And on Tuesday . . .
Seriously, J. (pronounced "Jay") Sandom is a reminder that the change-the-world spirit that infused the agency business during the Chiat days is alive and well and living in the occasionally arcane arena of Internet advertising.
Even as many early Netizens bemoan the encroachment of capitalist values into a system they believed would humanize the globe and globalize humans, Sandom is plotting to use capitalism and its handmaiden, advertising, to hasten the deaths of Viacom, News Corp., Time Warner, America Online, Microsoft and their ilk. It is a goal for which he doesn't apologize. "The 20 fat guys and their committees," he says, "aren't creating quality media."
If Sandom, 42, seems everywhere these days, it's because he is. Not a week after his visage graced the cover of a Forbes interactive advertising supplement, he landed on the front of this journal and the inside pages of several others with the news he was exiting OgilvyInteractive, where he was North American director, to take the helm of Rapp Digital, a new Omnicom Group unit.
I wonder if his new patrons knew what they're getting into with J. Sandom.
He can speak with clinical clarity about direct marketing esoterica, a subject that glazes the eyes of too many in mainstream advertising. Over lunch at The Globe, northern Silicon Alley's favorite boite, he explained (with almost erotic intensity) his passion for Rapp's database capabilities, which, he said, would enable him unparalleled opportunity to generate lists of targets; identify customers' lifetime value; map, sequence and deliver the messages to them; and refine and redo the messages in response to the consumer's reaction and her shifting value over time. Oh yes, yes, yes!
But that pales against his real obsession: making a performance-based compensation system work in interactive space and, ultimately, in all media. "Nobody has yet found the model to sustain a cost-per-click business," J. told me. That's allowed the interactive media network/serving system combines -- companies that have assembled scores of Web sites for which they sell and to which they traffic advertisements -- to maintain the hoary, exposure-based, cost-per-thousand pricing system which should be disappearing about now.
"Somebody will come up with a model to create a serving network to compete with the Doubleclicks and Netgravitys, focused specifically on a cost-per-performance basis," J. said. "And the somebody will be me."
The solution Sandom proposes is deceptively simple: Open all interactive advertising to all sites, give those sites total freedom to place and repeat the ads against the desired target, and pay the sites only on the basis of the responses generated. That, he says, will make advertising available to the smaller, niche media that today have difficulty competing with the massive portals.
"With today's CPM model, x dollars for x eyeballs, the big portals that control 80% of the advertising on the Web don't care whether you click or not; they get paid regardless," says Sandom. "Meanwhile, thousands of deep sites with great user relationships get hosed because they don't have the sales force or the numbers to attract advertisers and agencies. This is the way to get them to the table. The only risk in this system is to the fat boys, the top 20 sites who suck off the CPM model."
In effect, Sandom is proposing turning ad planning and placement into an open market -- an "agora," he calls it -- by which media properties can come to a central location, see what campaigns and executions are up for grabs, and take on the challenge of making them work. This market-based system will also protect the media companies from advertisers, he contends. "If the e-publisher is on the hook, then embedded in the value proposition is you have to give him the tools and information to assist him and improve the chances of performance."
"Who wants 20 fat companies running the media? In whose interest is that?" asked the rebellious Mr. Sandom. "This is true to the spirit of the Internet."