NFL Network Lets Media Agencies Live the Dream

Kicks Off Media Fantasy-Football League

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- "Have you ever seen a bar full of 200 guys this quiet?" asked Joe Carney, account executive with NFL Network.

Well, no, not since Mike Vanderjagt, the NFL's most accurate field-goal kicker ever, missed from 46 yards with 17 seconds left in last year's Pittsburgh-Indianapolis playoff game.

The scene was the Park Avenue Country Club, where 14 teams of media agencies had gathered for a 14-round fantasy-football draft, courtesy of the NFL Network. (If the bar still smelled like chicken wings, it was no coincidence. ESPN had held a public draft event there the night before.)

'Everyone's so busy'
"Everyone's so busy that trying to get [agencies] to focus on your network can be a challenge," said Ron Furman, senior VP-media sales at NFL Network, who said a few members of his sales staff suggested the idea for a 14-team league made up of sports buyers from 14 major agencies.

OMD led off the draft, picking Kansas City's Larry Johnson. Universal McCann took San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson with the second pick. Horizon Media, defying the legendary "Madden curse," chose Seattle's Shaun Alexander third. (Since 2000, players that have appeared on the cover of the box for Madden NFL video games have tanked.)

"We didn't want to do it but didn't think we had a choice," said Adam Schwartz, manager of the Horizon team. "We were hoping LT fell to No. 3."

Mediacom, perhaps the most prepared of all the teams, brought a laptop, taping down an extension cord that ran across the barroom floor and tapping into the bar's wireless network. They had loaded fantasy-football software onto it. "I can't believe they did that," sniffed a player at a competitive agency. "I mean, it's just an interagency fantasy league." (MediaWorks thinks a few other teams were jealous, or perhaps more competitive than they were letting on.)

Hardly working
One buyer said he spent "seven hours on the Yahoo fantasy site" to prepare for the draft. Of course not during work hours, right? "Oh yeah, during work," he said. His agency will remain unnamed so as to not anger bill-paying clients.

PHD, McCann and Wieden & Kennedy were getting early props from announcers and bystanders. Zenith drew criticism for picking a kicker in the eighth round. Busch Media chose who it declared was "the sleeper pick of the draft": Miami's Ronnie Brown. And OMD took a chance on NFL bad boy and Oakland Raider Randy Moss.

"We run a tight ship at OMD," said Bill McKinney, poring over a draft sheet. "We're confident he'll get his act together."

Busch Media's Shaun O'Farrell, who's in three fantasy leagues this year, outlined his draft philosophy: "You've got to pick players you know are going to perform." No word on whether that corresponds to buying philosophy.

Vince-McMahon-in-training
The NFL Network sales staff was rotating as announcers, but the Vince-McMahon-in-training was clearly Mr. Carney, as stepped out from the podium and worked the room with the wireless mic. "Are you guys having a good time?" he yelled. Everybody cheered. And the sales staff handed out mugs, coasters, preseason tickets and two pairs of Super Bowl tickets.

"I wish all agency parties were all like this," Horizon's Schwartz said.

MediaWorks will be giving periodic updates on the league. Here's who's fielding teams:

Wieden & Kennedy
OMD
Mediavest
Mediacom
Carat
Mindshare
MediaEdge
Zenith
PHD
Universal McCann
GM Planworks
Busch Media
Initiative Media
Horizon Media

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