Optimedia helps form infomercial unit

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LONDON -- FCA!, the U.K.-based integrated ad agency, and media specialist Optimedia, have formed a joint venture called Sellavision to create infomercials.

Sellavision was created in response to the proliferation of cable and satellite TV channels in the last three years, some of which can carry the three-minute plus infomercials that are an accepted media in the U.S. but have been slow to catch on in Europe.

Simon Lloyd, chairman of Optimedia Europe, says that this week's establishment of Sellavision is the first move in a strategy to expand beyond media buying and planning and become what he terms a media communications advisor.

"In the future the industry will be media driven versus creative driven. Due to fragmentation of the media, companies must decide what media to use before they come up with a creative treatment," says Mr. Lloyd.

Optimedia is negotiating with a number of potential partners involved in program sponsorship, event sponsorship, sales promotions, public relations and new media in order to set up a "virtual network of companies'' to offer to marketers.

Optimedia's expansion into new above- and below- the-line activities is part of a wider trend in the industry. Last November in Germany, the Carat Vision Universal Communications Group was established to offer a range of below-the-line services from one source. The Vision Group consists of seven below-the- line agencies in Germany that are not financially linked to Carat. There are plans to introduce the Vision Group concept to the U.K. and France this year. Meanwhile, in Norway last December, Carat established separate from its media operations a unit called Carat Consulting, which offers strategic marketing services to large Norwegian corporations and multinationals operating in Scandinavia.

Mr. Lloyd says that Optimedia does not intend to get into the business of creating advertising, but will offer advice on communications strategy. "In the next 10 years, media companies will be at the center of the universe, where in the past it has been the ad agencies.''

Both Optimedia and FCA! are owned by Paris-based Publicis. Shaun McIlrath and Ian Harding, FCA!'s joint creative directors, said they believe media will be central to the future. "We view media as a creative discipline. With satellite and cable penetration now at 26% and regional buying opportunities available at little more than the cost of magazine space, we now believe we have a real opportunity to target broadcast sales messages, cost effectively and without the usual wastage, to specific groups of consumers."

In the same way that integrated agencies like FCA! have injected standards of above-the-line creativity into direct marketing, the aim of Sellavision is to raise the creative standard of infomercials in the U.K. Greg Turzynski, managing partner of Optimedia says: "FCA! can provide the creative skills, whilst Optimedia has the expertise and systems to effectively manage the process."

Copyright February 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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