Branding of Advertising Agencies – Gary Armstrong, CMO, Wenner Media

On January 15, 2009, Wenner Media’s chief marketing officer, Gary Armstrong, got a chance to be interviewed by Nat Ives, a media reporter from Advertising Age at the 2009 CMO Leadership Forum.

While introducing himself, Gary explained how he viewed his role in two main functions: make sure everything is done consistently and on target and take the brand and leverage it. “We can leverage it through partnerships; we can leverage it through selling advertising,” he said as he spoke on how exactly they influence the brand.

Gary also highlighted the fact that their being a small brand allows for efficiency in advertising and marketing. He talked of how he travelled to various cities, where they were advertising, about four times a year to monitor how his brand(s) and competitors are fairing on in the market.

One of the biggest challenges of media companies is that advertisers are not constant. Advertising sponsors never stick to an annual schedule. “Now of course we want to grow every year so we may say to you, you ran twelve pages last year; we want fourteen pages this year or we want market share this year,” he said.  Gary’s point of view is that if people stick to a schedule, even when down, you will still want a share of market of ad pages. This way you may have a better chance of bouncing back.

Ives posed the all important question of how much pressure CMOs have since they all wanted to look like they were getting their money’s worth. In response, Gary talked of how a good ad should have the capability of capturing a consumer’s attention. “ know the role of advertising is to stop the consumer wherever they are. If they’re flipping through a magazine; if they’re walking down the street,” he said. A good ad should invoke a customer’s need to spend his/her money on that product because the ad made him/her believe that it would actually better their lifestyle.

When talking of how much trouble the media business was in especially during the recessionary periods, Armstrong talked of how the television shows and magazines were becoming fewer as the days went by. He however said that the media industry was in a self correcting time. “I think that print companies are going to have to reinvent themselves and it goes back to being companies with solid brands,” Armstrong explained.

Gary continues saying that though social media provides a platform for great communication, they don’t do the same for advertising. Despite many people thinking that print media is dead, the truth is that magazines are a great communication as well as advertising tool.

In the Q&A segment, Gary answers a question about how magazines acquire and retain subscribers. He says that the best and most efficient way to keep up with how magazine subscribers evolved was to keep up with the digital age. “They will do it the first and say, ‘Oh, I’m not sure if I like it or not,” Gary said.  It makes more financial sense for companies to reach their subscribers online since they don’t have to pay for the paper or postage and they get to know all the new content in real time.