Madison + Vine - Heyer's calling: collaborate or die

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In a no-holds-barred keynote address punctuated by blunt warnings, Coca-Cola Co. President-Chief Operating Officer Steven J. Heyer called on the marketing, media and entertainment industries to collaborate in the creation of new business models or risk extinction.

"I am describing a magnitude and urgency of change that isn't evolutionary-it's transformational," he said. "If a new model isn't developed, the old one will simply collapse." His provocative call to arms was issued before 450 attendees of Advertising Age's inaugural Madison + Vine conference Feb. 3 in Beverly Hills. The conference attracted a broad cross-section of executives from the media, advertising, marketing and entertainment industries.

Mr. Heyer caused scores of executives from ad agencies, talent agencies and consulting firms to salivate when he declared that Coca-Cola will seek ideas from multiple sources rather than being limited by its existing relationships. "We just put a big sign in the window," he said. "Partners wanted."

But he also called on those potential partners to rethink their view of the company as merely a source of revenue and to view it instead as a network that reaches billions of consumers every day.

"You need to start looking at corporate America, at the Coca-Cola Co., not as a company with deep pockets but as a company with deep capabilities, vast reach and extraordinary potential," he said. "If I'm right about our network and its power, we can help open a movie with our packages, we can popularize and sell new music, we can drive awareness, differentiation and interest for you just as you do for us.

"And maybe," he added to nervous laughter from the audience, "charge you like you charge us."

accountability

During a question-and-answer session that followed his talk, Mr. Heyer said he expects ad agencies to "quarterback" Coke's team of marketing partners, but that they too often "undermine" collaboration. And he made clear that sales were the only acceptable measure of accountability.

His themes of cooperation, collaboration, and value creation were echoed by other speakers throughout the rest of the conference and carefully dissected by attendees. But the tensions between the players he called on to work together, namely ad agencies and talent agencies, were evident.

"Heyer's speech was significant, and Hollywood supports his view that Madison and Vine can and should work together with cultural icons and branded context," said Ferris Thompson, head of entertainment marketing at United Talent. "The critical question is how they will work together."

Some questioned whether marketers were as open to fresh thinking as they claim to be. "My challenge to Heyer and other brand leaders is asking if their doors are really open," said Matti Leshem, exec VP, Diplomatic Productions, creator of a program called "Live from Tomorrow" that will integrate brands into its content. "Madison Avenue is thick with bureaucracy. We have to go from talking about lofty ideas to actually describing a methodology to activate these new ways of reaching consumers."

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