Christian Juhl, GroupM Global CEO, leads one of the biggest advertising conglomerates in the world with more than $60 billion in annual media investment flowing through its agencies, including Mindshare and MediaCom. With the media changes in recent years that have seen interest in audio reignite and the reach of network TV fade, Juhl says he is less focused on picking winners and losers. Instead, it is advertising effectiveness that has his attention.
“We can make it less intrusive,” Juhl said. “I think we can be more respectful on how we run personalization. I think we have to really look at ethical use of data to look at the platforms we invest in. And ultimately, about how we are spending dollars.” Speaking on the latest episode of the Math & Magic podcast hosted by iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman, Juhl said ad agencies also need to represent “the real cost of media” to clients when they decide where to allocate their resources. That includes making a conscious decision to pay “a little more” to align with a media outlet that is aligned with their values.
“There's always new formats coming and going, and it's up to us to help our clients to guide that complicated ecosystem,” Juhl said. “Ultimately, we've shown a willingness to move dollars away from those who won't take responsibility for their actions and to reward independent journalism or other partners to start out and take that responsibility.”
GroupM made headlines last year when the agency launched its Media Inclusion Initiative, an integrated investment strategy to support and grow diverse Black-owned media companies and creators. The program, the latest in the ad agency’s Responsible Investment framework, includes a pledge to spend two percent or more with Black-owned media outlets.
GroupM’s global content investment and rights management company Motion Content Group also launched the Diverse Voices Accelerator. The platform will support writers, producers, directors, talent and production companies in the development, funding, distribution and marketing of premium content for GroupM’s clients. First focusing on Black-owned initiatives and companies, it will eventually expand to represent other traditionally underrepresented communities in entertainment and media.
“You can never do enough,” Juhl said, telling Pittman it really comes down to a full belief in diversity. “The best leaders that are building really diverse and inclusive teams are those that understand diversity, and inclusion is good for you,” he said. For GroupM, Juhl said that goes beyond how they place ad dollars to include a self-assessment of who works at the company to recruit people who come from diverse backgrounds and that may not have parents that worked on Madison Avenue.
“Diversity comes from a lot of different formats,” Juhl said. “People are experiencing the way marketing and advertising works around the world right now. And you bring them in leadership positions, and you start having different conversations.”
The ad market is facing not only changes in how consumers consume media, but a wider slowdown int the economy and pullbacks in spending from some clients. Through his experience during the burst of the dot-com bubble two decades ago, and the years since, Juhl said that he has learned how important it is to plan for uncertainty.
“We have to make sure that we're listening to our clients and throwing down flexibility in need. And ultimately, I have to predict the future just slightly better than everybody else,” Juhl said. That means postponing what he calls the “nice-to-haves” and being upfront with employees about the state of the business. If he gets that right, Juhl said clients won’t even realize there is a downturn, and the good news is that the business climate eventually improves.
“It gets better, much more slowly than before,” he said. “And one day, you wake up and you realize, actually, everything's okay.”
Listen to the full Math & Magic: Stories from the Frontiers of Marketing with Bob Pittman episode HERE.