That said, every now and then, there’s an appointment that means much more than its simple who-what-when-where-how-why. And that certainly applies to the news last week that Chris Paul is moving from his post as executive vice president/managing director of VivaKi’s Audience on Demand to global director of paid media at Edelman. Not only does Paul have extensive digital media experience – he ran media for American Express at Digitas, and has also worked at 24/7 Media, among others – his most recent experience is in programmatic, giving him about the broadest spectrum of expertise that a digital media executive can have.
Of course, the bigger picture here -- for those who realize that “Blurred Lines” isn’t just a hit song -- is that more and more, paid, owned and earned media have to live symbiotically to live up to their potential, which creates some very blurred lines. Rather than owned content clumsily jumping a hurdle from paid status to earned, the process has to have a certain flow, where earned and paid move in a coordinated, analytics-driven fashion.
This toggling back and forth between paid and earned isn’t necessarily well served when media agencies concentrate on paid, and PR agencies, like Edelman, only focus on earned. It may well go without saying that Paul has no predecessor in this role, even though Edelman has been doing paid media for some time.
Which makes me wonder if I should even be referring to Edelman as a PR agency; the blurred lines of media these days also mean that labeling a particular agency as being “this” or “that” seems inaccurate. Indeed, when I asked Paul’s new boss, Edelman Digital global practice chair Kevin King, about Edelman’s approach toward media, he said: “What we need to be able to do is be strategic lead, and that’s across the owned space, the earned space and the paid space as well.”
As is so often the case, an appointment like Paul’s is both a sign of the future and a sign of how much media has changed. Personally, I have to wonder if this particular appointment caught my eye because of my past, and not the future. Early in my career, I did corporate PR for Ogilvy & Mather, Dancer Fitzgerald Sample (now Saatchi), and J. Walter Thompson. The chasm between what we did for a living, and what everyone else in the agency did, used to lead to misunderstandings that boggled the mind (or mine, anyway). My team was trying to place earned media in the ad press; the people we worked with were creating owned advertising messages that they simply needed to pay somebody to place.
The wall between the two was higher than you might think. We’d set up an interview for a creative director or a media director with The New York Times or Adweek, and after the meeting was over, the interviewee would frequently ask, “When do I get to approve my quotes?” Without betraying how stupid a question that was, I’d try to gently explain that when you are dealing with the press, you don’t get to approve your quotes. You are not in total control of the message.
An appointment like Paul’s acknowledges that the messages you control, and those you don’t, are increasingly intertwined, and the more you can integrate the two, the better off you’ll be.