What Matters to the Matter Founders

Shop's Managing Directors on How They Match Brands and Platforms and Why They Joined Edelman

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NEW YORK -- Andy Marks and David Freeman are managing directors and co-founders of Matter, a full-service branded-entertainment, content-development and entertainment-marketing firm that in July 2006 was purchased by PR powerhouse Edelman.
Matter's Andy Marks, above left, and David Freeman say brands can be their own studios.
Matter's Andy Marks, above left, and David Freeman say brands can be their own studios.

Prior to Matter -- which operates out of offices in New York, Los Angeles and London -- Mr. Marks served as exec VP of Hypnotic, a production company backed by Universal Pictures, and Mr. Freeman was founder of Freeplay Entertainment.

A year into the merger, the duo has no doubt that moving to Edelman was the way to go, as Matter still maintains a roster of its own dedicated clients (ranging from communications company Embarq to the China National Opera House, for which the shop helped promote the group's first American tour) but is also engaged in project work for major Edelman clients as well, including Nissan, Dove and Wrigley.

Matter's co-heads recently chatted with Madison & Vine about the next big thing in the entertainment-marketing world, the looming TV writers strike and more.

Madison & Vine: What sort of strategy does Matter use in creating and executing entertainment-marketing programs? Do you try and pair certain brands with certain platforms?

Mr. Freeman: We believe that every brand should have an entertainment-marketing strategy as part of the marketing mix. For all of our clients, we always sit down and build that strategy first, and get them to understand that it's important. Usually with a new client, we take the first 30 to 60 days to do a "deep dive," to find out what their advertising looks like. Those first days are so important in coming up with an ROI [return on investment] for our clients.

Mr. Marks: We have a lot of experience, so we have an idea going in what the right match could be. If it's the web, if it's television, we'll go down the road, but we always take that step back and never really be dismissive of one particular path. There are things like existing television shows that we know will work well for particular clients but we don't necessarily dismiss one or the other out of hand. There tends to be a knee-jerk reaction on behalf of marketers on how they want to take advantage of what entertainment as a discipline has to offer. ... We may get a call from a client who says "Can we do a celebrity-endorsement deal?" If that makes sense, we will pursue it.

M&V: Do you ever let the marketers make the decision about how to deliver content?

Mr. Marks: We never do anything without our clients' buy in. We always want to make sure that the marketers that we're working with that have engaged us to work on a strategy [are a part of the process]. That's not to say that we don't make suggestions.

Mr. Freeman: It also really depends on the experience of the client; some clients have spent years in the entertainment space. Some clients raise their hand and say "I want a TV show." In today's evolving media landscape, we're defining opportunities to do not just traditional work.

Mr. Marks: All of these new platforms present opportunities to test out and pilot [branded partnerships]. For example, we might pilot something on the web, develop it, fine tune it and then bring it to television.

M&V: Everyone is watching whether TV writers will go on strike right now. If shows go off the air, and there is no content to integrate brands into, then what? Do you have a contingency plan?

Mr. Freeman: The majority of our clients who are invested in TV shows are mostly in nonscripted shows, so we're in the fortunate position that those clients aren't going to be affected by the strike. Andy and I have been talking though about how there are lots of other ways to "dial up" in area of branded entertainment -- celebrity endorsements, online campaigns, grassroots campaigns, live events -- that we are going to have to look to. We have never defined branded entertainment as just TV and film.

Mr. Marks: There are many opportunities to explore other areas too, like music and live theatrical performance. We're bringing these to our clients to say that there is so much more than film and TV. Although that's the lynchpin of what we do, there's a lot more out there.

M&V: Speaking on nonscripted shows, you brokered the deal between Wrigley and "The Biggest Loser." What sort of feedback are you getting? Does the client think it's worked?

Mr. Freeman: Wrigley sees that there's a lot of value in that partnership. To date, we've aired two integrations. The early feedback is very positive and we are in negotiations for season five of "The Biggest Loser" in January. We think this is a unique way to deliver some of the research about the health benefits of chewing gum that Wrigley has come up with, and it's the first time that Wrigley has taken that research and brought it to a major network platform.

Mr. Marks: One of the things we always try to do from an integration standpoint is make sure that the story we're getting across isn't like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. The context [for the Wrigley brand] was so perfect within a show like "The Biggest Loser." It's a nice organic integration.

M&V: Being within a large PR agency is unique and sets your firm apart from other entertainment-marketing companies. Does being part of Edelman offer helpful resources?

Mr. Marks: Overall it's been tremendously positive being part of Edelman. It's a big company, it's global in reach, it works with blue-chip clients, yet it's independent. That entrepreneurship really attracted us in coming here in the first place, and those are all the qualities we want to be a part of. When you come into a situation with a client that is already being served by Edelman, we are at the table at a much different place because Edelman provides such strategic advice to their clients. We're able to come in at a higher level and much deeper level. I've learned a lot more about what PR has to offer branded-entertainment programs.

Mr. Freeman: It was a conscious decision to join a PR company. Without question we believe that after being here for about a year that this is the right place for Matter to grow. Edelman continues to grow in terms of its services and capabilities; this is not a traditional PR firm anymore. There's mobile marketing, there's a brand-experience team ... we have the ability to bring all these other elements to our clients.

Mr. Marks: The benefit goes both ways, not just for clients of Edelman that we can service, but what our clients can bring to Edelman.

M&V: So what's the next big thing in entertainment marketing?

Mr. Marks: The next evolution of this is brands really embracing development and ownership of content, on their own terms, in service of their own brand needs. That for me, personally, is where I see things going.

Mr. Freeman: Our philosophy is that brands can be studios as well. We believe certain brands, and certain of our clients as well, have the ability to become their own production entity, their own studio.