Jason Wellcome, exec-VP of digital at the PR giant, said the
setting up of MediaCo is in response to client requests for help
with content marketing and new opportunities for new business. Mr.
Wellcome will serve as general manager of the unit and work closely
with global head of digital Chris Perry to guide day-to-day
operations as well as practice development.
"We're not just distributing content through social or web
publications. We're tapping into new paid media models," said Mr.
Wellcome. "It's important that folks can understand it and manage
it on a real-time basis."
The firm said that the formation of MediaCo has required
staffing up with new sorts of talent, such as brand planners,
editors, user experience designers, writers, SEO experts, media
planners and producers. Among recent hires who will play a role in
the new content venture are: MediaCo editorial director Parker
Ward, who had worked at Hearst Interactive as a managing editor;
director of paid media strategy Corey Thibodeau, who most recently
oversaw ad sales and operations at sports technology startup
SeatGeek; director of media planning and buying Lana Femiak, a
former media planner from mobile advertising startup Greystrip and
former associate media director at Dentsu; and senior digital
strategist Eric Reif, who had served as a senior digital
advertising manager on the Obama for America team.
It's tapping outside companies too. To help manage clients'
holistic strategies, the firm has compiled a list of preferred
partners, including Adaptly for support in paid media and Contently
for writing, as well as Outbrain and Tongal for content creation,
production and distribution.
Weber Shandwick is not the only PR shop that's made clear it has
ambitions to get into the paid media and content space. Independent
PR giant Edelman, for
example, made one of its most visible investments in paid digital
media this year by hiring Mindshare's Cassel Kroll as
exec VP-media strategy.
When asked how this type of practice might complicate the agency
compensation model, Mr. Perry emphasized that the capability is
making a "positive contribution" to clients' business. But, he
added, "It will be a challenge for clients to decide where this
fits in with their budgets."
Still, he emphasized the thirst for support in brand publishing.
He cited an old campaign in which the firm worked with media
partners and executives from MTV to build an editorial platform - a
single website - for client General Motors. It
only took off when it was actually shared, he explained.
"The idea of a brand as a standalone media destination is
probably not a strategy we'd recommend, but the idea of creating a
compelling content model and having a distribution mindset, and
connecting it with people who care about it is standard with what
we're creating today," he said. "It's also getting invented and