Q’s with…Rishad Tobaccowala, CEO Denuo/CIO Publicis Media Group, New York

Media guru Rishad Tobaccowala is not only the chief innovation officer of Publicis Media Group (PMG), which oversees global networks like Starcom MediaVest and ZenithOptimedia. He's also the CEO of Denuo, PMG's future practice which strives to anticipate and respond to trends in digital, interactive, and evolving traditional disciplines.

Media guru Rishad Tobaccowala is not only the chief innovation officer of Publicis Media Group (PMG), which oversees global networks like Starcom MediaVest and ZenithOptimedia. He’s also the CEO of Denuo, PMG’s future practice which strives to anticipate and respond to trends in digital, interactive, and evolving traditional disciplines.

Before giving a speech entitled ‘Brave New Waves’ at the CMDC conference in Toronto on March 28, Tobaccowala shared his vision of the future with strategy.

What are the ‘Brave New Waves’?

It is not the brave new wave of technology. It is that people are increasingly empowered with technology, by technology.

In a world that is broadband, a world that is wireless – tell me the difference between local, national, and global? In a world where people are time shifting and ordering stuff

on-demand, what does a time period mean? In a world where media and creative work together – what does a standard like 30 seconds or print ads mean?

It’s not like those things are going away, but they’re operating under different rules of behaviour. I call that the collapse of the marketing spine. In this world, things we believed in are getting very fuzzy.

There are certain pathways in moving forward, things like providing people with value, making things more participatory, and integration.

With clients demanding proof of ROI and effectiveness, how do you justify these new tactics when there aren’t any numbers to back them up?

You don’t do it by threatening them. There are parts of new media where there is enough of a track record. If people ask me does Internet advertising work, does search work – I’ll say, ‘yes it works and I’ll give you 50 case studies. Do you need more?’

Today in North America 16% of people’s time is spent on digital media while advertisers are spending 4% of their budgets on digital media. Don’t you think you need to go and figure out how that works? Or do you believe that sitting in a place that may eventually only account for 60% or 65% of media usage is good enough?

The final thing I tell marketers is you are all behaving like accountants and CFOs. A marketer needs to manage the revenue line and they need to manage the imagination line. In the agency business we only know of two ways of talking to clients: We are either supplicants or unnecessarily arrogant. Why can’t you talk with confidence? If someone says: ‘Prove to me this works,’ I say: ‘I’m going to work with other people who are going to do this and not waste my time proving to you that it works, because frankly I have other things to do in life.’