"We're becoming a lot more focused on how consumers are getting their information," says Mr. Abruzzo, exec VP-director of research at the Havas-owned media-buying agency. "We're figuring out how what's going on with the internet impacts the impressions of different brands. And we're extending beyond the traditional marketing modeling and trying to understand the flow of word-of-mouth and actually simulating how different events can impact how word-of-mouth travels. I'm concerned about understanding the right mix of traditional media and interactive."
To say Mr. Abruzzo, who's done work for Paramount, Sears and Ford, has a lot on his plate would be putting it mildly. He oversees four teams -- traditional ratings research, strategic analysis, competitive analysis and marketing modeling. And he's constantly at work on new approaches to figuring out the most efficient buys.
Mr. Abruzzo, 54, is also about to begin testing the effectiveness of ads delivered through interactive TV. "We are planning to serve different messaging to different households based on demographics such as affluent, multicultural and age," says Mr. Abruzzo, who came to MPG from a slot as managing partner at WPP Group's Mediaedge:cia. "There's currently a very limited capability to this, and we feel we need expertise not only with these kinds of systems but working with our clients' databases to ensure that the addressability connects with their targeting strategy."
"Joe has a scientist's approach to business problems and sees things as everything is solvable," says Perianne Grignon, VP-media services at Sears Holdings Corp. She describes Mr. Abruzzo as an "extraordinary" media thinker with the ability to solve business problems through media strategy.
"He doesn't see the forest through the trees; he sees the roots," says MPG Chief Operating Officer Steve Lanzano, who's worked with Mr. Abruzzo for more than 20 years, dating back to their time with N.W. Ayer in the mid-1980s. "He digs deep and looks at it from the respect of: What does this mean to move your business forward? He always looks at things as: How does this generate a return on investment?"
One of Mr. Abruzzo's best attributes is the proactive approach he takes in their relationship, Ms. Grignon says. "It's never about someone calling him up [to discuss an issue]. It's about him spending time with us at Sears and saying, 'Here's your problem; here's what I heard; and this is what I'm seeing in your results from a sales, brand and customer standpoint. And here's how MPG can help solve these problems.' "