Torch Song Soliloquy: Wieser's Hand-Off To Scott-Dawkins

One of the problems covering GroupM’s Business Intelligence team over the past year -- and especially recently -- is that they have been churning out so many important insights that it’s hard to keep up and report on all of them. So I hope you won’t mind that I missed an important internal development while reporting on their important market developments: There has been a changing of the guards, and for the first time in the nearly two decades since jumping from Wall Street to Madison Avenue, Brian Wieser no longer is GroupM’s -- and arguably the ad industry’s -- top forecaster. Kate Scott-Dawkins is.

Forgive me for not being on top of that, because as closely as I watch the comings and goings of people like them, there was just too much other important news coming from the business-intelligence team in recent weeks -- including GroupM’s year-end forecast -- to realize it was the first one overseen by Scott-Dawkins and not Wieser.

I didn’t fully realize it until I listened to the “This Week Next Week” podcast they co-host, and Wieser followed her opening by noting: "I’m Brian Wieser, in a supporting role.

“What can I say, Kate -- this is going to be amazing for the future of GroupM. I think you’ve done an amazing job in the past year,” he continued, adding: “To you from failing hands we throw the torch for you to hold it high.”

I guess it’s appropriate that they officiated the passing of the torch during this week’s podcast, which followed last week’s release of Scott-Dawkins’ year-end report, and delves into many important follow-up questions that I probably should have asked, but Wieser did, acting mainly as Scott-Dawkins' straight man, which I assume will be one of his roles going forward (unless I missed another headline in this transition)?

After summing up her year-end forecast’s relatively resilient ad growth estimates for 2022 and 2023, Scott-Dawkins drilled into an historical analysis of the impact past major recessions dating back to post-World War II had on ad spending prompting the first of many straight line from Wieser.

  • Wieser: “And in those recessions, advertising must have cratered, right?”
  • Scott-Dawkins: “It didn’t.”
  • Wieser: “What? Noooooo!”

Dawkins, who compared her historical analysis to conducting old-school library research using microfiche, old newspaper clips and statistical abstracts from government Census reports, found that advertising growth also proved resilient in past recessions, prompting another set-up from Wieser that the past ones were driven by “secular factors” such as the relative newness of mass media and mass marketing helping ad spending grow faster than the economy in the post-World War II period.

  • Wieser: “Clearly, this is not the same era where there are secular drivers of growth above and beyond advertising. There couldn’t be, could there be?”
  • Scott-Dawkins: [Laughs] “Well, we’re still getting secular drivers now. They might look a little different, but I’d say there still are extraordinary secular drivers for advertising today.”

The main secular drivers stimulating the ad economy include:

  • Advertising from overseas manufacturer brands -- especially China and Vietnam -- on Amazon.

  • Digital endemic brands that market direct-to-consumers online and spend a much larger percentage of their revenue on advertising than legacy brands.

  • The growth of small businesses, which benefit big digital platform ad-spending growth.

“Those things are still very much happening,” Scott-Dawkins said, adding that they “are very much where we are seeing the decoupling of advertising growth to GDP growth and why those two things may not fuse so closely together this year or next year.”

Wieser, a former Wall Street analyst who first entered the ad industry in 2003 as part of a transition to succeed long-time Interpublic forecaster Bob Coen, went on to overhaul is forecasting model from a top-down assessment of ad spending by major brands to a bottom-up one calculating the ad revenues of major media companies -- a method still utilized by IPG Mediabrands' Magna's forecasts and one used now by GroupM's Scott-Dawkins -- couldn't resist making a dig at Wall Street's relatively bearish ad-economy soothsayers, posing a multiple choice question to Scott-Dawkins:

"So, would you say analysts that are negative on advertising next year are:

  • Ignorant
  • Willfully negative
  • Or just have slight differences of opinion?"
Scott-Dawkins didn't take the bait on that straight line, and said she is really just hoping to have conversations with those who have different opinions about the outlook for the ad economy in order to help inform her own, and added that there are other "drivers" of ad industry growth beyond the above-mentioned "secular" ones that may not be properly accounted for:
  • "Like CTV."'
  • "Like retail media."
  • "Markets like India that are fast-growing from a GDP perspective."

That's when Wieser responded with a keen insight that explains what one of his most important roles will remain going forward: perspective.

"The bigger point is there is a lot to be learned from history here. That just because economic trends go one way doesn't necessarily tell you anything about advertising."

1 comment about "Torch Song Soliloquy: Wieser's Hand-Off To Scott-Dawkins".
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  1. Jack Wakshlag from Media Strategy, Research & Analytics, December 12, 2022 at 1:55 p.m.

    Weiser and now Scott-Dawkins are among the few that get their hands dirty digging into the data themselves.  Lots to be learned there, if you take the time to look!  I agree that they are great and insightful analysts.  

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