Debate churns over 'new game in town'

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The first Advertising Age Madison + Vine conference last week stirred passionate talk about new marketing models for how consumer-product companies would work with entertainment-content companies in the future.

"The message was that these communities have to work together," said Cindy Hauser, head of broadcast and new-business development, Ant Farm, a Los Angeles entertainment ad agency. "There wasn't a lot of pussyfooting around."

Setting that serious tone was a keynote address by Steven J. Heyer, president-chief operating officer at Coca-Cola Co., that received perhaps the best response for its assertion that there's a new game in town. "It was articulate, it had an edge, it was a home run," said Ms. Hauser (see excerpt, P. 12).

It was compelling enough, in fact, that one executive actively pitched to Mr. Heyer during a question-and-answer session at the conference, held at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

Some panels produced spirited debates. In the "Where Do You Draw the Line?" panel, Peter Arnell, chairman-CEO of Arnell Group, took many executives doing branded-entertainment deals to task (see related story at right), saying the deals are overstated: "The reality is that everyone is looking to get a check from someone." Including Mr. Arnell, who offstage was pitching his projects.

no free lunch

On another, "ROI/Accountability," Jamie Kellner, chairman-CEO of Turner Broadcasting System, discussed personal video recorders, particularly their ability to skip commercials. "I'm not against technology; I'm against the idea of a free lunch," he said. Viewers will have to pay for TV if advertising drops as a result of commercial-skipping, he added.

There are still terms and jargon to work out in this new space, which essentially takes product placement and expands the range of opportunity. "The content community," said one entertainment-marketing executive, "does not refer to itself as the content community."

At least one participant said the convergence talk is just a new spin on an old topic. Bob Levin, an entertainment-marketing consultant and former president-worldwide marketing for MGM Distribution Co., said, "If I hear the word `organic' one more time, I going to start a garden. This is no different than when Dinah Shore sang years ago `See the USA in your Chevrolet."'

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