Vittorio Bonori, Zenith Global Brand President talks to Il Sole 24 ORE about how companies can transform their investments in an ever changing media landscape.


In the words of the global leader of Zenith, the media company of the Publicis Groupe: “Only results count. If there are none, companies give up.”

“There is a lot of pressure on key figures involved in advertising and communication in companies, al-most an obsession with results. Hence a clear conclusion: “It is difficult to think of constraints and restrictions in a world driven by performance. Rather than shifting investments as a result of constraints, companies may decide to reduce or forego investment.

Vittorio Bonori, from Bologna, 51 years old, presents his answers to Sole 24 Ore from London, where he moved three years ago to lead Zenith worldwide, the leading media centre of the Publicis holding company, which manages advertising investments for billions throughout the world. Like Publicis Media (of which Zenith is part, as well as the other brand with global coverage, Starcom) the billing totals approximately 76 billion dollars. From London the vision is global, in a world of advertising “that is changing with great speed”. The debate in Italy (see the ceilings on commercials or statements on in-vestment choices by companies to ingratiate themselves with public opinion) is out of reach for Bonori: “From here I have not had the opportunity to follow the Italian debate, so I cannot comment. However, the “technical” indicators provide more than one answer. And the common thread leaves little room for doubt: “If in a specific market there are forced restrictions dictated by measures that go against the natural phenomena of the market, there is the risk of driving investors away”.


Especially in the Italian market where the trend is not particularly exciting, do you agree?

Obviously Italy is no exception. But it is still an important market: one of the top 10-12 markets in the world. But there are delays, from infrastructure to e-commerce, which have huge margins for growth. And over the years, like other countries, Italy has found itself having to deal with a change that is a sign of the irreversible transformation of the times. Ten years ago newspapers globally held 25% of the advertising pie. Today they have 11.5%. In the meantime, the Internet has risen from 11.7% to 40.3%. In Italy, in the same period, the importance of newspapers in advertising fell from 16.9 to 6.8 per cent. And the Web, of course, is the calling the shots.


Is it possible to intervene to re-balance the situation?

Investment choices are results-oriented. It’s a technical phenomenon. Once upon a time investments were made to generate brand awareness. Today, as a world that manages advertising investments, we are closer to the “bottom of the funnel”, at the time of purchase by consumers. We have data that was not available before. Hence the shift from traditional paid media to digital media in its various components: social media, search engines, programmatic. Everything is measurable. Zenith has artificial intelligence algorithms that allow us to manage digital campaigns in real time. Algorithms shift investments to where conversion performance is highest.


In this framework, can companies allocate budgets for targets other than sales targets?

What we see at an international level, and obviously in Italy too, is the fact that companies are very attentive to results and focus on investing where there are returns. Today international companies in particular, but not only those companies, have specific people who manage investments. And these players are expected to achieve results. They are under incredible pressure and are often audited by external third-party companies.


So what is the mistake that the Italian market should avoid?

Not having a customer-centric vision. It would be a mistake to let other dynamics influence the market.


Should we leave the floor totally to the market?

Rules are necessary and welcome. The GDPR, for example, the new legislation on the processing of personal data, has finally brought greater awareness about a crucial issue, that of privacy and this is of great importance. However, it is not guaranteed that aiming to manage the market multi-laterally, from out-side the market rules, will produce positive results for the future of the sector, considering that companies now compete in a global context. I will reiterate: investors go where they get results. If these results are not achieved, they prefer not to invest at all.


Who’s who

Vittorio Bonori, 51 years old, is originally from Bologna where he graduated in Statistical and Economic Sciences. He joined Publicis Groupe in 1995 where he held several positions until his appointment in 2016 as Global Brand President of Zenith, the group’s central media company. He was also a lecturer at the University of Pisa and is the author of books and publications.


The Perimeter

Zenith is a central media centre of the Publicis Groupe. Billing by Publicis Media (advertising investments managed on behalf of advertisers) amounted to approximately $76 billion. This amount is not only the money invested by Zenith, which is not shown separately in the financial statement, but that of the entire holding company which is the market leader in the USA, number 3 in Europe and number 2 in Asia. Zenith and Starcom are the two global brands of the group. Zenith employs 6,000 specialists who operate in 95 markets: they deal with media communication and planning, content, performance marketing, value optimization and data analysis. This month Zenith was named “Leader” by Forrester in its first Wave Global Agencies report. In Italy Luca Cavalli is the CEO of the branch that has 240 specialists working on some of the most important brands, including Aviva, Coty, Essity, Kering, Lactalis, L’Oréal, Nomad Foods, Perrigo, Eni, Poltronesofà, Abbott, Sea, Bonduelle and McArthurGlen.


First published in Il Sole 24 ORE, by Andrea Biondi, 25th September and the copyright of the ‘Il Sole 24 Ore’ with the absolute prohibition of reproduction by third parties or use other than that indicated.

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