CANNES — Over the last year, with more brands embracing ad tech platforms to undertake advertising activity themselves, and as more top-tier brands put their agency accounts back out to review, many have begun to wonder – is the ad agency over?
But Bob Pittman doesn’t see it that way. Pittman, who oversaw the creation of MTV, led AOL Networks and now is CEO of online radio service iHeartRadio, thinks agencies are on top of their challenges, and set for bright days ahead.
“I think it’s going to be a great time for ad agencies,” Pittman tells Beet.TV. “When we just have formulas of ‘you go buy spots on radio or TV or some page sin a magazine or the newspaper’, the client began going ‘how hard is that?’ and ‘why am I paying you so much money?’
“Now you’re talking about something that’s very complicated. So I don’t think the pressure is going to be on the fees to the agency, I think the pressure is going to be on the performance. The agencies are building that skillset better than anyone’s built it. They’re becoming experts on data, on how to connect these relationships with consumers to products.
“Ad agencies are in for a real renaissance, and I can’t think of a more exciting time to be in the ad business.”
Pittman has seen media evolution over decades. Back in the day, he became a radio announcer at the age of 15 to earn money for flying lessons, going on to programme, produce and co-host radio and TV shows about music.
Pittman later blazed a trail by founding and taking MTV public but he went on to form Quantum Media, becoming advisor to and, eventually, CEO of Time Warner Enterprises after Warner’s buy-out of Quantum. Pittman was one of the first presidents of AOL, since 1996, helping it grow its subscriber base through its dial-up boom years.
That seems to be a knack he has carried over. “iHeartRadio is the fastest service in the history of the internet to reach 20 million registered users,” he says, proudly “It’s now at 70 million.”
But it is data which Pittman says will have the biggest disruptive effect on the media business in the years ahead.
“The way in which we buy and sell media is closer to electric typewriters and white-out than the modern day – we’ve got to move the business there,” he says.
“When we look at the business in five or six years, it’s going to look very data-driven, very consumer-centric, a wonderful mix of the math and the magic, the creativity we can bring.”
Pittman was interviewed for Beet.TV by David J. Moore, Chairman of Xaxis and President of WPP Digital. The taping took place during the Cannes Lions Festival in 2015. This is part of Beet.TV series title the Media Revolutionaries. The series is sponsored by Xaxis and Microsoft.