Omnicom to Partner With Reality TV Producer RDF

Deal Gives Holding Company's Clients First Crack at Developing, Producing TV, Web Content

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LOS ANGELES (AdAge.com) -- In a venture that reflects advertisers' increasing reliance on Hollywood's reality-programming tsunami and their desire to catch its waves far earlier, Omnicom Media Group has formed a first-of-its-kind strategic venture with a major production company, RDF Media USA.

Steve Grubbs
Steve Grubbs
The wide-ranging pact allows Omnicom first crack at integrating or allying its clients with RDF. That represents potentially worldwide implications for marketing, considering that Omnicom works with blue-chip marketers such as PepsiCo, Visa and McDonald's, and RDF Media USA is a major supplier of programming to both broadcast and cable networks, creating or controlling the formats to Fox's "Don't Forget the Lyrics," ABC's "Wife Swap" and Lifetime's "How to Look Good Naked." It also sells those show formats around the world.

'Global footprint'
Steve Grubbs, CEO of OMG's entertainment and sports division, acknowledged that many of his firm's clients and RDF's shows have a "global footprint," but he stressed that the more immediate challenges facing the American TV business, such as ad skipping, falling ratings and a migration of viewing online, were the genesis for the partnership.

"We want to better align our clients and our clients' needs with content," said Mr. Grubbs, adding that there "are some [brand] integrations that work seamlessly, and there others that seem forced. Those integrations can become deeper and more meaningful with more lead-time. Once [a show] is produced, it's tough to go back and retrofit some of these things."

By establishing a relationship with Hollywood's creative community through RDF, Mr. Grubbs said it hopes to move beyond integration and branded entertainment. His goal is to create, develop and produce TV and web content tailored to meet the needs of both advertisers and networks.

One of the first steps toward that earlier involvement has the holding company granting RDF a majority stake in Full Circle Entertainment, a content-development and production company specializing in brand-friendly shows. "We've become their content development partner," said Robert Reisenberg, Full Circle's CEO. "Our point of difference [from other production companies] is that we have an additional filter: 'Would these projects service the marketing needs of brands?'"

Scripted show for ABC
Already, Mr. Reisenberg has set up a scripted show at NBC that will debut in prime time over the summer that's based on Matt Beaumont's "E: a Novel," a satire about a London ad agency. Though he declined to detail which Omnicom clients might become involved, he said, "It's set in an agency, you can imagine how easy it is to integrate [brands]."

Chris Coelen
Chris Coelen
Mr. Reisenberg's efforts will be overseen by Chris Coelen, RDF USA Media's CEO who is a former head of United Talent Agency's alternative TV department. "We're keenly aware that the role of the advertiser has never been more important," said Mr. Coelen, who also noted that the appeal of reality-based programming has never been stronger for advertisers seeking immediate results.

"With a reality show, you can be on the air in as little as three months and certainly in six," he noted. "And your batting average on non-scripted shows, well, the ratio of sales are higher: You know, generally, when you've got a [pilot] commitment that you're making it. It's very rare that you're not going to air."

Mr. Coelen's company also owns Pangea Management Group, which represents emerging and established reality-TV stars and secures licensing, merchandising and endorsement opportunities for them with consumer brands.

It was Mr. Coelen's dual role as both a producer of reality TV and a manager representing its top stars that Mr. Grubbs said made RDF such an attractive mate. "We know the advertisers' needs, and he knows the creative community, said Mr. Grubbs." "And together, it's something that will be a very powerful offering for us."

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