Ad holding company WPP through its strategic communications consultancy, Penn Schoen Berland, has acquired First Movies International, a market research firm focused on the entertainment industry. FMI has operations in Los Angeles and London.
Clients include Disney, Paramount, Sony Entertainment and 20th Century Fox and a number of other studios, independent distributors and production companies.
Founded in 2000, FMI is billed as a research-based strategic consultancy that serves film companies worldwide. The company is known for its test screening services, which try to gauge consumer reactions before a film is released. Such tests often lead to pre-release changes in films. It’s a service not dissimilar from copy-testing for ads, another business that WPP is in through its Millward Brown subsidiary and other firms on its roster of companies.
FMI also assesses reaction to film content to help clients with marketing messages and approaches. The firm does research to help price content for sale in various home entertainment windows after theatrical release.
PSB confirmed that the FMI team will now report to Jon J. Penn, president of media and entertainment at PSB. David Willing, the co-founder of FMI, will serve as acting managing director.
Mark J. Penn, the CEO of PSB and sibling PR firm Burson-Marsteller, stated: “It is essential that our entertainment clients, like our corporate clients, have a finger on the pulse of their consumers in every corner of the globe.”
PSB, part of WPP’s Y&R Brands group, was founded as a political strategic communications firm 37 years ago. The firm claims to have helped elect more than 30 presidents and prime ministers around the world, including Bill Clinton.
Over the years, PSB has expanded beyond politics, serving many Fortune 100 corporate clients. It began building an entertainment practice about 10 years ago. The FMI acquisition is designed to bolster the global footprint of that practice, per WPP.
PSB said the acquisition would enable it to provide what it called an “end-to-end solution” for the entertainment business. Those include consumer market research needs, including franchise management, marketing positioning, test screenings, focus groups, creative advertising testing, box office tracking, exits and home entertainment strategies.