Ad Age … Five Questions With Mindshare CEO Antony Young

Not All Agencies Are the Same, According to This Industry Veteran

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After a 15-year career at Publicis Groupe, where his specialty was importing and exporting global insights and new business, Antony Young last fall joined a longtime competitor: WPP’s Mindshare.

Mr. Young served in various roles at Publicis’ ZenithOptimedia, including CEO of the Asia Network, where he helped launch and oversee Zenith China. Before that, he was regional media director forSaatchi & Saatchi, where he led media-planning duties for Procter & Gamble in Asia. Most recently, he was CEO of Publicis’ Optimedia in the U.S.

Antony Young
Susan J. Chen

Antony Young

Mr. Young, who officially succeeded Phil Cowdell as chief of Mindshare in September, talked to Ad Age about the move and the changes he plans to make. Don’t expect any deals, though. Mr. Young says he’s out to build, not buy.


Ad Age: How have your first weeks been? Any culture shock after spending so much time at Publicis? 

Mr. Young: They’ve been great. It’s refreshing after 15 years in Publicis Groupe to come into WPP. Anyone who tells you all agencies are the same is completely wrong. There’s a different kind of feel here. There’s a lot of investment going into the media businesses. WPP definitely feels much more connected in that they see the overall businesses as a whole group of agencies working together in a strategic fashion. For example, WPP has Team Detroit and an IBM team. There are a lot more integrated groups and client solutions here. … What’s impressed me is we’re prepared to make investments to bring broad communications solutions and expertise that span owned- and earned-media channels.

Ad Age: Tell us about some of the changes you are planning. Any acquisitions on the horizon?

Mr. Young: An area I’m particularly passionate about is how we build out communications strategies to play a personal-shopper role at the agency. I’ve been reaching out and talking to as many clients as I can, trying to understand what other kind of big opportunities they’re looking for from a media partner. I consistently hear clients asking, What’s my business strategy, my communications strategy, my digital strategy? What else can I prioritize? How do I differentiate in this market? Companies are more competitive, so there’s more pressure to drive big businesses. We’ve got to evolve our business rather than buy our way into it. It’s not a solution I would even think about. If you look at a media agency model today vs. five years ago, it’s changed dramatically. I think the solution is within us vs. outside. We can evolve and build those skills.

Ad Age: What would you say is your biggest challenge right now?

Mr. Young: Getting there more quickly than our competition and driving innovation. We’re asking a lot more from our people in terms of skills and responsibilities. In the old days, media people only had to do three things: planning, buying and organizing tickets for clients. Now we’re called on to do so much more. Client leads have to manage big and varied team planners, buyers, digital people, etc., and then also have to take on more of a role of account management versus service. The next [challenge] is becoming more converse with digital and learning other skills like social content. We also need to be focused on building better collaboration with the creative agency.

Ad Age: One knock we hear from a lot of media-industry executives is that shops under the Group M banner are indistinguishable. Do you feel that way at Mindshare?

Mr. Young: You’re right. We need to come out more distinctly and define our positioning, but it’s not a Group M issue. It’s a media-agency issue. What’s impressed me about Group M is its go-to-market strategy on trading and implementation. Take it from a guy who ran an agency and has had to compete against Group M over the last five years. The way negotiations are centralized and managed, we’re able to consolidate the scale of media buying across all the agencies.

Ad Age: Are you noticing any trends that might have a significant impact on media?

Mr. Young: We’re seeing things we’d traditionally call stunts and one-off events much more in scalable media. With the power of social, there’s now a legit strategy to create an event. In China, Greenpeace did a promotion with 80,000 pairs of disposable chopsticks. They turned them into trees, filmed the building and put it online. Millions saw that. We’re opening up and broadening media. Now we can drive more global audiences, and new media is making it scalable and more valuable to market.


Social Media is not a strategy, its a venue for marketers …

Published in Ad Age, Wed 15 June, 2011

Barely a day goes past when social media doesn’t grab a headline.

Marketers eager to join the social-media surge have been challenging their agencies to rethink how they communicate their brands in this more participative and transparent landscape. A lot of clients often ask, “What should my social-media strategy be?”

I think it’s a mistake to think of social media this way.

Social media is not a strategy.

Social media is a venue for marketers … a set of technologies or tactics that enable us to elevate and amplify brands and their marketing communications.

The question shouldn’t be, “What’s our social-media strategy?” but, “What do I need to do to make my brand more social?” Or specifically for agency planners, “What can we do to make this TV work, print campaign or offer more social?”

Social media may be the channel du jour, but the message and the mechanics of how it’s deployed are the things that really count.

The DellOutlet Twitter feed became a poster child for Twitter’s potential impact, earning accolades by generating $6.5 million in revenue for Dell. But surely that success boils down to the product offers in the feed. Twitter was just the medium that carried those messages.

The fabulous Old Spice work featuring Isaiah Mustafa was built on a foundation established by an exceptional piece of creative, work that Weiden & Kennedy then very skillfully augmented through social-media channels.

Take two high profile brands that have been particularly active in social media: Charlie Sheen and Ashton Kutcher. You could argue both essentially have the same strategy when it comes to social media. It goes something like this:

  • Get a following on Twitter.
  • Interact and engage directly with fans.
  • Create buzz and conversation.

But there’s only one brand here that’s #winning. And it isn’t Charlie Sheen! Just adding followers or driving buzz doesn’t qualify as success, however often the brand marketing world uses just those metrics to try gauging effectiveness. Getting the overall brand messaging and communication strategy right, rather than jumping straight to social-media tactics, is what’s going to bring success.

Another lesson we can learn from Ashton Kutcher is that he isn’t just tweeting his brand. He is incredibly active across multiple media channels, whether he is being interviewed on Leno, featured on the cover of Men’s Fitness or making a live appearance at CBS’s upfront presentation at Carnegie Hall. After Charlie Sheen’s road show ended, in contrast, so did a lot of the talk about Charlie Sheen. For most brands, having a presence in social media alone isn’t sufficient. There are too many one-off social-media marketing campaigns that, although highly creative, fail to connect or drive the broader brand communications platform.

Social media needs to be embedded into all parts of the marketing mix as part of a single, integrated brand effort. Every agency — creative, media, digital, public relations and customer-relationship management — needs to grab this opportunity and take responsibility for socializing the brand. Social shouldn’t sit at one agency or indeed operate as a separate strategy on its own.