Jonah Bloom: When this man speaks, New York sits up and listens

As editor of the Manhattan-based weekly 'Advertising Age', Jonah Bloom is about as influential an Englishman as you'll find in the city. Richard Gillis hears his pitch

onah Bloom is living his own version of the American dream. The Englishman is the editor of Advertising Age, a Madison Avenue institution that since 1930 has chronicled the ups and downs of the world's most influential marketing industry. On any given week AdAge talks to more than 300,000 people about what's hot in the world of global advertising. His contacts book lists the people charged with spending the world's biggest marketing budgets.

In his role as columnist, blogger and controversialist his opinion can make or break ad campaigns, and by extension the careers of the people who created them. His blog, which goes out to 700,000 online subscribers, has become a must-read, and his views are sought on everything from David Beckham's commercial power to the comings and goings at Procter & Gamble.

One of Bloom's recent decisions has caused uproar around the brasseries of Manhattan's media village. Just as Time magazine made its person of the year "You", Advertising Age provoked controversy by awarding its annual Agency of the Year gong to "The Consumer", sparking a debate on the power of user-generated content.

Bloom's line on this is simple: consumers are talking to each other in a way they never have. They have a bigger hand in creating media than ever and as a result the advertising industry is able to learn much more from consumers than they have ever done. This interactivity has empowered consumers to learn about products before they buy.

In this new environment Bloom feels that the cliché of the cheesy American sales pitch is under threat. Companies, he says, risk looking foolish if they make claims for their product that are unsubstantiated. "The automotive industry is going to shift a great deal of its budget away from advertising and into online because that is where the research takes place," says Bloom. "If you are a car marketer today it is incredibly expensive to acquire new customers and much cheaper to hold on to existing ones."

However, one of the challenges of marketing in cyberspace is control, or lack of it. "When you have huge amounts of money in the marketplace," says Bloom. "The tendency is not to let go of control of the message and the medium."

Late last year, a blog called Wal-Marting across America was launched recording the adventures of two customers in a camper van as they visited stores and talked to the seemingly happy, well-treated employees of the company. The blog was embarrassingly revealed to be the work of Wal-Mart's PR agency, Edelman, exposing the brand to ridicule. If nothing else the episode left us to grapple with yet another new term: flogging (a fake blog). The Wal-Mart blog fiasco will be the first of many examples of a major brand "not getting it" says Bloom. "It's as if they just discovered the idea of social media and decided that it is just another new fancy thing they have to do. They told themselves, 'Let's go and make a blog or a viral video.' They think they can tap into that stuff and control it, like they do with advertising. But they don't get that they can't."

Advertising used to be a simple enough business. The Buicks and Pepsis of corporate America would employ an ad agency to create funny 30-second films to show in the ad breaks on network television. The agencies grew fat on their reputation for making their client brands famous.

This comfortable monopoly on the marketing budgets is no more. Bloom says a good ad agency that can produce great content is more valuable than it has ever been but change is coming, and quickly. "The old structure, which saw hundreds of people sitting in a building producing advertising as if it were a factory is clearly going to go completely."

He feels that the big agencies have been guilty of living in an ivory tower where awards and the work of their competitors are of paramount importance. "Ad agencies like TBWA think BDO (a rival agency) is the enemy. They are wrong." The challenge for the iconic names of Soho and Madison Avenue are the other forms of marketing being demanded by their clients, such as PR agencies or direct marketing experts.

"Anyone who has come to the States for a weekend normally thinks the ads are terrible," says Bloom. "This is because for most major marketers the US has a massive influence on total sales. As a result they are much more conservative and more bureaucratic in their approach to advertising. A piece of creative has to go through many more people and consequently gets watered down and ruined. And many of the solutions proposed are not particularly edgy or interesting to start with."

This changing landscape has also forced the marketing press to rethink its role. "For four or five years we have been evolving to reflect the shape of the industry, which is about a lot more than advertising. We listen when someone like Sir Martin Sorrell says that soon about two thirds of WPP will be in areas other than traditional advertising.

"The internet is allowing publishers to target very small niches with very targeted information, so the question for publishers will be how much they are challenged from underneath."

To prosper in this environment, Bloom says that established b2b titles must stand for something. "There is so much media and marketing information out there; the consumer wants to be able to trust the great media brands to collate the most important sources."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appeal
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Sport
Ched Evans in action for Sheffield United in 2012
footballRonnie Moore says 'he's served his time and the boy wants to play football'
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

Ashdown Group: Analyst Programmer (Filemaker Pro/ SQL) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days, pension, private medical : Ashdown Group: A highly...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Charter Selection: Graphic Designer, Guildford

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Charter Selection: This renowned and well establish...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick