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The King Of Advertising: Irwin Gotlieb

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Apparently, there is one and his name is Irwin Gotlieb. All hail the king or as CNNMoney calls him, the $59 billion man. You know Irwin. He’s been in the biz for years, eons even. Gotlieb is the CEO of media-buying shop GroupM, which is part of the WPP Group. Let’s put this in perspective, last year Irwin controlled 16% of the world’s $364 billion in global ad expenditures. He’s also the guy that Sorrell to combine MindShare with WPP’s other media-buying shops. Irwin also crafted that $1 million deal with NBC Universal where he put his balls on the table and said he would pay based on who was watching the commercials.

Here’s a little background on the King to put this bigger than life CNN story into perspective: He was born in 1949 to Eastern European parents, but grew up in Japan. He came to New York for high school but dropped out and later took an entry-level media job at ad agency SSC&B. He taught himself to code on those old huge machines and wrote software that ad buyers would use for the next 30 years to determine prices. So, you’re not surprised that he’s a huge fan of digital are you?

“Say you want to sell grapefruit,” he says over an egg-white omelet at London’s Four Seasons, where he keeps an extra set of clothes for regular visits. To move a lot of citrus in the traditional way, he explains, you’d buy a spot on “Grey’s Anatomy” or run an ad in Vogue, making behavioral assumptions and inferences built on viewer demographics. But in the digital world, ad buyers don’t need to assume anything; they have data to work with. Online marketers track actual behavior, so instead of buying a type of audience, they can buy a click, an inquiry, or even a sale. Every time consumers take such an action, it becomes part of their “clickstream,” which follows them around the web. This information trail gives marketers an increasingly sophisticated idea about each of us, allowing them to craft an ever more tailored online experience.”

Irwin believes in the web not only to rack up ad impressions, but also as a source of data, which can later be applied offline. He was the lead investor in a $25 million funding round for Invidi Technologies who needs to take that epic music off of their web page. The tech startup is one mind bending agencies, which can determine the age, gender, location, income, and ethnicity of television viewers and send targeted ads to different sets within the same house.

“While the technologies are fairly well developed to enable all this stuff, the business rules don’t exist,” he says. “Our single biggest challenge as an industry is to find fair and equitable ways of getting the business arrangements in place.”

A man like this naturally has lots of thoughts on lots of things.

On Google: “Google can do something without regard for whether they can actually make money on it,” he says. “That can be very destabilizing to the rest of the business.”

His thoughts on high level gig: He misses the ability to “start a project, work on it, and see it through to completion. It’s a trade-off,” he says. “If you want a scalable business you need to be able to delegate and rely on people.”

On mobile advertising: “It’s a function of the kind of advertising [you're trying to do]. Some of that is happening already. It’s a matter of the kind of message you try to fit on the screen.”

His favorite lunch spot in Manhattan: Sushiden, in midtown, which also has a super janky website. However, we post it so you can go stalk him, rub up against that fine suit and maybe grab a some genius for yourself.

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