Group M's Proctor Talks Mistakes, and How To Overcome Them

Basics Q&A: From Full Service to Media, and Looking Beyond Silicon Valley

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In today's installment of Basics, our weekly series of quick conversations with media leaders about how to succeed, Group M Global President Dominic Proctor talks about mistakes -- the lucky kind that got him into the media-buying business, the silly kind that kept media buying as a discipline subordinate to creative for many years, and the inexcusable kind that keeps people from seeking out new ideas.

Dominic Proctor
Dominic Proctor

Ad Age : Why did you become a media buyer?

Dominic Proctor: Well, actually it was a complete mistake. I left college not knowing what to do, met a guy I hadn't seen for a year, and he asked what I was going to do. I said, "I have no idea." He said, "I work at an ad agency. You should do that , and it's great fun." So I did. I went to the agency and got the job, and I assumed I was going to be a copywriter, because I hadn't thought about it one way or the other, and on the first day, they gave me a calculator instead of a pen. I thought, "What's that for?" And that 's how it started.

Ad Age : If you weren't in media buying, what would you be doing and why?

Mr. Proctor: I'd love to say I was a professional golfer, and I probably would like to say I would be Brad Pitt's body double, but that wouldn't work either. I don't know what I'd be doing if I wasn't in media. It never occurred to me to look at anything else.

Ad Age : What's the biggest mistake you made in career and what have you learned from it?

Mr. Proctor: Probably, with the benefit of hindsight, I can say the biggest mistake was we were a little late into the game in launching a media agency, especially in Europe. I was kind of in denial about it. I was happy then to be running a full-service shop and thinking it [media] wouldn't happen. The mistake was we were a bit of a follower rather than a leader [when we founded Mindshare in 1997]. But we were also able to spot some of the things the pioneers got wrong and avoid them. When the media business started it was a very narrow business concentrating on just media buying, so when we launched Mindshare we launched it with strategy, sponsorship, planning, research, and a much broader purview. It took a few years to catch up, but we did catch up.

Ad Age : What are the most common mistakes you see young media buyers making?

Mr. Proctor: I would say they should try to form closer ties to the creative community. The mistake we all make is , people get to work and they focus on their relatively narrow jobs, and I think if you can buy a half hour or an hour every day to walk around and keep your eyes open and learn from people doing different jobs that would be good.

Ad Age : Companies such as Apple are playing huge roles in advertising, but who else is out there innovating that media buyers need to pay close attention to and why?

Mr. Proctor: We make a mistake if we think the only innovation is coming out of Silicon Valley and digital. There is plenty of innovation coming around the world in broadcast and print publications and radio and outdoor and what we wrongly call old media. Don't fall into the trap of thinking the only game in town for innovation are digital social companies in California. Look at some of the new content on the broadcast networks, and some of the out-of -home executions. There is plenty of creativity around interactivity and digital interactive outdoor advertising.

Ad Age : "Mad Men:" love it or hate it, and why?

Mr. Proctor: Love it. It's a fantastic example of real innovation in content in TV. I love it because it's beautifully written and cast and acted. I love it because I'm old enough to, more or less, remember parts of it, or not so long after it.

Ad Age : Favorite restaurant for ad lunches?

Mr. Proctor: In New York I tend to be slightly conventional. I live in Union Square, so I might go to Union Square Cafe or Gramercy Tavern or the Gotham Bar and Grill. If it's a social lunch I go to where my PA tells me is trendy that week. She won't let me choose. But the one I go to most often is a sandwich at my desk.

Ad Age : Favorite guilty pleasure?

Mr. Proctor: A decent red wine from Southern Rhone Valley.

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