April 21, 2017

In conversation with Irwin Gotlieb, an ad buyer in a Google world

Irwin Gotlieb is the chairman of the world’s largest media buying and planning firm, GroupM, overseeing more than $100-billion in media billings each year, and has spent 47 years in the business. He spoke with The Globe and Mail during a visit to Toronto this week.


Recently there’s been pressure around YouTube ads showing up next to questionable content. Facebook and Google are not companies from which you buy media space – they’re also your clients in some cases and also your competitors. How do you manage that?

Look, the supply chain will never be 100-per-cent clean. It’s just not going to happen. Ten years ago we became aware that significant chunks of our clients’ money were going to sites with pirated content. We created a piracy blacklist. Then we began to blacklist other sites based on clients’ criteria. An enormous amount of work has been done. The general problem of course, is that Google and Facebook ingest so much content, there is no way to monitor all of it. We believe it’s our obligation to work with them to ensure that they do more. Media owners invest millions in content. What do you think Google invested in content last year? Facebook? A lot less. If they’re not investing in content, and they’re getting a free ride on other people’s content, I think we can put a bit of pressure on them to spend the money to build the technology – if Google can build a driverless car, they can do better than they’re doing. Is it going to be perfect? No. We want it to be as good as possible. Walking away from the media opportunity of a Google or a Facebook, for our clients, isn’t the answer either.

As stewards of marketers’ money, do media agencies have any obligation to spend money with companies that are actually paying to create content?

Absolutely. Media fundamentally works by creating content that is sufficiently compelling to attract an audience. You have to reward people who invest in content – not just steer audiences to different places and monetize someone else’s content. [If] the media owners create less content, we start chasing our own tail down the toilet. That’s not a good outcome. Everything we do is based around the premise that a healthy media ecosystem is better for our clients, and that’s defined as one where audiences are growing. Audiences only grow when content is compelling, and people who create content are rewarded.

Read the full interview at the Globe & Mail


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