Does Michael Kassan single-handedly control the advertising and marketing industries?
Now, I don’t shuttle between New York City, Cannes, CES, and AAAA conferences, but apparently Kassan does. As CEO of MediaLink, a “strategic advisory and business development firm,” he’s a svengali/consigliere/media whisperer-type guy who’s a conduit between the biggest players among ad agencies, media buying firms, holding companies, brands, publishers, and platforms. And curiously, he’s at the center of New Yorker writer Ken Auletta’s new book Frenemies: The Epic Disruption of the Ad Business (and Everything Else).
Auletta takes a big-picture look at the forces that have rocked the advertising, marketing, and media worlds, and covering it all is no easy feat. We get a inside look at the contentious spat between the ANA and AAAA over media kickbacks and rebates, the voluminous media account reviews that occurred in 2015 & 2016, the rise of publishers producing brand content to replace ad revenue, the impact of consultancies, PR firms, and platforms like Google and Facebook getting in on the ad action, the prominence of outlets like Netflix, and more.
The book gets its title because all of these entities are portrayed as frenemies — simultaneously partnering and competing for revenue as well as the consumer’s attention. Oh, and the consumer is a frenemy too, throwing the media world into chaos by demanding content for next to no cost without those pesky, interruptive ads while leaving valuable personal data breadcrumbs with every click. Through all these disruptive changes, Auletta puts Michael Kassan at the center of all the machinations.
Auletta spent lots of time with industry bigwigs, so the book is filled with quotes from a cross-section of figures. In addition to Kassan, he spends a lot of time focused on WPP’s Martin Sorrell, and Frenemies went to press before Sorrell left the holding company he started. (Don’t worry, they’re scheduled for a one-on-one conversation in Cannes this year). It’s clear the book’s paperback edition will have some juicy updates.
But despite Auletta’s mostly straightforward writing and reporting style, he drops many asides that reveal how feckless he finds the whole nature of advertising.
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