t quite know how to manage profitability of digital clients just yet.  Because digital is the fastest growing sector in marketing, profit blemishes are being masked.

Digital business people grouse that they don’t get a seat at the big person table when it comes to planning. Often, the “idea” is already cooked when the didge shops are brought in — the big expensive thinking complete.  What is left is the digital translation, a degree of digital creativity and execution… much of which can be performed by lower cost worker bees. If this thesis is correct, then the per capita payroll of a digital shop is lower than that of a full-service ad shop. This is why the profit margins are lower, why digital shops don’t scale past new business, and why they are not getting a seat at the big table. This will change, but will probably lag the pace of change at companies like Twitter and Skype. Peace!

PS.  RGA does not fit into this mold. They have strong highly paid talent throughout. They are the exception.

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MDC Partners is a marketing services holding company with a brand strategy.  That’s right, they have an idea. IPG doesn’t, though back in the day one might have assigned them “entrepreneurship.” WPP, Publicis, and Omnicom don’t have ideas, though perhaps at one point Omnicom might have owned “creative.”  At holding companies the powers that be feel brand strategies are not really needed.

MDC Partners owns talent. “Where great talent lives” is their idea. For some, that might be a platitude or poesy but for Miles Nadal, CEO, it’s a real strategy.  As a practice, MDC does not own a majority stake in its companies, it owns 49%.  This insures that great talent will stick around.  Their hands-off approach also insures that the talent stays great.  Though I only know Mr. Nadal through his actions and deeds his focus is solely on the leaders he hires, not their output.  Any person who has been around this business knows managing people is easier than managing work output.  Talent is what drives great marketing.  The talent to see what sells, the talent to package it, and the talent to promote it has driven the business since soap suds.  Never mind if that talent is traditional, digital, mobile or whatever’s next. (What could possibly be next?)

 MDC Partners stock grew last year while every other holding company’s tanked. Campaigns come and go and talent comes and goes, but in the marketing world “talent” is a powerful idea. Peace!

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The Geier Plan.

Philip Geier was the chairman of the Interpublic Group of Companies (IPG), an advertising agency holding company, while it was riding high in the 80s and 90s. A cigar-chomping, Ben Benson’s Steakhouses-eating executive, Mr. Geier oversaw some of the top agencies in the world, including McCann and Lowe. He is a brilliant business man. When a huge bank account was up for grabs and the final decision to be made between McCann and another agency, Mr. Geier (it is my belief) offered the bank all of IPGs global banking business. Winning idea!

If anyone knows about the power of advertising, the power of the consumer spending, it is Mr. Geier, so his full page newspaper ad yesterday to Timothy Geithner, the Obama team, and other financial opinion leaders to issue American families stimulus checks with a twist was worth reading. Unlike bail-out checks, Mr. Geier wants to issue money that “can be used only for consumer purchasing over a short period of time.”  It’s a bit complicated, but doable. Certificate checks will be issued which must be spend quickly and must be paired with real money to make a purchase. The solution will  jump start sales and build consumer confidence.

Glad to know that Mr. Geier (The Geier Group) is still chomping. I think it’s time to get him back to IPG and allow Michael Roth to take a sabbatical.


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Have you ever read a story in both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal and come away with two completely different appreciations? I have, and it’s pretty amazing. For me The New York Times is the world’s greatest newspaper. I crave it when it’s not at hand, but I have to give props to the Journal when it comes to business reporting. It’s business reporting is just better.
Here’s an example from articles today about Interpublic Group’s (IPG) troubles with the S.E.C. (IPG is and ad agency holding company.) The Times headline is “Settlement Sought With Interpublic.” It suggests that IPG will be hit by fines.  It reads, the S.E.C. “signals that its staff is likely to recommend civil action regarding possible S.E.C. violations.” Because I own some IPG stock, this article doesn’t make me feel too good.
The headline in the Journal is “Probe of IPG May Be Near End.” This article suggests the S.E.C. “intends to recommend a civil action against the recipient. That allows Interpublic to present its side of the allegations, an opportunity to ward off both charges and penalties from the S.E.C.” This one makes me feel good. The Journal article, is longer, includes more detail and nuance, and as is often the case, has a more complete story when it comes to business.  It specializes in business. Still, I love the Times, but the two together make an unbeatable combination.

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