October 18, 2007
New York City, New York
December 2-5, 2007
La Quinta, California
May 20-23, 2007  |  Austin, Texas
Published: May 22, 2007
Gay Gaddis Packs Heat, Warns Panel: "No BS"

iMedia Summit panelists all stressed that working collaboratively is intrinsic to the internet and will help take the industry to the next stage of success.

Gay Gaddis, president and CEO, T3, greeted the iMedia Agency Summit crowd with a Texas-style welcome and admonition for her "Unite or Perish" panel, telling the audience -- and the panelists -- that she had brought along a local sheriff who would cuff and arrest those incapable of engaging in a frank, honest discussion about the pressing need for collaboration in digital marketing.

"There will be no BS," Gaddis said, adding that while she did not have her gun with her on stage, the sheriff had his. 

Almost from the word "go," the attendees got a sense of the high stakes facing the industry, when David Friedman, president, central region, Avenue A| Razorfish, explained that failure to work collaboratively had cost an unidentified client dearly.

"We ended up with a bad idea," Friedman said. "I hate to admit that, but it's true.

Friedman explained that a traditional client had brought together a team of digital agencies and given them sound guidance. But, he said, the ultimate result wasn't a product of collaboration because the client lacked the discipline to tune out the advice from its traditional agency.

"They just couldn't ignore that old relationship, and so the result was that the traditional agency was snipping at the ideas developed by the team," he said.

By contrast, Friedman said his experience with AT&T, a company he called one of the most complex organizations on the planet, highlighted what the collaborative model should be.

"AT&T did something really great," he said. "They had 14 agencies and they put us all in a room. They talked to us for about 30 minutes, and then they left us alone to figure out the solution."

Friedman explained that AT&T had nurtured a collaborative environment for its agencies by making it clear that each had its own secure area of operation, and that each would keep the account until it failed to deliver results.

Scot McLernon, SVP, advertising sales, CBS Interactive, stressed what could be gained from working collaboratively, pointing out that cooperation is intrinsic to the idea of the internet.

"When you're building something that is so nascent and that is moving so fast, you must work together," McLernon said. "It's terrific that agencies are working together, but these silos still exist. Breaking down these silos will take us to the next scale."

McLernon then highlighted diverging outlooks between old media and digital pioneers when he referenced the duality of thought at CBS, which is a content partner with YouTube, and Viacom, which is in the middle of a $1 billion legal battle with the Google-owned video-sharing site.

"I guess that's one way to look at the world," he said. "On the one hand, we'll make money working with YouTube and Google by releasing our content. Or, on the other hand, we'll make $1 billion in court."

Penry Price, director of east coast sales at Google, deflected McLernon's comment with a grin, telling the crowd that at its core, Google sees itself as a connector in the industry.

"We want to bring all parties together," he said. "I think we're moving in that direction, because the best meetings are when we can sit down with everyone: the agency, the publisher and the client."

For its part, Price said Google would be instrumental in developing the infrastructure that is critical to making collaboration possible and viable, adding that agencies could gain from the new world order by getting involved in the overall businesses of their clients.

"That's where the higher margins are going to be," Price said.

Michael Estrin is the associate editor at iMedia Connection. Read full bio.