At a time when some big media shops seem to have gone Hollywood, Omnicom's OMD unit is reversing the branded entertainment model, making Hollywood go Madison Avenue. Instead of scouting studios and producers for content that brands can be integrated into, OMD has created a new division that utilizes a strategic planning approach to develop custom media and content that fits into its clients' communications and branding goals.
To run the new Los Angeles-based unit, OMD has tapped Claudia Cahill, a veteran branded entertainment executive who most recently led custom content development and production for client PepsiCo's Pepsi Refresh Project.
The unit, dubbed the Content Collective, already has more than a dozen projects in development, including initiatives for Pepsi, General Electric and Nissan. At least five of them - content deals for the Tropicana, Trop50, Frappucino, Diet Pepsi and Sobe brands - will launch this quarter.
The big difference between the Content Collective and other agency branded entertainment units, says OMD US CEO Alan Cohen, is that it is approaching content development with the same communications planning rigor that it would use for any other element of its clients' mix.
"This is not about brand integration deals. This is about engaging with clients at the planning level. We are turning the process upside down," he says, adding that the Content Collective will work with all media, including new and emerging media platforms that could have a big pay-off for his client's brands.
As an example, he cited a deal that OMD negotiated with Flipboard, a promising new tablet computing platform customizes digital magazine content based on how people use it. Cohen says the deal gave OMD clients exclusive rights to integrate with the Flipboard content.
Cahill, who joins OMD from Levity Entertainment Group, where she led "Medium," the group's branded entertainment division, worked closely with OMD and an array of media partners to develop more than 300 segments of custom content for the Pepsi Refresh Project.
One of the advantages of the approach she used for Pepsi Refresh is that the content creation was funded directly via advertising buys made to support the campaign.
She says she's also exploring other financial models with studios and producers that would give OMD clients a piece of the "back-end" of content, either retaining residual rights to the intellectual property or participating in its profits. In most cases, she says, clients would simply opt to take their back-end rights in the form of advertising inventory.
To ensure that producers and studios develop concepts in line with the communications goals of OMD clients, Cahill says she begins by giving content companies a detailed brief about what the brands are trying to achieve.