On the MIC with Rishad Tobaccowala, CEO Denuo/CIO Publicis Media Group
There are only two that have thus far earned the handle of 'media guru': Carat's David Verklin is one, and the other is Rishad Tobaccowala. The latter is further qualified as a 'digital mastermind.' Tobaccowala currently serves in a dual role as CEO of Denuo and CIO (chief innovation officer) of Publicis Media Group (PMG), the management board that oversees global media networks Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG) and ZenithOptimedia. Denuo was launched last month by PMG as a futures practice to anticipate and respond to trends in digital, interactive, and evolving traditional disciplines. Tobaccowala will be in Toronto to speak about innovation and his vision of the future of media on March 28 at the CMDC Conference, Mining Growth: Discovering Potential in Media Mayhem. MIC caught up with him to get a small taste of what to expect from his presentation, Brave New Waves.
There are only two that have thus far earned the handle of ‘media guru’: Carat’s David Verklin is one, and the other is Rishad Tobaccowala. The latter is further qualified as a ‘digital mastermind.’ Tobaccowala currently serves in a dual role as CEO of Denuo and CIO (chief innovation officer) of Publicis Media Group (PMG), the management board that oversees global media networks Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG) and ZenithOptimedia. Denuo was launched last month by PMG as a futures practice to anticipate and respond to trends in digital, interactive, and evolving traditional disciplines. Tobaccowala will be in Toronto to speak about innovation and his vision of the future of media on March 28 at the CMDC Conference, Mining Growth: Discovering Potential in Media Mayhem. MIC caught up with him to get a small taste of what to expect from his presentation, Brave New Waves.
MIC: How should advertisers and agencies approach media selection in this environment of ‘media mayhem’?
Tobaccowala: I would say that the way you allocate media should be and continues to be based on three sets of thinking – and I don’t think those three sets of thinking are any different than they were 20 years ago. Those are – how are people relating to and utilizing media; what media support matches or can expand an idea; and how impactful with driving results are each of the media or combination of media.
A lot of people are making [the mistake that] to use new media, they have to throw out the rules of how media gets done. What is true is they have to look beyond [the] media they currently utilize.
MIC: Is there still a place for traditional media in this environment and are they still effective?
Tobaccowala: I believe old media will always be around because all old electronic media will become digital and so will morph themselves into new media without doing anything. To a great extent, we also believe that things like television will be more important in the future than it is today, except instead of being television it will be video. Whether you see it on broadband, out of home, on television, or gaming platforms – we always know all over the world that people love sight, sound and motion.
Within certain segments, there will be an ebb and flow. For instance, we believe newspapers will become less and less important. I’m not saying they will die, but they will become less important. I anticipate that magazines in very narrow verticals that are business or technology oriented, or magazines that are extremely news or information oriented are likely to be less important. However, magazines that are more culturally driven or driven around people’s passions such as Vanity Fair and The New Yorker will continue to be important in the home as a relaxation thing. If you’re someone who is looking at Technology Information magazine or Time magazine, you are more likely to migrate to places like the Internet, which are better sources for continuous, updated and relevant information. But there’s something very relaxing about curling up with Vanity Fair, which is not something you can do with a computer. In each of these cases, I’m actually following consumer behaviour and true media has to understand consumer behaviour.
Increasingly more and more media will be measured on outcome and not just on input. While a lot of old media are measured by things such as reach and frequency and cost per thousand, [those metrics] increasingly will be replaced by things such as cost per acquisition, brand lift, and other return on outcome or return on objectives – and working to combine all of those.
I believe we are moving into a world [that is about] the art of combining things. So it’s combining old and new, combining inputs and outcomes, combining media and creative. What is happening – and the reason people are becoming intensely confused is that [we] are giving them the ‘or’ choice or the ‘die’ choice – which is you do this or you do that. I believe you do this and you do that.
If your budget is limited, take a little bit of money from this and give it to that. You don’t say everything else is going to die. The only thing that is going to die is the person who says that.
MIC: What are the ‘Brave New Waves’?
Tobaccowala: Overall, the theme of my presentation is, very simply, what matters the most is people. People matter much more than technology. What is happening is that technology is enabling people in ways that empower them and raise expectations. That is the ‘Brave New Wave’. It is not the brave new wave of technology. It is that people are increasingly empowered with technology, by technology.
MIC: How do marketers sort out how to deal with the ‘Brave New Wave’ and make it less confusing?
Tobaccowala: In regular marketing you thought about local and national advertising. Local and national advertising makes sense if media tends to be local and national. In a world that is broadband, a world that is wireless – tell me the difference between local, national, and global? In a world where people are time shifting and ordering stuff on-demand, what does a time period mean? In a world where media and creative work together and you’re coming up with new models – what does a standard like 30-seconds or print ads mean?
It’s not like those things are going away, but they’re operating under different rules of behaviour than the old world, and that is what is confusing people. I call that the collapse of the marketing spine. In this world, things we believed in like time periods and standard units, and local versus global are getting very fuzzy.
There are certain pathways in moving forward, things like providing people with value, how you need to make things more participatory, and the importance and continued importance of integration.
MIC: Talking about some of the old standards like 30-second spots, and GRPs, and other metrics, clients are asking agencies to find new and different ways to reach customers while also demanding proof of ROI and effectiveness. How do you justify these new tactics when there aren’t any numbers to back them up? How do you get a client to make that leap?
Tobaccowala: You don’t do it by threatening them. You do it in two or three different ways. The first is there are parts of new media where there is enough of a track record. If people ask me does Internet advertising work, does search work – I’ll say, yes it works and I’ll give you 50 case studies. Do you need more?
Do things like podcasting and blogging work? I don’t know but what begins to happen is in the overall scheme of things, what we are talking to people about on the stuff without a proven track record, is an allocation of budgets that tend to be less than 2% of their overall budget.
The second is, think about a world where someone told you about this thing called television, and you sat there and asked if it worked or didn’t work. The answer would be that millions of people were spending more and more time utilizing television so why were you besotted with radio?
Today what happens in North America is that 16% of people’s time is spent on digital media while advertisers are spending 4% of their budgets on digital media. Don’t you think you need to go and figure out how that works? Or do you believe that sitting in a place that may eventually only account for 60% or 65% of media usage is good enough?
The final thing I tell marketers is you are all behaving like accountants and CFOs. I truly believe that a marketer needs to manage the revenue line and they need to manage the imagination line. In the agency business we only know of two potential ways of talking to clients. Why can’t you talk with confidence? If someone says prove to me this works, I say I’m going to work with other people who are going to do this and not waste my time proving to you that it works, because frankly I have other things to do in life.
MIC: What are your predictions on what to expect in this brave new media world this year, and over the next few years?
Tobaccowala: You’ll see more on-demand stuff happening. You’ll see more social networking and participation like myspace.com and blogs. And, you’ll see a lot of different versions of people trying to catch up, leverage, and exploit search.