Rank Looks At The Big Picture
One new twist in the OMD deal is its movement beyond a traditional ad buy. Selecting his words carefully, Rank says, “It does include some things beyond simply the exchange of rating points for dollars. There are a lot of areas that we’re exploring, including program production, product placement, joints and promotional opportunities.”
Rank is no stranger to opening up the networks on product placement. “If well done, I think it’s really effective, and I don’t think it takes away from the program.” That said, to work Rank thinks it must be “organic” above all else. For example, if ABC’s Drew Carey sips from a can of Pepsi while at his desk, he feels that impression can be very effective for his client.
Ad techniques such as that will grow in importance in the future, he says, considering the development of technology that will allow consumers to zap commercials. While still several years away from becoming a serious challenge, OMD is already looking at ways to get around such devices, both internally, and with clients and the networks. “It has the ability to change the economic model of this industry,” says Rank, predicting over-the-air TV networks would have to become pay-per-view just to stay in business.
In the meantime, the networks are coming off their strongest upfront in two years with primetime rates up about 20% over 2001. “We’re very comfortable with the prices we paid,” says Rank. “The question that we have to look at now is how much of that money is real. It’s just hard to imagine all the money will stay.” He thinks it came from pool of money advertisers usual designate for the scatter market, so if there’s no large-scale cancellations, he expects to see a soft scatter market this fall.
More cause for concern, he says, is the “dive for dollars” that the cable networks continue to be forced into. “Cable continues to struggle with the economic model that was created by the networks. The cable networks just can’t embrace that economic model because their will always be more supply than there is demand.’ That struggle with how to increase spot prices in such an environment continues to be “great news” for agencies like OMD
In March, OMD restructured its U.S. operations. Rank, already responsible for OMD’s national TV unit, added oversight to OMD’s local TV and radio buying. These days, he works on average from 6am to 8:30pm, plus he travels frequently. You can tell he never really adds it all up, since when you ask him to do so he sounds surprised, then tired, himself. “Advertising, despite the fact that you have to work harder and smarter than years ago, is still a lot of fun for me. I feel sorry for the Wall Streeters, the economists, and the lawyers. When I go to a neighborhood cocktail party, everybody wants to talk to me.”