Meeting in the MIDDLE

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The personal video recorder, unfriendly at least to the conventional TV commercial, seems destined to gain the kind of penetration that will considerably affect the decades-old business models of advertisers and TV networks.

Despite the protestations of people like Viacom President Mel Karmazin, the TV networks would be well-served to trade in their cynicism and fear for ingenuity and creativity in adapting to consumers who will be in more control of their viewing habits.

Advertisers and their brand stewards are already positioning themselves further upstream in the content creation process. "In terms of [advertisers co-financing content] ... I think you'll see more, at least as far as our clients go," says Guy McCarter, senior VP at Omnicom Group's OMD Entertainment.

Although "American Idol," "Survivor" and other reality programs have proved brands can be contextually embedded into the program, doing the same thing in the scripted realm is a taller order.

Still, Mark Stroman, senior marketing executive of Endeavor Marketing Solutions, the corporate marketing arm of talent agency Endeavor, has a more optimistic viewpoint. Product integration into "scripted [programs] is the next frontier, and it's closer than most people think," he says. "It has to be because of the financial realities of the future."

SATISFY THE ADVERTISER

Even if all the parties can agree on the proper level and process for brand integration into TV, film and music, how will they satisfy Mr. Advertiser that he's getting the appropriate bang for his buck? The accountability challenge is likely to hinder the advance of brand integration. Without solid methods of accountability, "that puts the burden back on the people who are buying it, like ourselves," says Matt Wisk, Nokia VP-marketing, North and South America.

All the accountability and measurement tools in the world will be of diminished value, however, if Madison Ave. and Hollywood don't learn to better understand each other and work together. Players from both sides will huddle Feb. 5 at Advertising Age's inaugural Madison+Vine conference.

Notwithstanding the mistrust and suspicion between ad makers and content creators, speculation abounds that an ad agency holding company will create a joint venture alliance with a talent shop. Such a deal would be a monumental challenge in cross-assimilation in 2003.

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