by Johanna McDowell (@jomcdowell) NEW YORK CITY: Day 2 of the AdForum Worldwide Summit, Tuesday, 9 October 2013, started off with a taped message from Sir Martin Sorrell of WPP in response to key questions we were asking regarding the WPP group, as well as the potential impact of the Publicis Omnicom Group merger.

adforumSir Martin refers to it as POG — which, of course, is funny and interesting at the same time.


WPP sees the need for more scientific skills within the group in order to manage the future and the needs of data and technology. He also commented that business in general is much better than in 2009 but is still tough and will continue to be so for some time to come.

Regarding POG, Sir Martin believes that it is a “fatally flawed” merger, badly handled from a PR and client perspective with little consultation with staff and clients alike. It spells great opportunity for WPP.

Group M

We then moved onto Group M, the media trading group which contains the four WPP media agencies. An excellent overview of the market in general from the CEO, a discussion about “horizontality” ie harnessing group structures for the benefit of clients across countries and disciplines eg Team Detroit within WPP. Lots of discussion and questions around media and where the future lies.


Y&R was next and it has transformed itself in the past three years under the leadership of David Sable and his team, including a move to new premises — the first move in more than 90 years of being in business. A whole new energy, great traditions and experience at the top; lots of new young people.

We were shown some of the newest — and very impressive — work and some interesting new thinking about the duality of brands. One of the trends observed is that more people have access to mobile phones than to toothbrushes or toilets — makes you think!

Y&R in South Africa and Africa is, of course, very strong and the conclusion of the transaction with Native was a feature of the growth in the VML (digital ) Y&R network.

A delicious lunch on the rooftop of the agency premises with a magnificent view of Central Park rounded off that visit.

Agency compensation

A good discussion then, among the consultants only, around agency compensation and why agencies need to articulate their thoughts on what makes marketing spend different from any other spend pool for a marketer. (More on that at our next Subscriber Master Class – 10 key messages.)


We then moved on to MRY, which is a merger between Mr Youth and LBi, now owned by Publicis. With brave and creative social media work on a big scale and competing with R/GA and Razorfish, this full service digital agency believes in creating connected ideas make people’s lives better. It uses data to predict consumer behaviour and then supply the products and campaigns which will meet those new needs.


Finally, our last destination for the day was Wunderman, where we learned about emotional data along with how Wunderman views the future.

An excellent dinner with a very stimulating group of Wunderman people rounded off what was certainly a most stimulating second day of the summit.

Preview of Day 3 on Wednesday:

9am-10.30am: Breakfast with Critical Mass CEO Dianne Wilkins
8.30am-10am: Meet at the Apartment
11am-2pm: Lunch with McCann Worldgroup CEO Diamond Harris
10.30am–1.30pm: 622 Third Ave Miles Nadal on MDC (update)
2pm-5.30pm: Open afternoon
6pm: SapientNitro executive director Gaston Legorburu
Dinner: Hosted by SapientNitro

We might even have time for a short rest in the afternoon!!

More tomorrow.

#adforumsummit — follow us on Twitter.


Johanna McDowell Currently MD of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company (IAS), Johanna McDowell has been in marketing and advertising since 1974, with experience both on the agency and client side of the fence. She held directorships in South African and British ad agencies until being appointed MD of Grey Phillips Advertising in 1988; and built Integrated Communications, a PR-driven marketing communications company that went from zero base in 1991 to an R8-million-fee turnover by December 2004.

After graduating in marketing and business studies, Johanna’s experience spanned large corporates, including UK and SA banking, manufacturing and retail, along with a 15-year stint in two of the largest ad agencies in SA and in a medium-sized agency in the UK. As such, she is well-placed to offer commentary on marketing and advertising from a local and international perspective. Follow her on Twitter at @jomcdowell.

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