The Strategy Interview

Manny BrownDirector of Corporate Media (retired), Nabisco BrandsManny Brown recently retired from Nabisco Brands after 12 years as its director of corporate media. Brown, who has worked in advertising and media for 40 years, began his career with Baker Advertising in...

Manny Brown

Director of Corporate Media (retired), Nabisco Brands

Manny Brown recently retired from Nabisco Brands after 12 years as its director of corporate media. Brown, who has worked in advertising and media for 40 years, began his career with Baker Advertising in Toronto. Between 1953 and 1967, Brown worked for such agencies as Hayhurst, MacLaren and Vickers & Benson before returning to what was then Baker Lovick for the period 1967 to 1981.

Q. You’ve been in the business for 40 years, and obviously there’s been enormous change in marketing and advertising. But is there one thing that sticks out in your mind that is a greater change than all others?

A. Well, for example, there’s much more information available today to plan media and to buy it. When I started in the business there was practically nothing. You had to rely a great deal on your judgment.

Even the audience figures that we had – there was no television when I started – were rudimentary at best. Very few demographic breaks.

So you had to rely on what stations sounded like to try to determine what the target groups might be. We would actually listen to stations and then make judgments.

Q. When more information became available, was it embraced readily?

A. Oh, absolutely. Not only was it embraced, it was pushed for; it was needed. And certainly when television came along, there was renewed interest then, I think, in audience research, audience measurement and a whole number of things started.

[PMB]Print Measurement Bureau came along, which was an enormous help. And the Canadian Media Directors Council started pushing for better tools. So, gradually, over the years, systems evolved, media models evolved, and it became, I would say, easier to rationalize your thinking.

Q. Has it reached the point now where there is so much information available that it makes it difficult to come to a clear decision?

A. I don’t think there is too much information. I don’t think you can have too much information. I think what is happening is the systems themselves, particularly in broadcast, and particularly in television, the system is in danger of becoming obsolete very quickly because there are many choices available and there are going to be more coming on-stream.

So you have to question the quality of the information you’re getting rather than the mass of it.

Q. In 1953, there was no television. Now, of course, ‘death stars’ promise 500 channels. How do you view this massive choice of channels? How do you view the fragmentation that is going on? Is there any way to cope with it?

A. No, but what will cope with it is the human brain. It’s not possible to view 500 channels. So what will happen is people will have an inventory of channels that they like – they pick out six or seven – and view those, and within those channels, pick up the programs they like to see.

As it is right now, you’ve got a whole universe of radio stations out there, but you don’t listen to all of them. You’ve got your favorite radio stations and these are the ones you tune to most of the time. That’s going to happen to television.

Q. Will it become a case of the channel, but not the program, so sports fans will tune just to sports?

A. I don’t think it’ll happen that way. Even on the sports channel, you might not want to watch wrestling; you might hate wrestling. So if that was coming up then you would switch to one of your alternative channels to see what else was on.

Q. What have been the principal shifts during your career? Has it been money away from other media towards television?

A. I think the major shift when television came around was away from radio to television, and then it was to television away from the magazine and newspaper industries. And I think direct mail since, oh, the ’70s, is gradually gaining ground.

Event marketing has taken quite a bit of money, but it’s very expensive to get into direct marketing. I think anything that has to do with target marketing is taking over very gradually. I don’t think it’s in a dominant position.

Q. If you were advising a client, what would you suggest? The money stays in tv?

A. Where the money goes is a combination of many factors. To begin with, how much money do you have to spend and how far do you want to spread it.

What can happen is that you don’t have enough [money] to support a multimedia campaign, so you have to concentrate it somewhere and it may be with decreasing budgets, you don’t have enough for a broad reach.

Q. Can you have ground-breaking creative, but the actual moving of the product doesn’t follow?

A. I think that happens quite frequently. I don’t have a logical or satisfactory explanation for that except perhaps people who were looking at the situation, approving the creative, constructing it, were more enamored with the creative itself than what the customer really wanted.

Q. How do you see the growth of private labels? Good sign? Bad sign?

A. I think it’s wonderful for the consumer. The more choice they have, the better they like it.

Q. What’s it doing to the other brands, the national brands?

A. It’s hurting national brands, there’s no doubt about that. I think what’s hurting is partly the competition, partly the recession, and it’s having a decided effect on advertising budgets.

It’s not that there’s less money available from marketing, but the money’s being redirected, if you like, into other areas. And, of course, it’s affecting advertising agencies, it’s affecting the media. But I don’t think this is going to go away.

Q. What’s up next for Manny Brown?

A. I’ll take a little time off, but I’m not going to sit at home and do nothing. I guess I’ll help people who think that I can help them.

I hate to call myself a media consultant because there are lots of media consultants out there. But I think I’m sufficiently known that people think I can help them, I’ll be available.

I don’t even have a name for my new company, but I will have a small company.