Horizon Wants to Make Radio Creative Sexy Again With New Agency Offering

Not a Step Toward a Full-Blown Creative Offering, CEO Says

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Horizon Media isn't resting on its laurels after forming the agency Canvas Worldwide in a joint venture last year, a game-changer for the shop. Now the independent media agency giant is placing its bets on making radio creative sexy again with a new audio creative and production entity called Wordsworth & Booth.

"Audio creative often takes a back seat, but radio is the number-one reach medium," said Horizon CEO Bill Koenigsberg. "So as television's audience declines, radio becomes even more important to fill in that missing reach. Radio reaches 245 million consumers a month, and in order to effectively communicate with this massive audience, the talent, creative and content needs to be more impactful and more thoughtful. Radio provides a direct line to our emotions, moods and memories."

Tony Mennuto, formerly VP-branded content solutions at CBS Altitude Group, will lead Wordsworth & Booth as president, overseeing all creative and production services.

The new unit, which touts two dedicated execs, including Mr. Mennuto, will produce work on behalf of brands across all industries. Clients include Horizon Media client Burger King. For radio giant iHeartMedia, the shop will provide consulting services, as well as creative support for iHeart clients that are running audio campaigns, podcasts, sonic branding and other forms of audio marketing.

"The audio space today is ripe for innovation and change," said Mr. Mennuto in the statement. "For years, audio has been lacking much-needed creativity, and I have an incredibly exciting opportunity with Wordsworth & Booth to create work that moves beyond traditional audio content. I'm looking forward to inventing new and exciting audio opportunities for brands."

Wordsworth & Booth, which is named for the creative writing skills required to develop audio creative and the recording booths historically used in audio production, will provide audio creative and production services, including content creation and audio production capabilities.

Content could run the gamut, from creating "contextually relevant content by genre," and ad content for podcasts," said Mr. Koenigsberg.

The move comes as iHeartRadio, the country's biggest radio media company, moves ad operations for its local stations, and its streaming inventory, onto a programmatic buying platform. With new, automated buying informed by audience data, the group can now create more custom content for those audiences.

"I have been an advocate for years that the radio creative world needed to up its game," said Mr. Koengisberg. "Now with programmatic, and more opportunities to engage through digital audio, there is more opportunity than ever before to engage and make the experience better."

While this new capability is one more attempt to tread on creative agency turf, it's not a sign that the media agency will be launching a full-blown creative offering anytime soon, said Mr. Koengisberg. "Do I see us doing more content in social and in the digital space? Yes," he said. But he emphasized that the same does not go for traditional 30-second spots and print ads.

"Radio creative is handled by traditional agencies or freelanced out," said Mr. Koenigsberg. "No hot creative director says, 'I can't wait to sink my teeth into that radio creative.' They want TV; we intend to change that."

Mr. Mennuto, charged with creating that change, doesn't need to warm to radio. Before CBS, he founded MisterFace, a New York based content creation company staffed by marketing experts and comedians, according to Horizon. He previously served in a number of creative radio roles, worked as a voice-over actor and spent eight years as a writer, producer and actor for TV networks including HBO, NBC and ESPN.

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