Engaging CultureStrategy & MarketingChristian Media

Advice From a Leading New York Media Strategist

I consult on media issues mostly for faith-based and non-profits clients, but it’s always good to hear advice from the other side of the fence. Rishad Tobaccowala is a media consultant for Starcom MediaVest Group and was featured in Business Week magazine last fall. His comments are fascinating, and churches, ministries, and non-profits could learn a lot from the advice he gives to his national media clients like BMW, GM, Procter and Gamble, Best Buy, Sara Lee, Kellogg, and Miller Brewing, just to name a few. Here are some of Rishad’s thoughts on media:

1) He’s urging his agency clients to abandon consumer demographics in favor of tracking their passions, whether they be ballet or hunting. In the future, your audience’s age will be less important than their interests.

2) He tells his clients that because media is changing, they should get used to a permanent state of discomfort. The forces leading the tech world are gaining more and more momentum and leading to more unexpected developments.

3) When it comes to media, the “spine” of the business has collapsed, and what we’re looking at now are the organs, blood, and connective tissue in a pile of goo. We have to imagine what a new structure will look like.

4) Traditional media, from television to newspapers will continue to be plenty important, but they need to change their ways as well. They have to provide news and entertainment in a greater variety of forms and do a better job of targeting consumers. “We are hungry for information and will value those who do a superior job of editing the ocean of material there is,” he says.

5) To stay on top of trends, Tobaccowala reads four daily newspapers: The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The New York Times, and the local paper of whatever city he wakes up in. A movie hound, he’s also a fan of online movie trailers. He’s also an avid user of RSS feeds so he can consolidate information for his iPod and PDA.

6) For his own company, SMG, he wants to change its organizational structure to something more like a social network rather than a vertically integrated hierarchy.


  1. I found this very interesting especially in light of the upcoming Super Tuesday elections. I wonder if this is why news channels such as FOX news have taken the negative stand not to talk, show or discuss all the candidates and only support the ones they feel will win.


    I agree with your article that media needs to change is structure to be better suited to their information hungry and savy audiences.


    As always, Phil, I enjoyed your article very much and learned something new. :_)

  2. Ministries should know that whether they intend to have a public image or not, there will be one.  It's up to ministries to convey their message clearly. 

    The information age is upon us.  Regardless of the topic, people who want to know will find out. 

  3. Demographics has always been a very blunt instrument for segmenting the market. Consumers purchase goods/services/or a "world view" based on their understanding of how that product will meet their perceived needs. Tracking a persons "passion" is more relevant in identifying their needs than simply their age, sex or socio-economic grouping.

  4. Interesting article. I think that the not-for-profit/ministry sectors need to re-examine a lot of their media and marketing strategies. For a lot of churches, the idea has been to copy whatever the current trend is, rather than do target audience analysis and develop new strategies from there. And audience analysis for churches tends to always be bland and ineffectual.

  5. Would it be accurate to state that he’s arguing for a psychographics approach rather than demographics?

    That sounds right in my mind but the question would be then, how do you target those in your message distribution when it is the demographics that are the basis of tracking most mediums?

    I agree with most of his comments, especially those about the television and newspapers. They aren’t being replaced but they are competing directly with other mediums. They have to respond to that and establish their niche in the new order. Attempting to defend and hold onto what they were in the past is a pathway to failure.

  6. Yes on psychographics.  Especially with baby boomers, I think we're defined more accurately in terms of interests than classic age/income breakdowns.  For a group that's still surfing or snow skiing in their 70's, or having kids later and later, the normal calculations don't capture us very well.  Rock on boomers….  🙂

  7. I really love hearing this kind of information, this is why I am a big fan of your Phil. I think its important to look at the secular world, not the Christian world for ideas on relevance, its such a moving target, for me these are the kind of people who are on the front lines of changing design and thought process to consumers. I love it, I am going to dig deeper into this, thanks

  8. I guess God has run out of ideas and has become so irrelevant about what is going on in the world that we will have to settle for the world's merchants of cool to lead the way of creativity. Shame on us believers that we cannot search and seek the Lord of all wisdom and creativity  and apply it just as He gave Daniel, Joseph, Uzziah, Solomon great wisdom suddenly He has lost His touch in this world because He is so intimidated by the technology and media savvy marketers. Why are we bothering to even read our bibles and even associate with the Lord if we can't apply His Word [Scriptures] in the marketplace? What is the point of being a believer if it has no benefit or effect to living life in this world?Ephesians 3:10

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