Ken Auletta's Provocative New Ad Book Is A Colorful Page Turner

I just received my advance copy of Ken Auletta’s new book on the ad biz, “Frenemies: The Epic Disruption Of The Ad Business (And Everything Else)." And I have to say the parts I’ve read so far are fascinating.

Not surprising, really. If you’ve spent any time in the media and marketing space, or read The New Yorker, you know Auletta’s work. He is a master at storytelling, as evidenced by a slew of previous tombs on the business, including “Three Blind Mice: How The TV Networks Lost Their Way” and “Googled: The End Of The World As We Know It.”

And, of course, he’s written a collection of articles in The New Yorker packaged under the “Annals of Communications” umbrella for decades.

For “Frenemies,” I read somewhere that he conducted about 450 interviews — which is about 100 more interviews than pages in the book! Talk about in-depth research.

The book has several plugs from industry bigwigs on its jacket, including one from Horizon Media founder and former 4As chairman Bill Koenigsberg (“Well done!”) and media mogul Barry Diller, who states that you “toss this book at your peril.”



Diller tends to be a bit hyperbolic, and I don’t think you have to worry about being harmed or in danger in any way if you don’t read it. Still, I do think you’ll be missing out on one of the great reads about Adland in recent memory if you skip it. One that will be a prime source of industry chatter for months to come.

Auletta makes a good case that the ad biz is under “existential assault.”

As you would expect, he talks to and quotes many of the industry’s leading lights.

He goes into some detail on Michael Kassan’s backstory. Kassan, a lawyer by training, now runs one of the most powerful consultancies in the business, MediaLink, and is referred to in the book as the “Dolly Levi” of the industry for his “peerless” ability as a connector. His background is riveting.

Suffice it to say, he ran into some trouble with the law a few decades back, found redemption, ran the biggest media agency in the world, sold it to a major holding company and then found himself on the outs again.

There’s a great quote in the book from Kassan’s wife Ronnie, during the time when Kassan was trying to figure out what to do next. “He was at home a lot,” Ronnie told Auletta.  Lots of industry people were calling and asking for advice on various matters.  “Michael, why don’t you charge them?” Ronnie recalled asking her husband.

How’s that for sage advice to the industry’s premiere advice giver?

The book is due out June 5 and you can save $3 on the hardback edition if you pre-order it on Amazon.  There’s a Kindle version, too.

If you’re in the business, it really is a must read. So expense it!



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