Madison & Vine: Entertainment exec Flanders joins JWT

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WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson, New York, is going Hollywood-again. Its latest effort to discover brand-building opportunities between its clients and entertainment properties will be spearheaded by Steven Flanders.

Mr. Flanders, 38, most recently president of his own New York firm, Entertainment Management Group, joined JWT, New York, as president of Icon Entertainment@JWT.

"We think there are lots of possibilities to use our skills as branding agencies in Hollywood," said Marc Capra, chief operating officer, JWT, New York. "Steve brings us a reference point in entertainment."

From product placements in movies and video games to writing marketers into TV show plots-as Revlon was with long-running soap opera "All My Children" earlier this year-marketers and entertainment companies are increasingly partnering to reach specific audiences. Coca-Cola Co., for example, flogged its flagship brand all summer to GenY-ers as part of Fox's "American Idol." Numerous agencies and sometimes their holding-company parents have created ventures to explore this territory. Earlier this year, Interpublic Group of Cos. organized sports and event-marketing firms, a boutique ad shop and two Hollywood public-relations firms under the umbrella Sports & Entertainment Marketing Group.

Icon Entertainment @JWT is the agency's second attempt to build a unit to meld advertisers with entertainment. Content(c)JWT launched in January 2000 with great fanfare as a marketing unit to leverage the partnership between J. Walter Thompson USA and Brillstein-Grey Management, a talent agency, and its parent company, Basic Entertainment. Marina Hahn, a former William Morris executive, led the operation as JWT's exec VP-strategy and entertainment. Its goal: to create original content for advertisers out of an advertiser's brand strategy. Three of its four-person staff were let go in late 2000; Ms. Hahn left JWT more recently.

Some say the closing was a simple financial matter. Clients weren't anxious to put money into an unconventional type of branding as the recession deepened. Others in the industry believe the concept was flawed.

"The talent-agency world doesn't know how the brand-advertising marketplace works," said Jarrod Moses, CEO-Alliance, a partner company of Grey Global Group that structures deals between marketers and entertainment companies. "They both operate in the same arena, but they don't understand each other's areas or techniques. It's like asking a cardiologist to perform foot surgery."

JWT's new venture, Mr. Capra said, is different. Its mission is to deliver measurable entertainment or event-based marketing solutions to JWT's clients, as well as quantifiable brand-building solutions to entertainment organizations and properties. One of the higher-profile projects developed by Mr. Flanders' previous firm married New York City's Roundabout Theatre Company to American Airlines through a 10-year partnership that included naming rights to the theatre and sales and marketing programs.

"The client needed a steady flow of income and American Airlines wanted an association with a New York City institution, and one that helps to generate sales," said Mr. Flanders, who, as president, Icon Entertainment@JWT, will work with all accounts worldwide. Another area he plans to build is talent management and branding: He currently does that for actor Tony Vincent and singer Summerlee Staten.

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