Tuesday, October 31, 2023

16429: GroupM To Lose M—McDonald, That Is.

MediaPost exposed more drama at GroupM, where North America CEO Kirk McDonald will bail out “for the next chapter in my journey” at the end of the year. There’s some sloppy reporting on the story, as MediaPost incorrectly claimed McDonald joined GroupM in September 2023, while Digiday noted his start date at 2020. Regardless, McDonald did erect a few heat shields in his relatively short stint. AdExchanger saw fit to state that McDonald—prior to landing at GroupM—had no experience running a media company. Well, now he’s running from a media company…


GroupM NA CEO McDonald Departing At Year’s End


By Steve McClelland


GroupM North America CEO Kirk McDonald is stepping down from his role at the end of the year, the company has confirmed.


Mindshare Global CEO Adam Gerhart will serve as interim head of GroupM NA until a successor is found for McDonald.


McDonald joined GroupM in September 2023 from Warner Media’s Xander, where he served as chief business officer and before that CMO. Earlier he was president of Pubmatic. He succeeded Tim Castree at GroupM, who had left the previous November.


It wasn’t clear why McDonald is leaving. He issued a statement about leaving “for the next chapter in my journey,” but provided no details.

Monday, October 30, 2023

16428: Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation, Gripin’ ‘Bout Your Generation.


The latest Digiday confessions series installment presents the professional perspectives and pet peeves of a communications executive in their early 30s who is managing a worker in their mid 60s. Of course, there are plenty of cutting counterpoints and vapid videos regularly published in advertising trade publications, wherein Old White Guys hype the value of experience and wisdom. It all underscores a reality that spans the generations: people in communications companies do a lousy job of communicating—especially with each other.


‘I find myself being their IT support’: Confessions of a team leader on the pressures of managing older workers


By Cloey Callahan


The workforce is ageing, and it’s raising new challenges. How do you work seamlessly with someone when there is a 30-year age gap while also steering clear of ageism?


Baby boomers – folks currently aged between 57 and 75 years old – are staying in the workforce for longer than people ever have before. So the gap between the ages of more seasoned workers, as well as those at the start of their careers will only widen further.


While multigenerational workforces are a must-have and an asset for any organization, at times, presumptions and miscommunications can lead to awkward moments. That goes doubly if you’re a young boss.


For the latest installment of our Confessions series, where we trade anonymity for candor, we spoke to a 33-year-old communications executive who manages someone in their mid-60s about the challenges they’re working on overcoming together.


This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.


What is it like working with someone in their mid-60s?


Largely the average age group [at the company] is in their 30s. We’ve got some people who are about 10 years younger, and then we’ve only got a few people who are older. So the older generation is very much the minority within the whole agency, but they have been here from the very beginning. There’s one person who has been freelancing and came on full time. They’ve been put onto my team and there’s a significant [age] gap between us. It’s the biggest age gap I’ve ever had with someone I’m managing. It’s come with a whole different set of challenges that I’ve just never dealt with or had to think about before.


There’s a common stereotype about the older generation not being able to embrace technology. What has your experience been?


I’m hyperconscious of this because then I overanalyze that I’m being ageist and if I have an unconscious bias that older people don’t know how to use technology. But I do often have difficulty getting them up to speed with the software that we use and I find myself being their IT support a lot of the time. This person goes to great pains sometimes to explain to me that they lived through the age of moving on to email, so it’s not that they don’t know how to deal with new technology. It’s that the technology isn’t working for them. But I can’t help but notice that no one else in the whole team has these technical issues.


I really struggle with that because I have sympathy for it and I have time for it and I understand how frustrating it is. Something that frustrates me about going hybrid and working from home a lot is that everyone’s had to become IT specialists and that drives me bonkers. So I understand the struggle, but it’s frustrating to always hear that excuse as well as to why they can’t log on or that they’re late.


I ask him [the 60+ staffer] to share his screen and what to click and how to do it for software issues. But if it’s beyond that, I often pass it off to HR or IT support because it’s just taking up too much of my time. I need to just give the problem to someone who is more familiar with talking through systems and processes because it just takes me a really long time to figure it out. They do a much better job because they’re onboarding people all the time.


How have you changed your management style?


I’ve just had to become a lot bolder and confident with it. For a long time I was quite apprehensive and nervous to manage him in the way that I manage my other team members where I take the approach of just being super honest and firm, but fair. I was much more gentle because I was nervous about being ageist or saying the wrong thing or seeming patronizing to someone who is older than me. But I’ve come to realize in the last few weeks that actually that’s not fair on my other team members to see that I treat him differently. This person does seem to be performing better with stricter guidelines and they haven’t pushed back saying they know what’s what because they’re older than me. I need to just manage him the way that I would anybody else. That’s fairer than trying to adapt.


He does make me think about how we work. I see the value in the way that he works, which is technically a bit more old fashioned. But he gets good results often and proves that the way he would go about something is actually the right way. He just can be slow to get tasks done and I questioned if I can say ‘this is taking too long,’ and I really sounded it out. I realized like no, this is just taking too long, it missed the deadline. Of course I can say that.


You’re a millennial, but how do baby boomers and Gen Zers work together?


It hasn’t gone well and I’ve had to deal with that. It’s not that anyone has been rude to each other, but the generation gap was far too much and they couldn’t work together well. It’s more than a 40-year age gap and they could not find their rhythm. It was mutually recognized that they just couldn’t figure it out. With me, it’s more like 30 years and we can figure it out. We moved things around because the 20-somethings and 60-somethings just couldn’t finish the project together.


It was chaos. Different working styles and paces. He needs time to really sit with it and consider the meatier sides of the project, whereas the younger staffer was just like ‘let’s get it done,’ using tools and technology to move faster. They both said they felt like the other wasn’t listening. I do put that down to the age gap more than anything else. They didn’t seem to be able to just joke around with each other and have fun because ultimately they aren’t on the same page. Their references are too different. I hate sounding so broad strokes and stereotypical, but it did happen. That’s why I struggle with this topic.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

16427: Not Cool.


Not sure why someone thought this was a good promotion. Did the jewelry store identify its audience as romantic tailgaters?

Saturday, October 28, 2023

16426: No Longer In The Concentric Circles Of Stagwell’s Inferno.


MediaPost reported Stagwell is selling healthcare agency ConcentricLife to Accenture Song for $245 million. Accenture once bid to purchase MDC Partners, which ultimately merged with Stagwell. So, ConcentricLife may manage to succeed where other White advertising agencies failed—ie, it is escaping from the hell of the arguably worst White holding company ever.


Stagwell Sells Healthcare Agency To Accenture Song For $245 Million


By Steve McClellan


Stagwell has reached an agreement to sell healthcare marketing agency ConcentricLife to Accenture Song for $245 million cash.


Stagwell said it is selling the unit as part of a streamlining effort to focus on “core digital services.”


Stagwell CEO Mark Penn said, “We believe Accenture Song will be a good home for ConcentricLife, consistent with their focus on growing presence in the healthcare and life sciences industry.”


Penn said the proceeds will be reinvested in digital capabilities across the company’s agencies, as well as in the firm’s AI-based product suite housed within the Stagwell Marketing Cloud. Proceeds could also be used for M&A.


ConcentricLife was founded in 2002 by Ken Begasse Jr., who heads the agency as CEO. Clients include Pfizer, Novo Nordisk and Abbott. It is headquartered in New York with offices in London, Atlanta, Chicago, Ft. Lauderdale and San Diego.


Stagwell gained control of ConcentricLife through its merger with MDC Partners in 2021 and then paid a little more than $8 million to acquire the 27% of the agency it didn’t already own.


David Droga, CEO, Accenture Song stated: “We believe that together with ConcentricLife we will create a powerful capability to shape the future of health experiences and provide a truly compelling proposition for our clients.”


Completion of the transaction is subject to regulatory clearance and other customary closing conditions.

Friday, October 27, 2023

16425: GroupMoney Problems?


Adweek reported WPP CEO Mark Read spoke about the 1.8% decline in revenue for Q3, as well as a plan to simplify GroupM. Maybe the revenue drop—along with potential employment instability at GroupM—prompted certain Chinese executives to resort to desperate and drastic measures…?

Thursday, October 26, 2023

16424: Multicultural Majority Minority Ownership.


MediaPost reported that Burrell Communications Group was sold to FVLCRUM, a minority-owned private equity firm based in Rockville, Maryland. As Publicis Groupe gained minority ownership of the Black advertising agency in 1999—in order to let the shop retain its minority-owned status—FVLCRUM becomes majority minority owners. Hopefully, FVLCRUM will earn more than crumbs.


Burrell Communications Group Sold To New Minority Owners


By Steve McClellan


Burrell Communications Group, the highly regarded minority-owned multicultural advertising agency has been acquired by an equity consortium led by FVLCRUM Funds and Channing Johnson.


FVLCRUM is a minority-owned private equity firm based in Rockville, MD that specializes in impact and growth investments, while Johnson is a Los Angeles corporate attorney with decades of experience in media and entertainment. Johnson will serve as Chairman.


Tara DeVeaux, the former CMO of Los Angeles-based Wild Card Creative Group and Managing Director of its creative content division, 3AM, has been named the incoming CEO. She has a multifaceted background in advertising, media, and entertainment, having previously served at Y&R, SpikeDDB, and BBDO where she rose to CMO of the New York office.


Outgoing Co-CEOs McGhee Osse and Fay Ferguson announced the transaction today. “We are truly excited for Burrell’s next chapter,” states Osse. “It was pivotal to Fay and me to transition the company to a team that would be committed to investing in the agency, growing its capabilities and reach in the years ahead and maintaining the talent and culture that makes Burrell special.”


“Having jointly led Burrell for nearly two decades,” added Ferguson, “McGhee and I sought to ensure that the new ownership shared our vision, standard of values, and maintained Burrell's Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) designation.”


DeVeaux said, “With multicultural consumers driving most general market trends, the line between general market and multicultural advertising has never been grayer. Understanding where these consumers are now helps brands to project where they need to be in the near future, and that’s always been Burrell’s strength. I plan to build upon that legacy through a concentrated focus on data to deliver fresh insights and renewed creativity across all platforms.”

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

16423: Canceling J. Walter Thompson, Y&R, And Wunderman.


The LinkedIn post depicted above memorializes J. Walter Thompson, the iconic White advertising agency that will officially become history—along with Y&R and Wunderman—as WPP merges the firms under the VML masthead.


Advertising Age also commemorated “three historic agency names” being retired from the Adland roster.


This is not a case of cancel culture; rather, it’s corporate cancel culture. Although it didn’t help that the White advertising agencies were culturally clueless too.


Tuesday, October 24, 2023

16422: WPP GroupMess.

MediaPost reported on a WPP employee in China who was terminated from GroupM after being detained in Shanghai by Chinese authorities. Two former employees were also detained, and the story revealed that GroupM China CEO Patrick Xu was questioned by police. While details were sketchy, the alleged violation involved charges of bribery.


One thing is certain—Black-owned media, influencers, and publishers did not financially benefit from the Shanghai shenanigans.


Additionally, the scenario lets WPP boast that its people “represent perhaps the most diverse example of criminal diversity of any single organisation.”


WPP Employee, Others Under Investigation By Authorities In China


By Steve McClellan


A GroupM employee and two former employees were detained last week in Shanghai by Chinese authorities, according to multiple reports including the Financial Times (which broke the story) and Reuters.


Also GroupM China CEO Patrick Xu was reportedly questioned by police but not detained. Xu is also WPP’s country manager for China.


It isn’t precisely clear what is behind the detentions and investigation. A source for Reuters said it was related to “rebate mismanagement,” but that is not confirmed. A WPP statement issued midday Monday indicated that the GroupM executive was arrested on charges of bribery and that he has been terminated from the company. The firm said it was cooperating with Chinese authorities on their investigation and conducting its own separate investigation as well.


A source familiar with the situation stressed that WPP itself is not a subject of the investigation being conducted by Chinese authorities. That probe for now is limited to the individuals previously employed by the firm who were detained and others outside of the company.


The development is significant as WPP sees Greater China as a major growth driver for the firm. It is the firm’s fourth largest market, and has three major hubs there including campuses in Shanghai and Hong Kong.


The third campus opened earlier this year in Guangzhou. At the time, WPP said that 5,000 of the firm’s 8,100 people in the region were located on one of the three main campuses.


Here is the full WPP statement issued on Monday:


“Following the detention of a GroupM China executive on charges of bribery last week, we are cooperating with the authorities and conducting our own investigation with an independent third party.


We cannot comment on the details of an active police investigation. However, we are terminating the executive’s employment with the company, and GroupM is suspending trade with any external organisation we understand to be part of the police enquiries.


We are absolutely committed to behaving in accordance with the law and our own code of conduct, and will take all necessary action to ensure this is the case within our business.”


This story has been updated with input from WPP and other sources.

Monday, October 23, 2023

16421: Black Publishers Struggle To Stay In The Black.


Digiday published companion content to the recent confessions series installment that showed how Black publishers—as a result of broken promises and declining interest from brands and White advertising and media companies who pledged support—are now struggling financially and suffering from being labeled MFAs (made-for-advertising sites).


These reports consistently underscore that the game is rigged against Black-owned businesses and media—plus, the commitments uttered in 2020 turned out to be performative PR and blatant lies.


Most peculiar is the animated illustration accompanying the story (depicted above), displaying Black hands and money. The coins should have displayed ¢ versus $—or, more appropriately, been replaced by crumbs.


Some Black-owned publications push back on MFA reform amid declining traffic


By Kayleigh Barber and Sara Guagloine


Some Black-owned publishers feel the crackdown on made-for-advertising sites (MFAs) unfairly puts them at a disadvantage — particularly while grappling with declining referral traffic from social platforms.


More ad dollars are making their way to Black-owned publishers, as a result of agencies’ commitments to spend a percentage of their media budgets with Black-owned publishers after the media reckoning spurred by the murder of George Floyd in 2020. However, declining referral traffic from sources such as Facebook this year means some of those publishers are struggling to fulfill the ad impressions required in their deals with advertisers.


(Read the full report here.)

Sunday, October 22, 2023

16420: For Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Click Here Now.


Cybersecurity Awareness Month has been around since 2004; however, the event feels like yet another diversionary stunt to avoid addressing racial and ethnic equality—and it probably receives far more attention than Black History Month, Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, and National Native American Heritage Month combined.

Saturday, October 21, 2023

16419: Big News + BS.


Advertising Age presented “Agency news you need to know this week.” Looks like the biggest White advertising agency hired Bigfoot—and probably recorded it as a diversity victory.

Friday, October 20, 2023

16418: TGIF UWG FYI.

Muse by Clio spotlighted a Smithsonian collection saluting UniWorld Group Founder Byron Lewis. Meanwhile, WPP exhibits UniWorld in its global collection of marketing firms. The politics of having UniWorld maintain minority-owned status prohibits the holding company from merging the multicultural shop with the largest White advertising agency—so don’t expect to ever see VMLUWG.


Smithsonian Adds Collection From Ad Pioneer Byron Lewis


Items from his personal and professional life are on display


By Amy Corr


The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has added items from Byron Lewis’ career to its collections. Lewis, known as the “Godfather of Multicultural Marketing,” founded UniWorld Group in 1969.


Lewis and his agency created campaigns for Mars, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, AT&T, Stax Records, Avon, Ford Motor, Quaker Oats and Burger King, among others.


Donations to the collection include personal items, such as a Boy Scouts award, high school yearbooks and his Omega Psi Phi fraternity paddle. Items from his advertising career include awards, campaigns, scripts, artwork and an antique French desk and chair plus three swords used in ads for Mars’ 3 Musketeers. (Celebrating author Alexandre Dumas’ French and African ancestry, Lewis cast a Black actor as one of the musketeers in commercials during the 1990s.)


“This rich collection that includes archives and artifacts reveals a throughline of creative storytelling, both as reflected in his advertising career and in the materials that framed his interior office d├ęcor, and together, they characterize Lewis’ intersectional worldview,” says Fath Davis Ruffins, curator of the museum’s division of home and community life, in press materials.


The exhibition, “Byron Lewis, Ad King Extraordinaire,” is featured in the museum’s Consumer Era (1940s–1970s) section and spans two cases.


Now 91 and retired, Lewis was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame in 2013.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

16417: VML Definitely Defines Bad…


Advertising Age published a follow-up about the WPP mega-merger that blended VMLY&R and Wunderman Thompson to create VML. Don’t have the time or interest to read the report—which apparently collected industry executives’ and experts’ opinions on the corporate collision—but the opening paragraph offered enough to generate color commentary:


WPP made big news yesterday when it announced the merger of two of its largest creative networks, VMLY&R and Wunderman Thompson. The new entity, to be called VML, will begin operating in January of next year and will have 30,000 employees, making it what the holding company is calling the largest global creative agency.


Advertising icon Jay Chiat famously wondered, “How big can we get before we get bad?” Well, WPP already answered that question for holding companies decades ago—and now the conglomerate has put an exclamation point on the query for White advertising agencies.


What’s most outrageous is the hype declaring “the merger of its two largest creative networks” to erect “the largest global creative agency.” Okay, but consider how the entity adopted the name of its least creative unit—VML—and is technically comprised of dying creative shops that hooked up with data-driven dumpsters.


This is not as if Wieden + Kennedy teamed with Chiat\Day in their respective heydays. It’s more like a shotgun wedding between Zimmerman Advertising and Fathom Communications.


How big can we get before we get bad? Hey, these outhouses were bad long before they got big.


The Ad Age piece depicts the image above stating: VML EST. 2023. A truer announcement would’ve trumpeted, “VML—Excreted 2023.”