|Guy Champniss is the new MPG global director of branded entertainment.
Hollywood producer Teddy Lynn, whose credits include New Line’s Pleasantville, and Lee Einhorn, formerly a group creative director at Publicis Groupe’s Publicis & Hal Riney, San Francisco, will run the Los Angeles shop, known as Arnold Entertainment.
Meanwhile, Havas’ media-buying firm MPG said it hired Guy Champniss to serve as global director of branded entertainment. He will consolidate MPG's branded-entertainment services, overseeing the agency’s entertainment businesses, which include MPG Entertainment, MPG Art, MPG Mass Media, MPG Media Especial and MPG En Scene.
“MPG has an incredible client list and a powerful global presence, presenting enormous opportunities for MPG´s clients, broadcasters and producers,” Mr. Champniss said. “There is no doubt that these are exciting times in terms of bringing brands and advertisers closer to the content creation process and I am delighted to be able to help MPG further develop its long-term commitment in this area.”
MPG recently brokered a deal to integrate Outback Steakhouse into an episode of the CBS sitcom Listen Up, starring Jason Alexander. In the episode, scenes take place in the restaurant. Last year, it brokered a far-reaching deal between Tyson Foods and Viacom, which included product placement in another CBS sitcom, Still Standing.
As for Arnold Entertainment, Messrs. Lynn and Einhorn remained quiet about a slate of projects in development, but they were pretty clear about their goals for the unit: to get marketers to venture beyond product-placement plays and invest in original content.
“Media companies and ad agencies have been reluctant to ask clients to put their money at risk for these projects,” Mr. Lynn said. “We plan to.”
Why push them into a risky territory? As Mr. Lynn sees it, films, TV shows and Web content created from the ground up for a marketer is both safer and is generally more beneficial to the brand.
As an example, he contrasted the Hallmark Hall of Fame TV-movie series with The Apprentice. While the reality show is essentially a revolving door for ephemeral product placements, the Hallmark series, he said, is “entertainment for target audience for their target sentiment without actually selling their product.” Messrs. Messrs. Einhorn and Lynn’s goal is to remain producers on projects throughout their development. “That way we can remain keepers of the brand,” Mr. Einhorn said.
The entertainment group is managed by Arnold's managing partner and executive creative director, Pete Favat, and it reports into Ron Lawner, chairman and chief operating officer.
Messrs. Einhorn and Lynn declined to talk about which Arnold clients might be best suited for branded entertainment. However, the agency’s biggest client, Volkswagen, made a recent splash in the Madison & Vine space with The Check Up, a short film made for the launch of the automaker’s new 2005 Jetta. The film premiered at Sundance and has since been distributed on DVD through various outlets, including magazines like Entertainment Weekly. The agency also helped develop “sitcommercials” for the Truth anti-smoking effort, available as a five-minute block on the G4 cable network.
Arnold Entertainment is Mr. Lynn’s first marketing job. In addition to his work on Pleasantville, he was an associate producer on New Line’s comedy Trial and Error. At Riney, Mr. Einhorn oversaw the creative direction on its Sprint account.
They’re both hoping that together they can put the entertainment back in branded entertainment.
“We feel strongly that it has to be a balance between what’s truly entertaining to an audience and what a brand needs to get in return for paying for it,” Mr. Lynn said. “As soon as you skew one way or another it ceases to be effective.”
As for MPG, Mr. Champniss will split his time between MPG’s Barcelona and London offices.
An award-winning British TV producer, Mr. Champniss worked at the BBC in two different stints, where he produced The BAFTAS awards show, Comic Relief, and other prime-time programming. He also worked for Carlton Television (now ITV in the U.K.) and Granada Television and worked with the William Morris Agency, CBS, Walt Disney Co. and its ABC broadcast network, and Celador Productions.
MPG's clients include Auto Zone, Goodyear, Tyson Foods and Vonage in the U.S.; Coca-Cola in Argentina; and Volkswagen in Spain, Argentina, Mexico and Nicaragua. MPG recently lost the Volkswagen of America and Intel accounts in the U.S.