The CEO Summit: Big 6 Media Chiefs Sound Off On The Economy
Joe Mandese: We began organizing this summit last spring, and obviously, we're not in a great environment, and the economic climate seems to be getting worse. Just last weekend, Lehman Bros. filed for bankruptcy, and Merrill Lynch was sold to Bank of America. How is this shaping your attitude and perceptions about the business? Is the word "fear" appropriate in this context?
Maria Luisa Francoli: I don't know about fear, but concern about what's going on. We're running responsible businesses like everybody else. And we are advising our clients on how to manage a big part of their budgets, so the degree of seriousness and professionalism has to step up to the current situation.
Sarah Fay: I would say the pressure we are facing comes from what our clients are facing. Clients need to achieve more for less budget, and it's not necessarily because their budgets are going down, but because marketing activities are fragmenting. And the market is delivering less for more. We're seeing escalating CPMs and diminishing GRPs in all of the usual places. And I think the result is that we are experiencing price pressure from our clients, and we have to take completely different approaches to achieve our clients' goals.
Jack Klues: I think what you're seeing in our industry, is we do our own way of consolidating. Every business unit is reinventing itself. Inside that reinvention, you've got to find a way to invest in the forward progress of your product. That's what we tell our clients: When times get tough, it's the best time to invest. I believe we are all doing that in our own way. How are we doing that? Maybe it's efficiencies on the periphery. Maybe it's through some consolidation. Maybe a chunk of it is through some self-funding some investments, however we do it. I feel pretty positive that while it is right to be cautious in tough economic times, we as a part of the advertising world are actually finding ways to invest in a product and I think a year from now, or two years from now we'll be where our clients want us to be.
Irwin Gotlieb: It's only prudent to be concerned when the world is in the state that it's in, but if you go back to the economic downturns of the 1970s, many clients found that reductions in marketing spending usually results in reduction of share of market. And it costs you more to buy back those share points far more than what you are able to save. It's also good news that our clients have very aggressive sales goals and marketing goals. And those can only be achieved through smarter and more efficient marketing. That doesn't mean you spend more. It means you spend smarter. And you do it with consistency and discipline, or the whole business structure comes apart at the seams. And in that context, I have to tell you, that on a day like this, I feel comforted that the Enrons of the world, and those who have come along since, have not been able to securitize or derivitize our business. We still operate largely on a supply and demand equation. We do not have a mechanism for speculators to impose volatility on a market that is otherwise organized.
Nick Brien: If there is a negative, when the economy was very flush, I think our clients had a very strong appetite for experimentation and they would spend money on social media or mobile marketing, or whatever the tests might be. The whole test and learn culture that we convinced our clients was an imperative is something that may be suspended in favor of a very considered approach to how to maximize the totality of their marketing investment. And I think that's our opportunity.
Fay: And even beyond that, media has moved beyond being a form of distribution to a part of the content strategy. Media and creative have really come together, because those strategies need to sit together, and more and more, media is in a position to drive those strategies.