Hollywood's clout on Madison Avenue first became apparent to Julie Mulholland while she was working on the Coca-Cola Co. account at McCann Erickson Worldwide.
|Julie Mulholland, president-CEO, Mulholland Drive Entertainment|
The year was 1991, and Hollywood talent shop Creative Artists Agency jolted the ad industry by winning a big chunk of Coke work.
"I could see the power of Hollywood in advertising," Ms. Mulholland says of CAA's coup. CAA boasted the ability to lure top film directors to make TV commercials for the soft-drink giant.
Now president-CEO of Mulholland Drive Entertainment, the 39-year-old specializes in linking brands to film projects -- anything from movies to TV to DVDs.
Ms. Mulholland joined McCann in 1989 after studying business at New York University. She stayed at the agency for six years, then went to work on the Heineken account at Wells, Rich, Greene. She followed the account to several New York agencies, and finally began making her own Hollywood connections as an account manager at Publicis USA.
"I helped shape product-placement opportunities for Heineken in [film franchises] like 'Austin Powers' and 'The Matrix,' and in TV commercials using the stars from those films," Ms. Mulholland says. "Almost overnight, we began to see a bigger share of product consumption among younger consumers."
In mid-2003, Ms. Mulholland launched her Los Angeles-based company, helping to embed brands into filmed entertainment as an alternative form of marketing. Naturally, Heineken was her first client.
"Over the years, Julie and I have worked on many groundbreaking marketing ideas, bringing together various properties and partners. ... Now these are widely copied and accepted as common practice," says Ken Kunze, Heineken USA's chief marketing officer. He's worked with Ms. Mulholland for more than a decade.
Other clients include OfficeMax, for which she hatched a one-hour TV special last fall. For Fatburger, she worked an employee of the fast-food chain into the story line of an interstitial program on the Starz cable network.
Ms. Mulholland says she gets some of her best ideas from reading newspaper columns. "I read that Bruce Willis was doing a stint at an ad agency to study for a role in 'Perfect Stranger,' and I thought, 'Why not have him work on a Heineken ad in the movie?' "
That happened, along with many other brand connections that seem to spring naturally from story lines.
"I trust my own instinct as a film fan," Ms. Mulholland says. "If it feels like a natural fit to me, it's a win for everyone."