The Player: Gebhardt intends to guide the evolution of advertising

By Published on .

Most Popular
Chris Gebhardt has considered the emerging branded content arena from every angle.

From his days at Pepsi-Cola Co., a citadel of pop-culture marketing, to his most recent post running Ogilvy & Mather's emerging technology unit, Mr. Gebhardt has pondered the future and he's decided to park himself squarely at the West Coast intersection of Madison + Vine.

Mr. Gebhardt recently joined the entrepreneurial ranks as a founding partner, along with Mitch Kanner, Rich Frank and Skip Brittenham, of Integrated Entertainment Partners, the new Los Angeles-based branded entertainment company.

"At Ogilvy, after six months of looking at [video-on-demand, personal video recorders, etc.] I kept coming back to the argument that an interruptive ad model has to give way to an invitational model where the consumer opts in," Mr. Gebhardt said. "I want to play a role in that [evolution] and want to be where I can make the most impact. I can't make that impact in an ad agency structure."

Mr. Kanner, who has been one of the leading evangelists in this space and has spent the past couple of years studying advertainment as a private consultant before setting up IEP earlier this year, got to know Mr. Gebhardt through his dealings with Ogilvy.

"Bringing Chris in helps us to translate to the tribes, allowing us to move seamlessly through every constituency in the marketing and entertainment industries," Mr. Kanner said.

The plan is to leverage Mr. Gebhardt's and Mr. Kanner's experiences and contacts with brand marketers and their ad agencies with the stature of Mr. Brittenham and Mr. Frank in Hollywood. Mr. Frank is the former Walt Disney Television Chairman and Mr. Brittenham is considered by many to be the "centerpiece Hollywood lawyer."

This alchemy of personalities and skill sets has already opened many doors. In addition to several feature film possibilities, IEP has brand integration packages near completion for shows on the networks' fall schedules.

tying it together

"It's going to take a while, but when it opens up, the dam is really going to break. It'll be five shows next year," Mr. Frank said. "Chris will help us tie it all together. He has been there every day in the trenches and understands what clients are looking for."

Steve Hayden, vice chairman at WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, who has not been shy about expressing his skepticism and distrust of Hollywood in the past, believes Mr. Gebhardt will make a difference.

"When you add the brainpower of Chris Gebhardt to the access and connections represented [by the other partners], it's a pretty powerful combination," Mr. Hayden said. "Chris is not the agent type. ... He's extremely straight-ahead and ethical."

Fast Facts

Name: Chris Gebhardt

Age: 36

Now: Partner, Integrated Entertainment Partners

Challenge: Create a common marketing language for brands and entertainment companies.

In this article: