Take one Thought Equity client, a golf training center with a locally produced ad that just wasn't up to snuff. With a creative budget of around $8,000, the advertiser wanted a superior spot to license in two locales. As Thought Equity CEO Kevin Schaff tells it, the only bidder in the Denver market besides Thought Equity wanted $25,000 for creative production. "No one wants to look like a used car dealer," says Schaff. The ex-agency entrepreneur started the company in 2002 in the hopes of upgrading the quality of local cable, broadcast and print ads, as well as turning unused creative into an added revenue generator for agencies. "Creative is always a barrier to entry for an advertiser," he adds. The thing is, "A lot of agencies have some kind of creative base that's sitting there dormant." By digitizing creative that either wasn't chosen by a client or has run only in a particular market, and making it available via the web, his company connects the otherwise typically disparate worlds of agencies and local advertisers.
Thought Equity gleans creative on consignment from over 350 U.S. agencies and designers, and it partners with media companies, including Comcast and Regal Cinemas, in 110 regions. When creative is sold for licensing, the agency receives 40 percent of gross revenue from Thought Equity. Clients get source files, so ad components like music and voiceovers can be modified. The footage distributor deals with legal headaches, too: in addition to clearing all rights, Thought Equity ensures that no SAG talent is used in any creative.
Through the firm's website, www.thoughtequity.com, potential clients can search by keyword for thousands of commercials, print ads and footage options, view them over any connection speed and request delivery of the files. Which allowed, for example, for a spot originally developed for a BMW dealer and licensed for the Atlanta market to get a new lease on life in the Las Vegas market. In its reincarnated form as a Budget Rent-a-Car commercial, the ad is running in conjunction with a promotion for Budget's luxury car rentals.
Thought Equity clients do have choices beyond production-ready television commercials. Through the company's partnership with Collegiate Images, TV producers and advertisers can garner archived film and video clips of 14 men's and women's collegiate sporting events. For use during the March Madness college basketball extravaganza, advertisers such as Pontiac licensed college hoops highlights, and television show producers obtained rights to footage, like stadium establishing shots. To refine local advertising targeting even more, Thought Equity is in the process of equipping all creative for addressable markets, which allows advertisers to serve different ad creative to different homes based on demographic data. In addition to giving local and regional ads a much needed facelift, Schaff stresses that providing high-quality creative to mid-tier markets "allows great creatives to make money, recognize the value of their work and be rewarded for it."