MindShare intros 'buzz' unit

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With a name that evokes memories of Andy Warhol's silver factory and his brand of "gee whiz" Pop Art, the Wow Factory, a new unit of WPP Group's MindShare, will launch in the U.S. to offer clients a creative approach to buying and planning media.

"We are developing a consistent global approach to bringing buzz into campaigns. That is one of the things that non-traditional and new media can do for a client," said Connie Garrido, a MindShare senior VP who has been promoted to director of the unit.

In one sense, Wow is simply a new name for MindShare's existing Non-traditional Media Group, whose 20 member staff was also overseen by Ms. Garrido. That group services all outdoor media, out of home, event planning, guerilla marketing and sponsorships for clients, which include American Express Co.'s Blue, BP Amoco, Hershey Foods' Jolly Rancher candies and Unilever's Pond's. The new unit is also a bold bid by the media agency giant to enter into the creative-media category that is dominated by independent and typically much smaller and very British media strategy agencies such as Naked and Michaelides & Bednash.

`global solutions'

"The idea behind the Wow Factory is to make media-neutral planning a reality," said Nick Emery, MindShare UK's chief strategy and planning officer, and the executive who founded Wow and directs the London office. Wow Factories are operating in 20 of MindShare's 52 shops.

"The original idea for the Wow Factory is to have a group of people dedicated to surprise," Mr. Emery said.

Wow Factories employ "scouts," otherwise known as "cool hunters" who look for new trends and developments in media. "Our view is that media can be the most prosaic and tedious job you ever do in your life with Excel spreadsheets and CPMs, or it could be Hollywood. ... The Wow Factory is the Hollywood end of it. They are the passion firm," Mr. Emery said.

The Wow Factory was started in London by Mr. Emery, who licensed the name in 1998 when he was a media director at Ogilvy & Mather in London, before MindShare was formed. Mr. Emery intended the Wow Factory to be an independent media strategy shop aligned with Ogilvy. After MindShare launched, Mr. Emery formed the unit within it.

Mr. Emery said that the Wow Factory in the U.S. is not just a new name for an old operation. "There will be a different structure. This is just the starting point," he said.

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