About Agencies Buying Stakes in Emerging Media Companies

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NOELLE WEAVER: I started to write this week's piece on the growing number of large advertising holding companies that are investing in emerging media platforms. Over the past few months' companies such as WPP, Publicis and Interpublic have taken small and large stakes in everything from video game publishers to social networking sites.

My knee jerk reaction was to write about how these companies are adding another agency layer instead of inside expertise in each area. It was easy to say that expanding your portfolio does not necessarily make your company any more adapt at utilizing the tools you now have before you. [We have a saying at SS+K "If an idea bored consumers on TV that same idea will bore consumers online and online, it's only one mouse click from oblivion."] What's more, I simply felt that buying new companies funded on venture capital money, was clearly stepping outside the boundaries of what the advertising industry should be, act and look like. In my mind, it was equivalent of a company like WPP buying up web 1.0 property Kozomo.com and trying to make a go of it.

So, I ran to Wikipedia with hopes of supporting my idea. But halfway down the Advertising definition I came across this simple line, "Any place an 'identified' sponsor pays to deliver their message through a medium is advertising."

And it dawned on me that, for all my supposed openness as to what defined advertising, I had some pretty solid prejudices of my own.

Many of us are still arguing about the lapsed budgets in print and TV. And some of us are trying to understand just what and how to best utilize the ever expanding nature of the web, e-mail and online. A few of us may even be grappling with text messaging and RFID tags. But who ever said that as advertisers we're only in the service business to provide promotional messages and ideas? Why couldn't we also provide the technology to help drive these ideas?

After all, Web 2.0 is all about social communications and collaboration.

Whoa! That idea opens up a whole new playing field and list of competitors, doesn't it? By this standard, we haven't even begun to understand and realize the list of new technologies, mediums and social interactions that lie before us.

A recent presentation from research and consulting firm The Intelligence Group called out that advertisers need to "Color Outside of the Lines." I love that phrase because it's all about taking risk and finding a non-traditional approach to ideas. It's asking us to step outside our historical industry parameters and think about new ways to service clients.

Who says that advertising needs to merely be copy and images placed on a new emerging medium? Why can't it be the delivery of a new technology? Or maybe a brand new product? In other words, like everything else in this world, our industry is rapidly changing and it's up to us to redefine the new parameters.

It's not old media versus new media. It's old thinking versus new thinking. And that, in turn may lead us to invent some pretty powerful new ideas.
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