NYC TV Week: GroupM's Gotlieb Says Size Is Key If Used Right

Complete Coverage: NYC Television Week

GroupM chairman Irwin Gotlieb took a shot at new behemoth Publicis on Monday saying there's no point in building scale "for bragging rights."

The key, he said at NYC Television Week, is to use heft to invest in research and proprietary platforms and tools that provide better service and more cash for the firm and its clients.

Publicis and Omnicom are in the process of merging to become the world's biggest agency.

Gotlieb told moderator Jon Lafayette, business editor of Broadcasting & Cable, that GroupM has been ahead of its peers in focusing on building its technology staff, now, for instance, it's on its third generation data management platform. The firm, he said, is also more integrated and less segmented internally than others, which is becoming a crucial advantage as advertising platforms proliferate.

He was upbeat on the digital space but said new metrics function alongside a traditional approach, which is still holding up well. "You spend on both, TV and digital... You do both, you continue to do a broad reach , top of the market, because brand awareness is critical," he said. "You target 18-49 year olds."

And you don't bully. Don't "choose to trade by the size of the sledgehammer you wield... We try velvet gloves. Where a media owner may need a little support and help. We try to find the quid pro quo."

Programmers, he noted are under intense pressure. New ways to watch video provide revenue but also disperse viewers and make it hard to know how much of a chance to give a new show if it's not an immediate hit. Do you cancel it? Do you go back to the drawing board? he asked. "There is simply an inordinate amount of very, very strong content out there that is simply not getting the chance. If you don't get a chance to be discovered, it doesn't matter" how many outlets there are to watch it, he said.

Gotlieb described the state of the ad business right now as "normal" but said there's a lot more uncertainty in the market than there should be thanks to travails in Washington, D.C. "The economic indicators are okay. What happened in the government was not helpful," he said, referring to the recent shutdown and the looming threat of other action in February, right "in the heart of the first quarter."

"I think we'd be much, much better off from an economic perspective if we had a little more confidence in our government to do the right thing."