His title's not clear, but mission is: Pave media future for advertisers

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Tim Hanlon is Mr. On Demand.

However, the Publicis Groupe point man on all things new media is currently without an official title. He was elevated recently from senior VP-director of emerging contacts at Starcom MediaVest Group to a still- nebulous role across Publicis Groupe's media entities. While the details are still being worked out, it seems clear Mr. Hanlon, 39, will take on a role that involves identifying "strategic relationships" and potentially investing in the burgeoning technology companies that are helping to propel consumer-controlled media. As he puts it, the new job will have him looking three to five years out, rather than three to five months out.

Mr. Hanlon is well known throughout the on demand world as a leader well beyond the scope of his salaried role. Until recently he was chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies' Advanced Television Committee and is a member of the steering committee of Innovation in Digital Advertising (known by its members as Idea) and an integral part of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' (NATAS) Advanced Media Committee.

He is described by industry colleagues not as a networker but a connector: someone working for the greater good. Pat Dunbar, who runs new-media marketing consultancy the DIMA Group has worked with Mr. Hanlon for a couple of years through Idea. "In the on-demand world there are some basic fundamentals that need to change to make it work for advertisers; in particular measurement that's more appropriate for on demand. Through his leadership on the 4A's committee and by putting a stake in the ground, by helping to define the world, he's helped to move the ball forward." Ms. Dunbar adds: "He's been a powerful advocate of advertisers' interests."

Guiding force

"The consumer is ahead of the industry," said Mr. Hanlon, who is often accused by cable-systems operators of forcing them to work ahead of their own capabilities to provide more data points to advertisers. Mr. Hanlon was the guiding force behind the four guidelines that cable operators and agencies have agreed to already, though he concedes there's been little progress beyond those principles since they were established in spring 2004.

"Right now the road to advertising riches is not the cable operator alone or the programmer alone, it is through cooperation. It is one thing to target advertising in local spot cable, it is another in a national advertising environment," said Mr. Hanlon, who thinks that it's crucial for companies such as Comcast Corp. Time Warner Cable, Cablevision and DirecTV owner News Corp. to get on board, and quickly. "Over the next 10 years the operator is going to become less important. Broadband connectivity will be faster and available from so many other places: satellite, cable, over power lines, traditional phone lines, wireless."

His vision of the media world in years to come is analogous to the Internet, where consumers are being served up millions of options for viewing. "The future of TV is one of individualized video consumption, allowing viewers to access and consume video the way that is most easy for them to do so." Once the cable companies and consumers widely adopt the VOD technology, advertisers will be able to take advantage of a whole new way of targeting consumers. "With that flexibility and choice should come more an individualized addressable ad messaging environment. Over next 10 to 15 years, we may get to that point when these [media companies] just provide us the connection to that experience."

For big media, he has a warning. Unless the major broadcast groups get inventive, "the consumer will reinvent the business in ways that may not be positive." That could mean anything from viewers watching the Jon Stewart/Tucker Carlson "Crossfire" exchange on non-Time Warner-branded blogs to consumers downloading TV shows for free via peer-to-peer sites such as Bit Torrent.

What's needed for advertisers to capitalize on these new opportunities is a greater creative vision from both creative agencies and marketers themselves, he believes. "My entreaty is to think like programmers," he said.

Just Asking

Are you a gadget man? Yes, I've got the Treo 650 Web-phone and I always have a USB key fob, and an iPod. But I'm not as geeky as you might think. I still write my own bills and don't pay online.

Describe your media habits? Wired is the most relevant tap on the pulse of what's going on. As for books, I'm reading Kevin Starr's "Coast of Dreams: California on the Edge 1990-2003."

If you were to give us some cool Web sites to check out? Del.icio.us, a tagging site to keep ahead of RSS feeds; marumushi.com/apps/ newsmap/newsmap.cfm, a visual take on the most popular news stories on Google.com; Bloglines, to help keep track of blogs on particular industries.

What are you doing when it's not about work? I'm writing a book on sports teams that have come and gone. I have a proposal written. It's something completely different. My team is Chicago Fire.

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