International Business Media: Big talk

Jack Klues, the president of Publicis Groupe Media, talks to Mark Tungate about his new role.

To say that Jack Klues is loyal would be an understatement. He has worked within the Leo Burnett organisation for 30 years, joining the agency in 1976 as an account services trainee. "When I came to the interview, I wasn't quite sure what an account executive did - but I must have said the right things because I ended up in the media department. I liked it right away: media people were down-to-earth, they didn't speak in cliches, and the job seemed straightforward."

The media landscape was to become far more complex over the next 20 years and, in recognition of this, Klues helped to create Starcom MediaVest in 1997 - one of the last in an avalanche of merged media entities. "Leo Burnett gave a famous speech about 'When you can take my name off the door'. Well, I guess I was the one who did it. But I think I've remained loyal to his way of doing business, which was about integrity and respect for others."

Almost another ten years on, and Klues is moving one further step away from his roots. He has just been made the president of Publicis Groupe Media, a management board that oversees the development of the group's media networks at a global level. But what exactly does it do?

- Can you fill us in about Publicis Groupe Media. Is this another giant media behemoth?

Let me start with what it's not. Publicis Groupe Media is not an operating enterprise. It's the name of a management group, which I chair, that has equal representation of senior management from Starcom MediaVest Group and ZenithOptimedia. The group is charged with looking at the kind of things we need to be considering as a collective. It will mostly be administrative rather than operational. It sits at a high level for the benefit and nurturing of ZenithOptimedia and SMVG as the global operating brands.

- So PMG will not be a separate brand?

It's an amalgamation of both media agency brands, but it doesn't present itself to clients that way. However, you will see a certain amount of customisation and flexibility in the way that PMG helps the two brands in any given market. Here in the US, where the brands are extremely well established, a very close collaboration between the two would not be in the best interests of our clients. In China, on the other hand, we've created something together called the China Media Exchange. We've designed it so client confidentialities are protected, but it acts as a collective buying enterprise. The marketplace values scale, so we need to leverage that on behalf of our clients. The marketplace is complicated, so it requires research that is best done from a shared perspective.

- Is it clients that have always driven the changes within the media discipline?

We've tried to stay ahead of them, but they've certainly given us plenty of motivation. Listen, if anyone thought people such as Chris Ingram (of CIA) and John Perriss (of Zenith) and me originally created these media companies just to serve our own egos, I would be disappointed. People occasionally say: "Hey, you media guys are trying to take over the world!" Well, it might yet happen - but it's not our agenda.

- Talking of mega-mergers, you don't know what's happening with you guys and Aegis, by any chance?

Well, the debate on that has been fairly public. I have not been around any conversations about it for some time now. When it was up and bubbling I was asked my opinion, which is that Aegis undoubtedly has some interesting people and elements. But, for the moment, it just sits there. The advantage of experience is that clients treat you as a trusted advisor - they are perhaps willing to take more risks with their media strategies. Who are the most creative clients at the moment? I can't say that one client in particular is taking a more creative approach - the great thing for us right now is that they're all hungry for more creativity, even the biggest clients.

- What about the media owners? How creative are they willing to be in terms of generating new opportunities for advertisers?

That's an interesting question, because until recently I'd have spoken about the Yahoo!s and the Googles of the world. There is always a lot of "What if ... ?" between us. Beyond that, the cable companies have historically been much more open to new ideas, particularly more integration between content and advertiser. I don't want to say that we haven't done creative deals with the big media owners in the past, but their recent and public openness in this area is fascinating. Although we warned them about it years ago, they are finally noticing that the revenue stream that used to go to spots is going elsewhere: online. Our prediction has become a reality, and that reality is hitting them in the wallet. So Rupert Murdoch buys MySpace. And now we're having more conversations with media owners about content that clients can own, rather than just spending their money on spots and pods around it.

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