Conduit's mission is to form a confederacy of cross-competent shops to deliver an enhanced level of integrated marketing services while also bringing brands and content producers together.
The four outfits, all currently parked under the auspices of Omnicom's Diversified Agency Services(DAS), are The Marketing Arm, Dallas; U.S. Marketing and Promotions, Torrance, Calif.; Kaleidoscope, New York; and Tic Toc, Dallas.
The Marketing Arm has put together many entertainment-based marketing solutions for clients including the pairing of Nokia with ABC's Sugar Bowl while U.S. Marketing and Promotions—the largest of the four companies—is a leading event marketing company. Kaleidoscope's specialty is high-end trade show production and design and product launches. It put together a major concert for Toyota dealers with Phil Collins, with whom the automaker has a co-marketing arrangement. Tic Toc focuses on merchandising and custom products, including Star Wars point-of-sale material for Pepsico.
"Omnicom clients aren't asking for specific entertainment platforms. They're looking for big ideas beyond ads and media buys," said Ray Clark, CEO of The Marketing Arm and Conduit architect and board member. "We need to be able to cover off on all experiential branding and emotional selling. Conduit will offer that."
Clark, who will sit on the Conduit board with the other three member CEOs, stressed that the venture is a strategic positioning initiative and will have no impact on how the individual companies book their revenue. The board reports to DAS CEO Tom Harrison.
%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% Collectively, Conduit will encompass 300 employees, 70 clients and over $200 million in annual billings.
Clark pointed out that the Conduit staff will include consultants,embedded within individual Omnicom ad agencies.
In fact, three senior consultants have joined Conduit. Adam Smith, formerly VP of marketing at The Firm in Beverly Hills, is stationed inside TBWA/Chiat/Day. Beth Oliver has left her post as vice president, entertainment marketing at General Motors R*Works and is shuttling between BBDO Detroit and DDB Chicago. Gregg Hamburger has left The Marketing Arm as its New York-based integration officer and is embedded within BBDO New York.
The reaction from Hollywood appears positive.
"Our expertise at William Morris is in identifying and creating the right programming as well as securing the best distribution outlets for our clients, but we count on partners to help complete the overall mix and a one-stop solution makes that process more efficient," offered Lewis Henderson, senior VP at William Morris Consulting. "Conduit has created a 'plug and play' solution that makes our job easier."