MAGNA's David Cohen On the Agency of the Future

By Media Insights Archives
Cover image for  article: MAGNA's David Cohen On the Agency of the Future

During the GABBCON (Global Audience Based Buying Conference) conference held in New York this past week, I had the chance to meet with David Cohen, President North America at MAGNA.  In his keynote he warned that agencies need to adapt to the future. They are in the intelligence business and need to invest in innovation in order to navigate what is a complex world. "Consumers are moving faster than brands and agencies, and this is unprecedented," he warned. "Our ecosystem faces challenges driven by technology change and exponential growth that is driving media consumption change."

To prepare for the future, agencies need to be able to analyze marketplace context; understand the business economics (the business of running the business); build trust and transparency; leverage technology, data and automation, and win the talent war with diversity, culture, training and development. "Whoever has the best people, wins," he declared.

I sat down with Cohen (pictured at top) and asked him the following questions:

Charlene Weisler: When do you see the industry getting away from the proxy measurements of age and gender?

David Cohen: Today we're doing both at the same time. We're focused on standard age/sex demo and at the same time measuring what that looks like for a custom audience. I think about that as two rails that are going along horizontally -- we're keeping track of both. Your question is, "When do we slough off the standard age/sex demo," and I have to believe in the next three to five years that will become much more material. We have a joke that adults 18-49 is not a buying demo, it's a family reunion. We think that this huge swath of audience doesn't make very much sense.

Weisler: Do you think we will get to standardized segmentations as an industry standard, or will it all be custom?

Cohen: That's a great question. As an industry, when we say auto-intender we need to mean the same thing for some big broad swaths of custom audiences. I do think there's a need for an alliance -- for a group of people to get together. It could be Facebook, Google, some of the big media companies to define what we mean for the following twenty big segments. There will always be custom but I do think we need to get to some level of standardization. We are pushing for that.

Weisler: Someone mentioned at today's conference their interest in measuring individual ads. Do you think we'll get to a place soon where you can see your client's specific ad performance?

Cohen: I hope so! There are so many things that we need to figure out in the ecosystem that, if I were a betting man, I would say that is not going to be in the same three-to-five-year horizon. But we would love it to be. We're trying to get to an industry standard watermarking technology. Nielsen has that, CIMM is working on that. We're trying to make that happen. The question is whether the industry is ready for that.

Weisler: Do you have any predictions for this year's Upfront?

Cohen: I think we're going to continue the drumbeat from the past couple of years. We've already gotten a prediction as to where ratings are heading: They're not going up. They're going down, probably to the tune of low double digits in primetime. We think that demand will be relatively flat. We think that it will be a market that's softer than last year but still quite strong. We are trying, at MAGNA, to give our marketers an opportunity to potentially have alternatives. It's all about whether there's another place where we can put our ads that is high quality and measureable. We're working very hard to do that. We did that last year with YouTube and we're trying to expand that for this year.

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