The Influentials: Advertising

Tim ArmstrongPhoto: Roger Deckker

Tim Armstrong
Vice-president of advertising sales, Google
Google is rewriting the rules of advertising, and Armstrong is the one who’s in charge of making sure Madison Avenue knows it. With five minutes and a credit card anyone can bid to buy the traffic associated with an “AdWord.” One of Google’s best sellers? “Mesothelioma”—a form of lung cancer that is caused by asbestos. The AdWord earns Google about $40 each time someone clicks on it and is sent to a personal-injury lawyer’s site. With this and related initiatives, Google sucked $6 billion out of advertising budgets last year.

Irwin Gotlieb
CEO, GroupM of WPP
Media megabuyer Gotlieb controls $54 billion worth of advertising money—more money than any other adman in the world. It’s more than enough to bring the networks to heel, and in a series of public comments, he has hinted that they need to sit, beg, and roll over. “I am not implying in any way that I think the 30-second spot is going to go away,” said Gotlieb. “It’s just that we have to learn new and different ways to communicate, whether it be branded entertainment or content creation.”

John Wren
CEO, Omnicom Group
Wren, the ultimate ad-world suit, is also, amazingly, beloved by his creatives. Omnicom is the biggest and best-run agency holding company in the world, with a long roster of profitable Internet, public-relations, and marketing companies. His M.O.? He shakes up an agency and then steps aside, ceding creative control. Just look at BBDO. Wren unleashed Andrew Robertson on the storied firm, which had been best known for its TV spots, and watched it become the most talked-about shop in the industry, one that pulled in a record $1.8 billion in new business last year.

Bob Greenberg
In a field that’s been repeatedly pummeled by waves of technological innovation, no one has surfed them more successfully than Greenberg. Remember that Diet Coke commercial back in 1992 in which Paula Abdul danced with a digitally inserted Gene Kelly? Greenberg. Remember last year’s 23-story Nike billboard in Times Square that let passersby use text-messaging to change the color and design of the sneaker in the ad? That was Greenberg, too. What’s next? The moon as billboard: corporate logos projected on the lunar surface with enormously powerful lasers. A potential audience of 6.5 billion people! Instant brand awareness! We’re kidding, but you get the idea.

Jon Kamen
Transforming the 20th-century soap opera into today’s deodorant-themed reality show. There have always been shows underwritten by a single corporate sponsor, but Kamen has taken the idea and given it a “branding” spin. He created MTV’s The Gamekillers for Axe Dry deodorant. And because Kamen is also the guy who produced The Fog of War and Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, some think that the branding of entertainment might not be such a bad thing.

The Swedes
The creative duo behind Mother
In New York these days, the little boutiques are starting to beat out the large bureaucratic firms for even the big accounts—making old-school Madison Avenue increasingly nervous. And the mammal that makes the dinosaurs tremble hardest is Mother, a four-partner firm led by a dynamic duo (Linus Karlsson and Paul Malmstrom) nicknamed “the Swedes.” They dreamed up this year’s “Department of Humor Analysis” for TBS; commercials for their next campaign—Virgin Mobile—will feature 300 mimes marching on Washington Square Park. Next: The Influentials in Tech

The Influentials: Advertising