Column: Branded - Media Shops Join the Party

  • by July 29, 2005
By Hank Kim and Richard Linnett

As this column goes to bed, many leading lights in the ad industry will also finally hit the hay after a week of nonstop glad-handing, back-slapping, and carousing 'til the wee hours on La Croisette at Cannes, yet another International Advertising Festival tucked tightly under their heaving belts.

As we all know, the Cannes ad fest celebrates creative advertising agencies for the excellence of their 30-second commercials. Over the past decade, however, the rise of unbundled media agencies and the emergence of new digital platforms have forced the creative community to share the riches with their media agency brethren. Cannes, to its credit, began doling out creative media awards a few years ago. First there were the Media Lions and Media Person of the Year awards, and now there's the Titanium Lion for integrated communications  a hybrid trophy for either media or creative work, or both. Lately, the creative media medals have gone to branded entertainment deals. This year, Publicis Groupe's gm Planworks picked up a gold Media Lion for the now-famous Pontiac giveaway stunt on "Oprah."

Perhaps more importantly, as reported: "As media entries [at Cannes] grow, media agencies are even entering the party scene dominated by creative agencies." The question is  are media agency geeks on the guest list, or are they crashing the party? No doubt these developments affect a Madison Avenue grappling not only with a limited supply of party invites, but also a growing identity crisis. While few dare admit it  certainly not a creative director whose mantel is full of Gold Lions for traditional ads  there is a creeping uncertainty about the roles all the players will play in this brave new rumpus room.

There is also worry over who will get the creative brief  the creative director or the media strategist?

With so many marketers and their agencies increasingly exploring nontraditional media as an adjunct to their media plans, these new opportunities have triggered lots of soul searching, or should we say role searching? Leading up to this year's festivities, Procter & Gamble grabbed headlines by declaring that it planned to cut back its network tv budget and put more emphasis and funding into nontraditional platforms, including branded entertainment and product integration.

When the King Kong of marketing starts shaking the tree, coconuts fall throughout the jungle.

Superstar creatives like Alex "subservient chicken" Bogusky have taken the lead on the traditional agency side in creating innovative entertainment marketing solutions that transcend the 30-second spot, but some of the boldest moves have been made by media agencies.

Media shops have gone beyond the typical television and film product placement and have made serious inroads into content. With the so-called marketing revolution largely tied to a media revolution, the media shops and their spanking-new branded entertainment divisions have been leveraging close relationships over the past couple of years with Hollywood producers, directors, and artists from other media.

For example, MindShare produced a summer tv series on abc funded largely by advertisers, "The Days," which earned solid Nielsen ratings. Magna Global has been creating tv programming from scratch, funded by marketing clients, for years now. The Emmy-winning Johnson & Johnson Spotlight Presentation (a tnt made-for-tv movie series), and "The Restaurant" on NBC are just two examples. OMD created the MDN, or the Mountain Dew Network, a late-night show on Spike TV. Coming soon to a theater near you, are film projects developed by media agencies and funded by clients. Although the traditional media agency role of buying 30-second commercial pods is not in any real danger of becoming outmoded  at least not in the foreseeable future  media shops continue to evolve and break new ground.

Soon, media agency wallflowers will no longer be forced to identify with the poor girl in that sad Velvet Underground song (allegedly penned by Lou Reed at the Cannes Film Festival, in the '60s): "And what costume shall the poor girl wear to all tomorrow's parties, a hand-me-down dress from who knows where?"

Buy some new clothes, girls. You're hosting tomorrow's parties.

Hank Kim and Richard Linnett are directors of MPG Entertainment. ( and

Next story loading loading..