Wieser Steps Down As Interpublic's Top Ad Seer, Becomes CMO Of 'Targeted TV' Ad Developer Simulmedia

They don't make ad industry seers the way they used to. Less than two years after Brian Wieser replaced Bob Coen as the top forecaster at Interpublic - and the ad industry's de facto chief bean counter - he is leaving to join early stage TV ad targeting technology company Simulmedia as CMO. His predecessor, Coen, had the job for 61 years, creating the role after the widow of McCann-Erickson Founder Alfred McCann funded a Harvard study defining advertising and endowed a position at the Interpublic precursor agency to begin tracking it.

Elizabeth Herbst-Brady, president of Magna Global, the division of Interpublic's Mediabrands unit that now oversees the production and marketing of the holding company's forecasting reports, says she has a "short list" of candidates to replace Wieser, and hopes to have one in place when Wieser leaves next month for his new job marketing Simulmedia.

Simulmedia, meanwhile, is about to "get serious" about making some noise in the ad industry, and Wieser's appointment is part of founder Dave Morgan's ramp up. Morgan, a regular contributor to MediaPost's "Online Spin Board," was a pioneer in the field of online behavioral targeting, founded one of the most successful companies in that field, Tacoda, and sold it to AOL for millions.

Morgan has been relatively modest about his plans for Simulmedia, initially positioning it as a company that would simply help TV programmers figure out a better way of running their "on-air" promo spots to make sure they reach viewers most likely to watch upcoming shows based on their past viewing preferences. But people who are familiar with Morgan's long-term game plan say he is as ambitious about transforming the way TV advertising is bought and sold, as he was about shaking up the way the online display advertising marketplace worked.

The shakeup, ironically, occurs as acute focus has been put on all forms of consumer behavioral tracking, especially the online display advertising marketplace, which has embedded the concept into many of the systems advertisers use to target their messages to consumers, and the ad industry has been rallying forces to lobby against proposed legislation to create a "Do No Track" law that some believe could be a death knell for behavioral tracking online, and TV and other media that have the kind of return path data that could be used to target them based on their consumption behavior.

That likely is one of the reasons Morgan has been so mum to date, but following his presentations over the past couple of years at industry conferences and insider gatherings like MPG's "Collaborative Alliance" meetings, you could see his message shift from a simple TV promo targeting tool to a more effective way of targeting all of the $80 billion TV advertising marketplace.

In fact, Morgan doesn't like to call the practice "behavioral targeting" on TV, most likely because of the emotions regulators, legislators and consumer privacy groups have against the term, but instead calls it an advanced form of "TV targeting."

Simulmedia is far from alone in that burgeoning marketplace. In fact, Morgan recently created a complicated flow chart illustrating dozens of different companies and organizations - ranging from early stage ones like Simulmedia to more established players such as Google and Microsoft - as comprising a new marketplace he dubs the "Targeted TV Advertising Technology Landscape." The chart is an allusion to a similar, albeit even more complex flowchart that Wall Street's Terrance Kawaja created over the past several years to illustrate the growing complexity of the online display advertising technology marketplace.

Kawaja's online industry chart contains hundreds of players , mostly middlemen who help enhance data surrounding an online consumer's behavior and thus make targeting them more precise. During a panel discussion at MediaPost's OMMA Global conference last September, Interpublic's Wieser joked to Kawaja that he had a similar chart that he's been tracking, and added, "Mine is bigger than yours." No doubt.

Wieser is an inspired choice to lead Simulmedia's marketing efforts. He has no direct background in sales and marketing, though he has worked on Madison Avenue for years, and before that was a Wall Street securities analyst. But he is among the brightest and most inquisitive minds in the industry, and loves to engage in philosophical debates about the nature and meaning of advertising and media. During a one-day "sojourn" to help him understand, define, and ultimately figure out a way to categorize "social media" in Interpublic's official forecasting estimates, Wieser spent a day running from meetings with experts to experts, spouting famous quotes from Marshall McLuhan to a reporter who tagged along for the ride.

At the end of the one-day sojourn, Wieser concluded that social media was not a form of advertising, and therefore should not be included in the ad industry's official estimates, much to the chagrin of hundreds, if not thousands of players, in that burgeoning marketplace. Asked recently, Wieser said he maintains that his view that social media is not a form of advertising, even though the practice seems to be transforming Madison Avenue once again.

But Wieser has been a transformer of his own kind, and when he took over the job as Interpublic's chief forecaster two years ago, literally reinvented how the big agency holding company, its clients, and the media who source it, look at the world of advertising. He developed an intricate model that aggregated ad spending estimates based on actual revenues to the media, vs. Madison Avenue's standard approach of counting up the billings from the major agencies and marketers. Wieser maintained that it was a more accurate perspective, but it led to problems comparing Interpublic's numbers with the rest of the industry, including big forecasting counterparts at WPP Group, Publicis and other agency holding companies that would like to become the industry's de facto source instead of Interpublic.

Interpublic's Herbst-Brady said the agency would continue to utilize the methodology developed by Wieser and considers it its unique intellectual property and a competitive advantage in the marketplace.

In an email sent to friends and colleagues early this morning, after Simulmedia released news about hiring him, Wieser wrote, "Simulmedia will be a critical component sustaining long-term growth of the industry for all of its participants, generating enhanced value for advertisers, their agencies and TV networks alike."

As they say in the TV business, stay tuned.

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