Five Questions With Mindshare CEO Antony Young

Not All Agencies Are the Same, According to This Industry Veteran

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After a 15-year career at Publicis Groupe , where his specialty was importing and exporting global insights and new business, Antony Young last fall joined a longtime competitor: WPP's Mindshare.

Mr. Young served in various roles at Publicis' ZenithOptimedia, including CEO of the Asia Network, where he helped launch and oversee Zenith China. Before that , he was regional media director for Saatchi & Saatchi, where he led media-planning duties for Procter & Gamble in Asia. Most recently, he was CEO of Publicis' Optimedia in the U.S.

Antony Young
Antony Young

Mr. Young, who officially succeeded Phil Cowdell as chief of Mindshare in September, talked to Ad Age about the move and the changes he plans to make. Don't expect any deals, though. Mr. Young says he's out to build, not buy.

Ad Age : How have your first weeks been? Any culture shock after spending so much time at Publicis?

Mr. Young: They've been great. It's refreshing after 15 years in Publicis Groupe to come into WPP. Anyone who tells you all agencies are the same is completely wrong. There's a different kind of feel here. There's a lot of investment going into the media businesses. WPP definitely feels much more connected in that they see the overall businesses as a whole group of agencies working together in a strategic fashion. For example, WPP has Team Detroit and an IBM team. There are a lot more integrated groups and client solutions here. ... What's impressed me is we're prepared to make investments to bring broad communications solutions and expertise that span owned- and earned-media channels.

Ad Age : Tell us about some of the changes you are planning. Any acquisitions on the horizon?

Mr. Young: An area I'm particularly passionate about is how we build out communications strategies to play a personal-shopper role at the agency. I've been reaching out and talking to as many clients as I can, trying to understand what other kind of big opportunities they're looking for from a media partner. I consistently hear clients asking, What's my business strategy, my communications strategy, my digital strategy? What else can I prioritize? How do I differentiate in this market? Companies are more competitive, so there's more pressure to drive big businesses. We've got to evolve our business rather than buy our way into it. It's not a solution I would even think about. If you look at a media agency model today vs. five years ago, it's changed dramatically. I think the solution is within us vs. outside. We can evolve and build those skills.

Ad Age : What would you say is your biggest challenge right now?

Mr. Young: Getting there more quickly than our competition and driving innovation. We're asking a lot more from our people in terms of skills and responsibilities. In the old days, media people only had to do three things: planning, buying and organizing tickets for clients. Now we're called on to do so much more. Client leads have to manage big and varied team planners, buyers, digital people, etc., and then also have to take on more of a role of account management versus service. The next [challenge] is becoming more converse with digital and learning other skills like social content. We also need to be focused on building better collaboration with the creative agency.

Ad Age : One knock we hear from a lot of media-industry executives is that shops under the Group M banner are indistinguishable. Do you feel that way at Mindshare?

Mr. Young: You're right. We need to come out more distinctly and define our positioning, but it's not a Group M issue. It's a media-agency issue. What's impressed me about Group M is its go-to-market strategy on trading and implementation. Take it from a guy who ran an agency and has had to compete against Group M over the last five years. The way negotiations are centralized and managed, we're able to consolidate the scale of media buying across all the agencies.

Ad Age : Are you noticing any trends that might have a significant impact on media?

Mr. Young: We're seeing things we'd traditionally call stunts and one-off events much more in scalable media. With the power of social, there's now a legit strategy to create an event. In China, Greenpeace did a promotion with 80,000 pairs of disposable chopsticks. They turned them into trees, filmed the building and put it online. Millions saw that . We're opening up and broadening media. Now we can drive more global audiences, and new media is making it scalable and more valuable to market.

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