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Irwin Gotlieb

Irwin Gotlieb


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Trendsetters: GroupM's Irwin Gotlieb Addresses Media Transparency & a New Cross-Industry Task Force
Earlier this week at its annual Advertising Financial Management Conference, the ANA announced a task force of senior marketers and agency leaders to both identify issues and engage in constructive dialogue about media transparency—a subject that has raised eyebrows and created a frenzy of headlines in the last several weeks. This cross-industry initiative by the ANA, and in partnership with the 4As, will serve both client-side marketers and their media agency partners as eight individuals, along with co-chairs Bob Liodice, CEO of the ANA, and Nancy Hill, CEO of the 4As, grapple to define a pragmatic course of action moving forward.

Irwin Gotlieb, Chairman of GroupM Worldwide, and one of the eight task force executives, shared WPP's perspective on media transparency in an interview with Bob Liodice before an audience of 700 marketing procurement executives at the ANA's Phoenix conference.

Gotlieb addressed a range of subjects during the interview. Among them: an acknowledgement of media's growing complexity and its impact on the consideration and transaction aspects of the sales funnel, the level of specialized knowledge necessary to understand the evolving science of media—from cross-channel attribution to its effects when paired with Big Data, the new realities and financial pressures of running profitable, leading-edge media agencies, a polarization of trust issues between clients and agencies, and as well as fundamental concerns regarding contracts, compliance, briefs, and the changing definition of terms like "agent," which were once simple to comprehend.

Plus, he acknowledged that on a worldwide basis there are different answers for different geographies, particularly for a Holding Company that works with clients in many local markets. "Not every client is buying the same thing at the same time, and not every client is paying the same price. We have to manage a portfolio to deliver individual benefits, and there is risk. Often aggregation of demand is key."

According to Gotlieb, "Transparency, to us, is a function of a company whose business is governed by contracts with clients, and we adhere to the regulatory environment, dictated by SOX (or The Sarbanes–Oxley Act, also known as the "Corporate and Auditing Accountability and Responsibility Act" as part of US Federal Law).

Bob Liodice emphasized that transparency concerns– whether real or perceived-- need to be addressed. He added that today's intricate media transactions should also follow practices to enhance a marketer's understanding of the process in order to build client-agency trust, not erode it. "It's not only about the dialogue," said Liodice, "but it's also about the increased understanding of what's working and what insights clients want from media agencies. Marketers are looking at their spending, and they currently feel that they don't have all the information or a complete understanding of the issues at play. Our Transparency concern is—‘Do clients understand what was purchased and delivered on their behalf?'"

Irwin Gotlieb agreed that the 21st century has brought about unprecedented complexity, and said, "We owe it to each other [client and agency] to understand what's going on." However, he also stated, "We operate separate businesses. We have to adhere to contracts and have confidence that our clients will structure and enforce them appropriately. But we should get better at aligning interests."

He added, "This is my 46th year in this industry, and I've learned that you have to be intellectually honest with each situation. There are no cookie-cutter solutions. But we should win when our clients win."

Other ANA/4As Media Transparency Task Force leaders include:

  • Tony Pace, Chief Marketing Officer at Subway‎ and ANA board Chairman
  • Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at The Procter & Gamble Company and ANA board Vice Chair
  • Luis DiComo, Senior Vice President, Global Media at Unilever
  • Nadine Karp McHugh, SVP, Omnimedia, Strategic Investments and Creative Solutions at L'Oreal USA
  • Bill Koenigsberg, President, Chief Executive Officer, and Founder at Horizon Media and 4A's board Chairman
  • Laura Desmond, Global Chief Executive Officer at Starcom MediaVest Group
  • Daryl Simm, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Omnicom Media Group

The Transparency Task Force group will begin discussions in early May and will report back to the industry later this year.