It’s A ‘Golden Age’
September 15, 2007
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
Weisman was born to be in the advertising business; you might
say he is advertising industry royalty. His late father, Al, served
at the right hand of ad legend Fairfax Cone and helped put Foote,
Cone & Belding on the map as a top-tier agency and the first
to go public. That was in the golden age of advertising in the
late 1950s and 1960s.
“This is the second golden age of our industry,” says
Weisman, 47, president of Digitas Chicago, one of the country’s
leading digital and direct marketing agencies. “There is
so much at stake, there is so much flux; it is really exciting
to be in an industry that is reinventing itself.”
The elder Weisman may have worked in the days of David Ogilvy,
Bill Bernbach, Bill Benton, Leo Burnett and Fax Cone, but the
younger Weisman is thriving in a new age driven by rapidly evolving
marketing technology, highly complex business processes and a
newly empowered consumer.
“P&G CEO A.G. Lafley called it when he urged marketers
to just let go,” Weisman says. “Today’s consumer
is not only controlling their own media, they are creating it
and sharing it amongst themselves. Every marketer understands
in their bones that the pre-packaged broadly distributed model
of a message about a brand is no longer relevant.”
Weisman’s 24-year career is a microcosm of industry change
and adaptation. He arrived at Leo Burnett in the days when 30-second
television commercials and three broadcast networks still ruled
the airwaves. The emergence of cable television, direct marketing
and the Internet changed all that. Weisman helped lead the creation
of a direct marketing arm at Burnett before becoming chief marketing
officer at direct marketing powerhouse Draft Worldwide. Today,
recognizing the power of digital media, he’s a leader at
At each inflection point—from broadcast media to direct
marketing to digital media—Weisman has welcomed change and
capitalized on the added complexity and choice facing marketers
Today, Weisman helps guide an agency committed to digital media
that supports a client list that includes AT&T, American Express,
Delta Airlines, Eli Lilly, General Motors, Miller Brewing, Pfizer,
Procter & Gamble, Sara Lee, Samsung and Whirlpool.
does Weisman think about the evolution of the advertising industry?
He sees opportunity and relevance in today’s media. “Great
brands always want to be in dialogue with their consumers. Now
people can talk back and the brands can listen. You can engage
in a meaningful way,” Weisman says.
He is self-effacing and claims not to be an expert in all things
digital. He says today’s complex communications environment
and broad media mix require a true ensemble cast of experts to
build breakthrough marketing campaigns.
Yet listening to Weisman describe the marketing power of widgets—customized,
downloadable applications or chunks of computer code that can
be added to a Web page—you realize Weisman is savvy about
new media. He knows the ins and outs of search advertising and
search engine optimization. He can talk about Web page design
and ad servers, yet he’s also an expert in the classic forms
of marketing and communications—from building strong marketing
plans, to executing broadcast and print advertising programs,
to implementing direct marketing programs and merchandising at
the point of sale.
I’m not saying Tony Weisman is a renaissance marketing man.
I think he’s more a beneficiary of his times. He was lucky
enough to enter the communications business as an inheritor of
the power of the mass media tools invented by his father’s
generation in the 1950s and 1960s. He was nimble enough to adopt
the emerging direct marketing offerings made popular in the 1970s
and 1980s. And he realized early on the power and potential of
Internet media invented in the 1990s and evolving into Web 2.0
in this decade.
Had Weisman been born earlier he might have been stuck in the
old ways of marketing. Had he been born later, he might have appreciated
Internet media but never really valued the power of traditional
Today more than ever, marketers must be diverse. Simply being
an expert in one form of marketing is insufficient. Yet acquiring
diverse sets of skills can be daunting. Weisman’s attitude
points the way: “Experience taught me there is real craft
and true art to being great in disciplines like broadcast advertising,
direct marketing, digital advertising, promotion and retail, but
they’re not beyond the ability to learn. If you are willing
to take the time and ask the questions of the experts and spend
enough time swimming in it to really get to know it, you can master
it,” Weisman says.
Weisman’s crafted some guidelines for himself for dealing
from the young ones;
be afraid to make mistakes;
it’s a golden age.
good guidelines for any marketer trying to make sense out of today’s
Web 2.0 world.
Krauss is president of Market Strategy Group, based in Chicago,
and can be reached at Michael.Krauss@Mkt-strat.com