We exchanged emails for this interview and it has been slightly condensed and edited.
Marc Goldberg : I have been doing one on one interviews but you three are so interesting I wanted to discuss with all of you! Quick run down of where you were and leading into Media Plus Advisors.
Carly Feinstein: Susan, Perianne and I were co-leads of Accenture’s NA Media Consulting practice. We turned lemons into lemonade when Accenture made the business decision to shut down the practice globally because it conflicted with other efforts the firm was making in the Marketing space. As we were winding down the Accenture practice, we heard loud and clear that our clients still needed us. So we decided to form our own company. Prior to Accenture, I spent 17 years at media agencies in many different roles – Media Planning, Media Buying, Branded Entertainment & Sponsorship Project Management and Global Business Development.
Susan George: I was part of Media IQ prior to Accenture, and actually, Perianne was one of our clients! I have been on the auditing side for about 15 years but the work and types of engagements evolved so much moving from MIQ to Accenture. Prior to MIQ I was on the agency side first in planning and then moving into a role within the TV AOR for a large CPG.
Perianne Grignon: I was at Accenture Media Management with Susan and Carly and the team doing client account work. I came over with the team from Media IQ which was the small media performance firm founded by the late Mike Lotito, Brian Cauley, and Evan Lewis. Prior to that I was at [x+1] working for John Nardone (now CEO of Flashtalking) as the CMO and before that, I had a long career on the advertiser-side and agency-side. I’ve been in the media and ad business for more than 42 years.
MG: Your experience and expertise is tremendous. So going out on a limb here, you have already seen the problem that you are trying to solve for clients?
Carly: The greatest part of running our own business is that we get to do what we want – and NOT do what we don’t want to do. What we WANT to do is help clients and bring them tangible value. What we DON”T want to do is get in their way. When we were developing our business plan, we were easily able to decide which services from our previous media consulting experience we wanted to continue doing, improve upon and stop doing.
Susan: One of the key services of Media Plus Advisors is to provide Media Performance Management for marketers, Yes, we are seeing the problem we are trying to solve: most marketers are essentially measuring media performance using a process that they believe has been a best practice because it has been around so long. Simply put, advertisers want to know if their media strategies are best performing and what parts of their tactics they should change or improve or toss. The problem is that as media audits matured, the media ecosystem did too, becoming very fragmented, more complex and less driven by the old ways of media buying. Two top examples of this are that programmatic buying was never built into media auditing practices and the expansion of Video into OTT/CTV wasn’t either. So just when advertisers needed fast responses to their omni-channel media performance they are weighed down with an out-of-date best practice of traditional media auditing that is slow, expensive to operate well, is not an omni-channel, and quite frankly, annoying to implement.
Perianne: I’ve been fortunate to see and experience a lot of change in how media and marketing is planned and measured. The most profound experience in the past year has been around the ability of people and their teams to change. The shift to e-commerce as a dominant marketing channel – not just a sales channel – has been the biggest for some marketers. I’m in awe of the people who had to grab that opportunity back in the Spring of ‘20 and make it work for their companies.
Media Performance – or what we used to call media auditing has been around for a while. What’s new in this?
Carly: That’s why we started our firm! Because for marketers and their agencies to use performance results, the process of traditional media auditing had to change. The three of us learned from years of experience leading traditional media auditing projects that the process was ripe for a major update and innovation. We believe in the benefits of third-party oversight, but we don’t like the watchdog mentality that has grown up around auditing. No finger pointing. Only shared goals and a collaborative process. That’s our thing, and we think anything process built from a shared goal will be better.
Susan: We’re leaning into several key pivots. It starts with a shift away from a TV-centric mindset and moving to thinking Omni-channel all the time. Next, we want to go much faster and results into people’s hands quicker so they can make the adjustments they want.
Perianne: We need to bring business-based outcomes into media performance. Media can be beating expectations all day but if the brand marketing objectives or business goals are lagging – it doesn’t matter how the media is doing. So, we are taking an approach of both – foundational media KPI’s with business goals in everything we do.
MG: MPA has a podcast and they had a really good guest called Marc Goldberg. When we spoke, we discussed the client – agency relationship. A lot of pitches are happening now, how are you advising clients?
Carly: This is a real passion-point topic for us: back in the Fall, we published a paper which you can find on our website called “To Fix or To Pitch, that is the Question”. Our premise is that some marketers go to pitch because their business and service needs change, but their agency isn’t evolving to those needs. Others reasonably want to see what’s out there in the marketplace at other agencies, such as reporting, research or data management tools, talent, or innovation & ideas. But in my opinion, most marketers who go to pitch want things that could easily be renegotiated or have expectations that can be re-expressed. Essentially, they could fix the parts of the relationship and the agreement that aren’t working. Think of it as giving marriage counseling a shot before directly going to divorce to date someone else.
Yes, there are valid situations, cycles, and reasons to activate a pitch. But first take a pause and check to ensure if the reasons behind the decision to hold a pitch could be fixed.
We are starry-eyed optimists by nature whose favorite word is collaboration and I believe that partner relationships and media performance management can be improved for both marketers and agencies. Because media – and the relationships that drive it – can only be improved if the ecosystem works together.
But if a marketer has been down that road and decides a pitch is the answer then be really clear about what your goals and expectations are. Is it savings, is it a change in strategy? Make sure the process works for you and make sure that the consultant you work with understands your needs, the market specifics and what your goals are.
MG: I love that advice, I am tired of year six of pitch-o-palooza. If they are not revisiting their agency some brands are considering in-housing, what is the word of advice you would give before a brand went all in with that strategy.
Perianne: Our best advice is to define what a marketer really means by in-housing, why you want to pursue it, and your expectations on what it will deliver. We tend to think of it like driving a car: for marketers who have a hands-off approach, the car is being driven by their partner and they are waving from the side of the road. Some clients just want to be riding shotgun. Others want to be at the wheel with the partner sitting in the way-back seat. So the advice is: where do you want to be and why and can you sustain the process over time?
Carly: Another piece of advice is for the marketer to make sure they are thinking of everything – not just the pros of having control and ownership. Is it worth it? Will you have to hire more people with special skills? Will those people fit in with your company culture? Could it be a win/win staying with an agency, i.e. less expensive, negotiate the control and ownership rights.
Susan: And not just the people that will need to be hired but also the tools, analytics and data that clients will need to purchase, build out and maintain. Agencies have an organization in place that clients can tap into a percentage of when needed. In housing involves all aspects of the media process from planning to paying bills and all of that needs to be accounted for at the client when they choose to in house.
MG: So being a full time consultant at Accenture probably gave you a lot of miles in the air and not at home. Two big questions. One. What have you done with all of this time back?
Carly: I wish I could say that I had some impressive hobby, like playing golf, running a charity or collecting coins. But the fact is that in my free time I act like a teenager – go to the gym, watch TV, play Candy Crush, text my friends and think about what I’m going to eat next.
Susan: The past year has been way too stressful for me to take on any kind of meaningful hobby other than binge watching TV and listening to audiobooks. Thankfully my precious Real Housewives didn’t go anywhere so I had the shows, podcasts and blogs to distract me from the real world.
Perianne: I am a watercolor hobbyist and I draw and paint almost every day. Because in-person workshops have not been happening, I have been able to take online workshops from some great artists. My most recent was a master class in architectural perspective drawing. I’ve also had a couple of commissions for paintings which were fun to do.
MG: Follow up, you get a chance to back on a plane, what city and what restaurant?
Carly: I have a big trip planned for July – a Mediterranean cruise to celebrate my son’s Bar Mitzvah. So things better get back to normal so that I get to eat my way through France, Italy and Spain. But put me on a plane any day to go to San Francisco for Nanking beef at the House of Nanking and soup in a sourdough bread bowl at Boudin Bakery.
Susan: I want to go anywhere, but I have a trip to Europe I have been moving around for the past several months-it has moved around from UK, Ireland and France so we will see where and when I end up somewhere. And as far as a restaurant? I just want to go to one. Going out to eat is one of my favorite things to do and it has been almost a year since I have actually sat at a table and ordered something with a group of people.
Perianne: Our first trip will probably be to California to do a driving trip through the Sierra Nevada with packed lunches.
MG: Who has special talents?
Carly: I have two talents that I’m very proud of. (1) I can get a knot out of anything. Give me your necklace that’s been tangled and sitting in a drawer for years and I’ll have that thing back on your neck within an hour. (2) I can write a “Hallmark” like poem in minutes. All I need is a topic and some key words and I’ll write it. It won’t be award winning, but it’ll do the trick for a birthday card or gift tag.
MG: So I will be reaching out to you, I am going to need a poem for Valentines Day!