When Nick Pahade was hired as president and chief executive
of Initiative North America in late March, Jim Hytner, worldwide CEO of Initiative,
was quick to praise his digital cred. "[Pahade's] vast experience of digital
marketing across media, digital agencies and technology will be invaluable as
Initiative North America seeks to deliver ever more technology-driven,
innovative communications work for clients across all media," Hytner said.
His resume in terms of digital speaks for itself. Prior to
Initiative, Pahade was CEO of digital media management platform Traffiq, and
before that was president of True Action, a unit of GSI Commerce, where he built
the company's digital marketing services division.
He was also president of Denuo, the digital unit of Publicis,
and cofounded Beyond Interactive Inc., which he sold to WPP's Grey Global Group,
and was manager director at MediaCom Digital.
It's no surprise, therefore, that Pahade speaks fluently
about the power of digital in the marketplace. He took some time to answer questions
about his new post, how his background in digital is an asset at Initiative and
digital's growing role in the industry.
extensive digital experience, why do you think Initiative brought you into a
position that had traditionally been filled by execs with television buying
I have spent most of my career in digital media so far, but I have also
worked in a variety of other media platforms with a broad number of
clients. The media agency industry needs more folks that understand all
aspects of media and technology. Today it is less about individual media and
creating silos. It's more about how do we best create experiences to connect to
the audience that the client wants to reach. The media space is changing and
that requires agencies to come up with new ways to meet client needs. That is
what we are trying to figure out. I want to take some of my experience on
the digital side and infuse some of that thinking into what we can do for our
clients. I think the organization for the past few years has made a major
investment in the digital area and I want to keep that going. I'm going to try
to accelerate things on the digital side, but it is going to be an evolutionary
process. But both the television and digital people have to come together and
combine their expertise for the benefit of the client.
How are clients
looking at the larger media agencies' role in digital?
The larger, full-service media agencies have to be able to offer
digital services that can compete with the small, more digitally-focused
boutique agencies. Clients expect digital to be integrated into deals and it
should be. Today, consumers no longer differentiate between screens. Digital TV
can be the same to many of them as traditional TV. We can't continue to live
with the old model. Clients want great ideas and solutions that lead to solid
business outcomes. It doesn't matter whether it's traditional TV, digital or a
combination of both. We need to align ourselves internally so we are media
neutral when it comes to planning and buying for our clients. We need to staff
that way and create compensation structures that way so that there is no legacy
bias or an inherent belief that one medium is better than another. It's about
the idea, not the platform.
So how important is
traditional television going to be in the years to come?
Television is not going away. We just can't approach it in the same way
anymore on behalf of our clients. People, including myself, are watching
television today in a variety of formats on multiple platforms and on multiple
devices. My viewing of television has actually gone up because of all the new
ways that I can view it both inside and outside the home. Television is no
longer tied to a wire. But the good news is there is tremendous opportunity
with all these new platforms that television will be available on.
What is the future
of addressable television?
The technology is in many instances already here. It's the infrastructure
that needs to be worked on. There are a variety of ways to reach screens beyond
the MSOs and set-top boxes. There is no scale yet for addressable TV but
progress is being made. Addressable TV is certainly something that we, as an
organization, want to do more with and get more involved in.
Getting and keeping
clients has become more of a challenge for media agencies. What are your
thoughts on this?
It's getting harder and harder because there are so many more agencies
offering so many opportunities. You are seeing much more frequent churn with
CMOs at the different brands and companies and they are putting more accounts
in review. But I believe if you are doing good work for your clients, coming up
with media plans and solutions that give them better business outcomes, you can
win over clients into staying with you. It also takes a continuous evaluation
internally of staff and corporate structure and the creation of new, out-of-the-box
services that gives us more upside to keep clients and win new ones.
How active are you
going to be in the day-to-day media buying and planning process?
A lot of my role will develop over time. I do have a vision I want to bring
to the agency and know how I want to transform it. Right now, I'm still getting
my arms around everything. I'm still meeting with my own staff and with clients
and also getting involved in helping to attract new business. But I have some
very capable leadership here, Kris Magel [executive VP, director of national
broadcast] on the TV side and Michael Hayes [president of digital] on the
digital side. I am trying to learn as much as possible about the agency so that
I can apply some of my own solutions. But right now, it is still early in my
is the future of media agencies?
Full-service media agencies have to remain
relevant to clients. Clients pay agencies to help them grow their business by
enabling them to reach the consumers they want to reach. We have to continue to
add services that help us to do that whether it's through our own expansion or
through acquisitions. We have to continue to develop all areas of our business
so that we are as good in any one area as any boutique agency is.