Remembering Bob Coen, the seer of Madison Avenue
January 10, 2017
When Bob Coen joined McCann Erickson in 1948, no one was forecasting the future of ad spending.
In fact, no one was really keeping track of what was spent at all. Coen recognized the folly of that and began to compile numbers on how much advertisers poured into advertising and how they allocated those funds.
In his first year, Coen estimated, advertisers across the country laid down $4.8 billion on ads. By the time he stepped down as chief forecaster at Magna, part of the Interpublic Group of companies that also includes Coen’s original employer, EM, spending had grown to nearly $260 billion.
Coen, who stopped doing forecasts at the end of 2009 but still continued to work at EM until last year, died at the end of November 2016. He was 93.
Days before Christmas, his obituary appeared in the Newark Star-Ledger, weeks after his death from undisclosed clauses. Like the understated Coen himself, the obit flew under the radar.
He was nicknamed the seer of Madison Avenue (not Wall Street, as we had in our original headline–apologies).
Coen’s semiannual forecasts were always a big deal in the media world, if not outside it. He’d release one in June or July, which drew a great deal of interest. Six months later, in December, he’d tweak his predictions and release another.
Coen started a trend. These days many organizations, from ZenithOptimedia to Carat to GroupM, follow a similar pattern of releasing those semiannual forecasts, though no forecaster has ever matched Coen’s level of fame.
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