Madison + Vine: Hollywood power trio sets up shop

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After studying emerging content/commerce convergence for 18 months, brand-integration consultant Mitch Kanner is hanging a shingle with the backing and leadership of two leading Hollywood players.

Former Walt Disney Television Chairman Rich Frank and high-powered entertainment attorney Skip Brittenham will join Mr. Kanner under the banner of Integrated Entertainment Partners, Beverly Hills, Calif. As the corps of middlemen bridging Madison Avenue and Hollywood grows, Mr. Kanner and his partners are touting access and neutrality as a potent mix to separate them from the pack.

"We're like the Swiss," said Mr. Kanner. "The relationships and the company evolved organically."

Mr. Kanner spent eight years at director James Cameron's Digital Domain, a commercial production digital-effects company. Mr. Frank was one of the most-trusted lieutenants of Disney CEO Michael Eisner, and he was a close collaborator with Dreamworks honcho Jeffrey Katzenberg during his Disney stint.

Because of IEP's far-reaching tentacles, the plan is to have a presence in every major content business: film, TV and music. The presence of Mr. Frank, who was a driving force in such TV pop-culture touchstones as "Happy Days" and "Home Improvement," should help.

"[Rich Frank] has produced, he has developed, he has been a senior executive," said Mr. Katzenberg. "He is, in the best sense of the word, an insider."

"Hollywood is a paranoid place, which is why you need guys like these to get you through the doors that are generally closed," said Joe Roth, founder of Revolution Studios, the Sony Corp.-affiliated movie studio.

`a few smart deals'

Mr. Frank said IEP will take a judicious approach. "If we don't do a deal in the first six months, that's OK. We're not going to be a volume business. We want to do a few smart deals."

Omnicom Group Exec VP Bruce Redditt, who is CEO John Wren's point man for Hollywood, said, "I like the fact that they don't represent talent, so therefore they can say credibly that their consulting business is not going to be about selling through all that stuff," he said.

"We're happy with the companies we work with, like product-placement shops and [Creative Artists Agency]," said Geoffrey Frost, corporate VP-marketing and communications at Motorola's PCS division. "What IEP [offers] are ... relationships, which transcend any given studio or any given talent shop."

Executives at talent shops CAA and the William Morris Agency declined to comment.

While agency holding companies have acquired entertainment-marketing companies recently, "the way to go is to develop opportunities and approaches rather than buying such companies," said WPP Group Chief Executive Martin Sorrell. "Our business is about ideas. [IEP] will come up with interesting ones."

"For Mitch and his group, this is their business, this is not an add-on," said John Hegarty, chairman of Publicis Groupe-backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty. "Advertisers don't want to be someone who's just there to have money taken off them."

Mr. Brittenham's law firm, Ziffren, Brittenham, Branca, Fischer, Gilbert-Lurie & Stiffelman represents Mr. Frank and Mr. Roth. "Part of my motivation in doing this was to try to find new sources of income for the large-scale independent motion picture companies [that we represent]", Mr. Brittenham said.

As for any skepticism about the principals' long-term commitment, Mr. Frank said, "It's a good investment of time and money. Also, the timing is right in terms of these industries being ready for change. To sit in the middle of that will be fun."

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