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Media Buying Briefing: Crossmedia founder Asghar on how the holding companies subverted media planning – and how he’s fighting back

Digiday 22 Feb 2021 05:01
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February 22, 2021 by Michael Bürgi

Kamran Asghar, co-founder and CEO of 20-year-old independent media shop Crossmedia, makes no secret of his disdain for holding-company agency structure, and how the unbundling of media from creative agencies led to all manner of bad behavior that’s only gotten cleaned up to a degree in recent years.

In this edited interview, Asghar shares his opinions on unbundling, transparency (or the lack thereof), and the need for brand and performance media to align with each other more effectively.

Unbundling’s origins

It was a terrible idea at the time because it set media agencies off on a path of figuring out how to monetize leverage and media billings — how to make money off the money. Then in [2015] the transparency shit hit the fan, and [then Mediacom CEO] Jon Mandel stood up at the ANA. I would put Mandel’s face on a T-Shirt — he’s our Che Guevara. He validated the proposition we had from the beginning, which is, we should be paid for giving advice as objectively and neutrally as possible. If you follow the trail of money, media agencies did the exact opposite. We operated transparently this whole time, largely because we were never big enough to be invited to the kickbacks party anyway. That really became a dividing line between independents and holding company agencies.

  • On a global scale, growth estimates are more level across the board, with digital video leading the way at 3.6%, followed by growth of 3.4% each for digital display, OOH and TV, and radio just behind at 2.8%; print finds itself in the negative again, but on a more modest scale, with newspapers dropping 1% and magazines down 2.3%.

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