"This is our R&D lab as I refer to it," says Mark Stewart, managing director at OMD. "It's really helping us define what is next through experimenting and learning."
Actually, OMD Next is a fund rather than an actual "lab." It has more than $2 million from clients to study emerging media and present findings to its partners.
"It's not just experimenting and research [in new media], but how does the new technology or the new consumer behavior change and affect current media," Mr. Stewart says.
With options like DVR, VOD, blogs and podcasts, marketers are turning to media planners to translate the new tech into value.
"Just as the Internet was once a line item budget ... in the mid-'90s, emerging media have made their way this year to find a place on many marketers' budgets," says David Cohen, interactive media director at Universal McCann.
Mr. Cohen's Interpublic-owned agency at this point is assisting marketers on a client-by-client basis. Johnson & Johnson, Sony Electronics, Sony Pictures and Intel Corp. are among the marketers it has helped grapple with concerns about emerging media.
Like OMD, Omnicom-owned sibling GSD&M has established an internal operation called the emerging media technologies group, for research and testing. "Our philosophy is to get in as early as possible when it's still relatively inexpensive," says Jerry Courtney, director-interactive and digital media.
Again, collaborating with clients is a key element. The GSD&M program is working with MasterCard, BMW and the U.S. Air Force.
"You have to be able to effectively collaborate across media," Mr. Courtney says. "VOD is a great example where it is a TV-delivered medium, but the model is sold and measured more like the Internet."
While Visa USA is one of the marketers involved with OMD Next, it's also busy with its own emerging media experiments. Jon Raj has been Visa's chief-emerging media marketing for only about a year, but has been studying new technologies for more than a decade, beginning with the Internet.
At the moment, he's most excited by mobile opportunities. Visa recently completed a text message campaign with WeatherBug and is running video before Mobile ESPN sports content.
"It's a much more dynamic world of advertising," Mr. Raj says. "I can't emphasize enough that [our learning] today is very much about understanding tomorrow."