Marc Landsberg: Why A TV Network Could Buy Twitter

LandsbergMarc Landsberg knows agencies.

Landsberg previously served as the former EVP at Leo Burnett and president and CEO of Arc and MRM Worldwide. As the current CEO of Chicago-based social agency socialdeviant, he says the traditional media-buying process has been turned upside down and the players flipping the tables aren’t the platform providers.

Comcast’s planned acquisitions of Time Warner Cable and video ad-serving platform FreeWheel indicate an unassuming entrant to traditional agency territory: the TV networks.

Landsberg spoke with AdExchanger further about this shift, how data is remaking social media and why a single platform-centric approach to the media buy is not good enough.

AdExchanger: What is socialdeviant?

MARC LANDSBERG: I started socialdeviant because I thought brands were really underserved. Data is not the panacea, but you need it in order to inform the targets and the segments. One thing we’re doing is data-driven social segmentation. When brands do their segmentation, they usually put people in personas that are kind of attitudinal. They then hand them to their digital and direct or CRM and social agencies and don’t necessarily reinterpret them for those channels.

We’re not a tool, but our job is to help our clients contextualize social around their business goals. We are two years and one month old. We are already 20 full-time people and we have 10-plus clients and six agency-of-record relationships, so that’s been great. We’re trying to be the McKinsey meets Crispin Porter of social. I think there remain huge gaps in the marketplace. Marketing will never be fully automated. There will always be people. And there will always be judgments to be made based on the data.

You have strong sentiments about the point solution vs. the full stack.

Clients aren’t really looking for a one-stop shop. They don’t believe it. A lot of the value we create is playing into that disintermediation in the market. A big part of what we do is these data and technology audits. We ask, “Who are your audiences, what does your funnel look like and what do you need to do?” for a particular category. And then what data do you need to inform your marketing decisions? Then we do a data and tools audit. Nine times out of 10 we found massively redundant tools.

So many of those point solutions and platforms are trying to sell to brands without answering those marketing questions so I think that context is critical. There is no one platform or one-stop shop and they’re never going to bring it all together, but they’re trying. There’s a lot of groundbreaking work to be done. A lot of stuff to get infrastructurally right. The market has taken a long time to develop and saturate and data will take a long time to aggregate and synthesize. A marketing automation tool is not going to answer it all. It’s like a car. Great technology but I’ve still got to turn it on and drive it to get from point A to point B.

Speaking of platforms, what did you think of Omnicom’s $100 million ad deal with Instagram?

I ran two big agencies and worked in holding companies.  The holding companies are constantly trying to leverage their buying power and global clout now with social platforms just as they did with networks back in the day. That’s just scale buying. So I remember when I was at Publicis Groupe and we bought Razorfish from Microsoft and there was an obligation [that roughly $300 million and this is just an order of magnitude] would be spent on MSN as part of the deal.

The problem with that is if you’re a client of Publicis Groupe, and you’ve got this run of site buy across MSN properties, you’re going to wonder if that’s being pushed on you because you’re obligated to spend that amount. Those deals (like Instagram), I’m not sure who they really help and they’re very vertically focused. Now, the agency would say, “We have a lot of scale” [around Instagram, which is not] wrong, but they’re still playing a traditional media game in those platforms.

Why do you say this is part of the “traditional media game?”

Who really wins and loses there? It’s a sexy story for Instagram or Facebook and the holding company and their clients win, but I think some of the media agencies [like] Starcom and others are doing very smart things too, which doesn’t necessarily get as much attention. They are clustering segments across properties. They are leveraging big data in really smart ways across consumer segments. They are doing some really cool things, which aren’t necessarily evidenced by those deals.

You’ve got to be at such scale, and I do get there are exchanges and there is automatic buying, and it is a very important reality but at the same time, you have to ask, “What percentage of your spend will be executed through those channels right now?” A lot of brands are just trying to engage their audiences, do it regionally, do it local, hypertargeted, and win day by day across certain product lines.

How do you define data-driven social marketing?

We lean in to the data side. We’ve got a growing analytics side and we’re fielding questions about both Twitter adding some direct sales capabilities like click to call, and again, Facebook’s latest changes to (make sure they are not) exposing data in exchange. What’s cool about that is there’s too much data, not enough of the “right” data and social agencies get confused because they think of social as campaigns and awareness and they’re not data-driven. We do a lot of social segmentation, which is data-driven and data-informed. We take brands’ attitudinal segments and reinterpret them in social spaces. Where are your audiences, which platforms, what are the characteristics of those platforms? We’re not just an analytics shop, but like any great marketing agency, you’ve got to understand the data, the algorithms and platform basics in order to provide strategic recommendations.

What do you think of the intersection of social, TV and programmatic buying?

I could go to FOX and I could buy Super Bowl. What’s all the value-add I can get? I get concert, tickets, some experiential, a lot of collateral media, but what can FOX say to someone about what they can do for them in Twitter or Facebook? Nothing.

[My] prediction, and I know nothing, [is that] Fox should buy Twitter. At the end of the day, you talk about, and where the convergence is going to happen, and in three years when I go to Fox and say, “I’m going to buy a Super Bowl ad, FOX is going to say, “Great, but here’s what you get. We’re going to do the equivalent of run of site on Twitter, we’ve already negotiated these deals on Facebook and Instagram, and you’ve got a B2B audience on LinkedIn, so when you spend your $4 million, for an extra $200,000, here’s what you’re going to get for the duration of the program, which is five hours pre-, during and post-, plus your 30-second spot.” So where I see convergence – an, Twitter TV, Bluefin – they’re moving in that direction but it’s just going to go whole-hog. The networks aren’t going to stand by and go, “Well, wait a minute, I’m not even playing in the game.”

But you’re seeing this now with Twitter, Comcast and the NBCUniversal deal. And Comcast is planning a merger with Time Warner Cable and acquiring FreeWheel.

If I’m Tide or P&G, and I’m spending all this money, how do I want to leverage that money? What data does FOX have? How do I want to connect my multiscreen experience to the TV real-time experience to the DVR experience to the time-shifted experience? So, what’s happening is everybody is coming at one element of that problem from their tool. Nobody’s sort of stepping back and saying, “I’m P&G trying to engage you over a five-hour period during the Super Bowl –  how do I do it?” So I wouldn’t rule out the networks.

What else will happen?

I think the second thing that will happen is publishers are going to create more content for brands. In the past, if I buy media, MSN is going to say, “If you buy media right here, we’ll make the website for you.” I think that’s 10 years ago. Today, they’re going to say “Hey, we’ll create all the Vines and the Instagram video and all your infographics.” I think that convergence of, if you place a buy, these are the things that you’re going to get in return. And so the networks and the publishers are not going to stand by. The platforms are not going to become media publishers. I think there will be massive, data-driven convergence in that area.

What’s the future of the agency model?

Having spent most of my life trying to figure that answer out, I will say that the only agency models of the future that matter are the ones that solve client needs. What do clients need? They’re not necessarily looking for everything under one roof. I think clients are a lot smarter and are trying to be a lot smarter about their data and their segments. I think there is certainly some scale to media, and certainly the Publicis-Omnicom acquisition will create some scaled media buys, but that’s only relevant for a handful of global marketers. In the pendulum swing, I think brands are smarter, they’re getting more data-oriented and I think they’re quite happy to choose specialty expertise.

What about the holding company?

Now, big holding companies can provide that specialty expertise, but in creating Team Ford or Team P&G, sometimes [it can] fall apart because any time a holding company puts together a lot of people from many different agencies, they’ve got competing P&Ls with competing leadership styles and it’s almost impossible for them to do it. Whereas, if a brand, a client says, “I choose you, you and you” and I’m going to orchestrate this band, that’s a very different tune. The future is to stop thinking of a brand as a global brand or global idea. It’s less about distribution and more about creative conception, and being able to partner with an agency’s distribution network to execute in local markets. Agencies brave enough to reinterpret themselves will absolutely win.


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