BBH's new music model

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Bartle Bogle Hegarty commercials have spawned nine No. 1 selling singles in the U.K.; now the trans-Atlantic ad agency is looking to create a new business model to help it take a share in future hits.

BBH recently set up an in-house music publishing company, Leap Music, a joint venture with former Zomba Music Publishing executive Richard Kirstein. Leap's mission is to acquire the copyright to music pieces commissioned for commercials. Mr. Kirstein explains, in an interview with Advertising Age Reporter Claire Atkinson, how the new model will benefit BBH, marketers and possibly Publicis Groupe, which owns a 49% stake in BBH.

AA: How does the existence of Leap Music benefit the clients of BBH?

MR. KIRSTEIN: The agency works smarter, it controls the costs [of the music] for relicensing at a later date. In acquiring our rights in the composition, it works better because when it is relicensed to a company for an extended term, BBH is doing it at the Leap rate [as opposed to the composer's rate]. Second, there is an advantage in owning the copyright. When it is broadcast on TV, we share in the royalties, there is a back-end incentive. Leap pays the dividend to BBH and to the client to get both a cost saving and a back-end income stream as a result.

AA: What are your current projects, and where do you find the artists?

MR. KIRSTEIN: We've licensed one title to BBH, New York and [in the U.K.], one to Leo Burnett Co. and six to BBH. BBH, New York, is about to launch a new commercial for Unilever's Axe deodorant [in the U.K. it is known as Lynx] The composer was a British company called Past Present Organization, and BBH, New York, bought it. The style is upbeat guitar/acid jazz. If it works, we'll be talking to American record labels.

In the latest Lynx commercial, we brokered a deal with a composer on the song "I See Girls." The idea of the commercial is that Lynx makes guys attractive to girls, so there's lots of scantily clad women. We are currently turning that 30 seconds into a 3-minute song. The rapper is Daniel Anderson, and the music production company is Morgan Van Dam. They created the track specifically. The commercial is on air in Spain and Belgium, and will roll out across Europe. Again, we are talking to record labels about its potential. We've also acquired publishing rights from the group Amadeus to a theme for a Gordon's gin commercial, called "H2O."

BBH is currently working on a campaign for Bertolli olive oil. We are working with Debbie Wiseman, who has scored movies such as "Tom & Viv" to rearrange out-of-print opera pieces.

And for Leo Burnett in the U.K., we picked up publishing rights on a campaign for Kellogg Co.'s Frosties from composer Myke Gray. They wanted to do something heavy metal in the vein of Limp Bizkit. That commercial is already on air.

Our artists are jobbing composers, they act as free agents. We've picked up eight titles so far.

AA: You commission pieces of music for specific commercials-what happens when the campaigns have ended?

MR. KIRSTEIN: When a campaign is finished, we can re-exploit it as library music for the audio-visual community, though strictly with prior written approval.

AA: So far, much of your work is in the U.K. What about the U.S.?

MR. KIRSTEIN: We are already working with BBH in New York.