Author Archives: Melanie Wells

Lessons from Broadway

When Jed Bernstein was tapped to lead the League of American Theatres and Producers in 1995 after a 16-year career in advertising, his job was to apply his knowledge of marketing to give Broadway a boost. He did just that. Today Bernstein heads Above The Title Entertainment, a Broadway and TV production company in New York. Its projects have included the seven-time Tony nominated “Passing Strange,” the Tony-winning revival of Hair and the revival of David Mamet’s “Oleanna.” Currently, Bernstein is producing Broadway’s “Driving Miss Daisy,” starring James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave.

Being Broadway producer is very similar to working on Madison Avenue. It is important to understand a show’s target audience, its competition, and what makes it special. But there are differences. Bernstein says he has learned more about advertising from working on Broadway.

For one, he says, for small businesses advertising has to work: “A big Broadway musical spends $100,000 to $125,000 a week on advertising and marketing. If you’re lucky, your show costs $500,000 to $600,000 a week, including that, to operate. If you’re selling well, you’re grossing $1 million a week. I’m reducing profits by spending money on advertising every week so that advertising really better work. It’s money out of my pocket.”

He didn’t feel that same pressure when he managed American Express’ “Do You Know Me?” campaign at Ogilvy & Mather. (Other clients included IBM, Monsanto and the New York Stock Exchange.) “I’ve learned what it’s like to be a client….You care with intensity about the impact of every dollar you send on advertising and marketing in a way that even the greatest account executive can’t match.”

Bernstein makes another point: What’s “new” isn’t what’s best for every brand: “Print media is amazingly adept at creating value adds and a home for particular categories for large advertisers. For example, the [theatre] listings in The New York Times becomes an advertising destination. Online hasn’t done that. They are so used to the fact that they have the advantage—they are cheaper and more efficient—that they haven’t had to work hard….For ‘Driving Miss Daisy,’ which targets an older audience, we must have reached out to a dozen or more Web sites that were either not set up for us—they were expensive—or they had no way to make a home within a home for what we were trying to do. We were looking for theatre-goers—most sites don’t segment that way, fair enough. But when you ask a ‘dining’ or a food site for people who eat in theatre district restaurants, you would think that was doable.”

CMOs: Are They The CEOs Agencies Need?

What type of leader does an ad agency need in these turbulent times? Why not one who knows exactly what clients today need? This month Michael Mendenhall, the former chief marketer at Hewlett-Packard, was named president-chief operating officer of Lipman Advertising in New York. Mendenhall, in an interview with Advertising Age, notes that agencies need a multichannel integrated approach that match clients’ needs. He expects to expand the agency’s client roster and look to invest in new deals. Agencies have fumbled in the past when they’ve tapped non-agency talent to lead their shops. Back in the 1990s Ammirati Puris Lintas hired Rick Hadala, a McKinsey & Co. exec, as CEO. He didn’t last long. But maybe, just maybe, former can help create the agency of the future. That’s the idea behind Ignited, an agency (and a new DGC client) in L.A. Ignited was created by Eric Johnson, its president, who left Activision as its head marketer to start the agency he couldn’t find in 1999. Now Johnson is an innovation seeker who shared his thoughts on three trends he thinks will have a big impact on marketing.

Advertising’s Star Search

Advertising holding company leaders gripe that the industry lags in tapping and nurturing good talent.

WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell, appearing on a panel with IPG’s Michael Roth and Omnicom’s John Wren at the 4A’s conference in Austin, blasted the advertising industry’s “criminal neglect” in finding, recruiting, and keeping top talent. Instead of devoting time and resources to executive development, “if we need talent, we steal them.” he said. Holding companies should have a “chief talent officer” who identifies and nurtures good performers.

The three execs, in a rare appearance together, agreed that the industry needs to do a better job recruiting from business schools, film schools and art schools.

Sure, the ad biz competes with other industries for talent. But with so many people out of work and young college graduates eager to join the workforce, are promising, potential stars so hard to find?

These top industry executives probably weren’t around for earlier sessions at the conference when college students studying advertising and marketing in Austin asked questions about opportunities in the industry. (Perhaps the 4A’s should include promising ad students in part of their program next year…?)

Three cheers for Ronda Carnegie, TED’s global partnership director. She spoke up after the bigwig panel, saying “the best talent is sitting in your organization and you don’t know who they are…They’re there.”

“Agency of the future” talk at Transformation 2011

There is a lot of talk at the 4A’s Conference in Austin this week about the “agency of the future.”  One view: This agency won’t have 500 people in a building. It will have 50 people spread around the country. The crowdsourcing mentality will rub off on full-time employees. (“Freedom is something you have to put into your salary,” says Ignacio Oreamuno, president of GiantHydra.)

Draftfcb Executive Chairman Howard Draft says if he were starting an agency from scratch today it would be a digital agency with no more than 50 people. (Draftfcb has 10,500 employees.) Clients would have to pay a minimum of $1 million a month to work with the agency.

Nuts? Despite an industry in turmoil, there is, at last, optimism among ad makers about what’s next. Because of the chaos, says Peter McGuinness, chairman & CEO of ad agency Gotham, “there has never been a better time to be in this business.”

Takeaways from 4A’s Transformation 2011 Conference

Transformation can be a scary and difficult journey for companies and individuals, as Sam noted in her introductory post.

Traditional agency executives certainly know that’s true. They have been blasted, as a group, in recent years for being head-in-the sand types who are reluctant to adapt in changing times. How many years have we been reminded at this conference that “the 30-second TV spot isn’t dead”? That came up as recently as last year at the ad group’s conference in San Francisco, where there was a lot of hand-wringing as one top marketer urged the jittery group to, at last, think beyond the 30-second TV spot. Embrace social media, they were told. Well, duh.

But, finally, signs of change. At the the 4A’s Transformation Conference in Austin this week the group is facing up to changing and challenging times–and agencies are trying to adapt. Many of the sessions and cocktail discussions (before the second cocktail) are about mobile apps, online video, crowdsourcing design, virtual collaboration, and brand-created content. Attendees—there are some 1,000 people at this conference—are eager use technology that’s transforming advertising.


  • Web video is big and growing. In 2011 twice as many videos will be viewed than searches queried we heard Tuesday from Tremor Media. Marilyn Mersereau, CMO of Cisco, says 90% of all Internet traffic by 2013 will be video.
  • Crowdsourcing  is part of the future of advertising. “Collaboration is here,” Winston Binch, partner/managing director of Crispin Porter + Bogusky, said. One conference speaker, Tim McClure, co-founder of GSD&M, used the term “curativity,” noting that it may take some traditional agency jobs away. (How long before there’s a Chief Curator at agencies?)
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