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Dempsey Goes Digital for GroupM

Apr 30, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Look out, digital world: Here comes Tom Dempsey.
Mr. Dempsey—a veteran negotiator in traditional media, particularly TV—last week was named director of digital investment for GroupM North America.
GroupM Chief Investment Officer Rino Scanzoni expects that in the new post Mr. Dempsey will review all business transactions with online suppliers to establish best-in-class pricing and terms and to open additional business opportunities for GroupM agencies and their clients.
Mr. Dempsey, who had been managing partner and director of national broadcast at GroupM’s Mediaedge:cia, said he’s had little interaction with most digital media providers, other than the
television companies that offer digital extensions to their programming.
At this point, it appears digital deals are being done on a deal-by-deal basis.
Most agencies don’t have someone responsible for organizing and benchmarking pricing.
“They’ve been wearing many hats,” Mr. Dempsey said. “They’re doing everything from the strategic planning to the tactical planning to the implementation.”
With his background as a negotiator, he should be able to help the digital agencies, he said.
At the same time, vendors offer a range of pricing approaches.
“My understanding has been that most transactions are handled on a campaign-by-campaign basis for the individual client,” Mr. Dempsey said. “Maybe there’s a way to really improve the trading process, streamlining information, because it seems like there may be opportunities to improve the efficiency of that process.”
While Mr. Dempsey will be looking for ways of leveraging GroupM’s clout in its spending in digital media, he said he’s looking to strike fair deals with digital vendors.
“Our overall business from a buying and trading perspective works back to Economics 101. It’s a supply-demand equation,” he said. “It’s not always easy gauging either side of that, but when you have a good understanding of it, you can hopefully come up with price levels that everyone’s comfortable with.”
However, since most digital campaigns are customized projects, shoehorning them into a one-size-fits-all deal might not be a good idea.
“It’s not like we’re looking to use the model of what’s been done on the traditional side, but maybe using some of the benefits there. Certainly with any campaign you want to make sure
it’s custom to make sure you’re delivering on the client’s objectives. Maybe there’s a portion of that that can be worked into an overall agreement,” he said.
With a basic price structure for some aspects of digital in place, publishers and vendors can concentrate on other things they have to offer when pitching ideas to the agency, he said.
In his new role, Mr. Dempsey probably won’t be as actively involved in the broadcast upfront for the first time in two decades.
“My wife will be happy,” he said. “She’s known me for 20 years and this time of year I’ve always warned her the busy season’s coming, so she prepares herself for it.”
Not that he’ll be taking it easy.
“In our business, there’s never a down time,” he said. “Maybe around the holidays, but unfortunately our business is 52 weeks these days.”
Originally from Matawan, N.J., Mr. Dempsey grew up a big TV fan, raised on ABC shows like “Happy Days” and “Mork & Mindy.”
While he was studying marketing at Rutgers, a professor asked the class to go out and talk to two people in the industry in which they intended to pursue a career.
Mr. Dempsey’s brother was in media research at J. Walter Thompson and got him some time with his boss, David Marans, now with IAG Research.
Media was simpler back then, and Mr. Marans explained about media buying, media planning and media research.
“He said, ‘Look, you don’t learn this in college, but is there some interest there?’ I said, ‘Yes, I enjoy the television aspect,’ so that helped me with direction,” Mr. Dempsey recalled.
Mr. Dempsey landed an internship at Lintas, where he got to know Marc Goldstein, now CEO at GroupM North America, who became his boss on the agency’s national broadcast team.
Over the course of his career, Mr. Dempsey had stints at GM Mediaworks, Televest and MediaVest, where he worked for Mr. Scanzoni, later following him to Mediaedge:cia.
“In this business, in whatever area you’re involved, its’ the people you work with,” he said. “And I’ve worked with some good individuals.”
Mr. Dempsey and his wife, have three sons, ages 9, 7 and 4.
His free time is spent on the baseball and soccer fields of Massapequa, N.Y., shuttling the kids to various activities.
Once, he played a fair amount of golf.
“These days I tell folks I have a 3 handicap: One’s 9, one’s 7, one’s 4,” he said.
Who knew: Mr. Dempsey remains a big TV fan, with 10 TVs in his home. He’s also had a TiVo for 10 years, which he and his wife use to record local and national newscasts. “By the time we actually end up getting ready to relax, with the kids asleep, we can turn on the news to be informed about what’s going on,” he said. In most cases, he watches the commercials, he says. “Hey, it pays the bills in our family.”

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