Note To Clients: Don't Worry About ROI

BBH's Hegarty prods brands to jump in

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%%STORYIMAGE_LEFT%% While advertainment specialists on both sides of the Madison+Vine concourse grope for an ROI model that could spur clients to devote more of their budgets to this space, one of advertising's biggest names boldly encouraged marketers to take the leap of faith without one.

In fact, Bartle Bogle Hegarty Chairman John Hegarty, whose London-based ad agency has been one of the more aggressive shops in the blending of commerce and content, warned his agency brethren that "we can't continue to lie to clients about measurement. As fearful as it may be, we have to ask those clients to [take that leap of faith]." Hegarty's provocative comments were made during a panel discussion at Monday's Brand Integration Honors segment of the 12th annual Association of Independent Commerical Producers Show.

Hegarty elaborated by stating that clients need to understand that "they are entering a new world" that can't rely on metrics like the CPM-based, Gross Ratings Point model that they're used to with network TV.

The accountability issued was raised by Bruce Redditt, exec VP at Omnicom Group, who identified the metric puzzle as the "biggest challenge" that branded-entertainment practitioners face in persuading marketers to spread their marketing budgets into multiple entertainment-based platforms. Generating ROI on below-the-line services such as event marketing as well as for the sexier product integration in TV and film can be, at best, nebulous, and at times, nearly impossible.

Fallon North America president and executive creative director David Lubars, one of the key architects of the BMW Films initiative, supported Hegarty's call-to-action but at the same time acknowledged the difficulty in getting clients to throw caution to the wind. "Blind leaps of faith are hard to do, but when you've had success, it does loosen things up."

Mitch Kanner, who recently launched branded entertainment outfit Integrated Entertainment Partners with Hollywood mainstays Rich Frank and Skip Brittenham, offered a solution for the feature-film arena. "For [brand] integration in film, there is only one metric and that is ticket sales." Taking a page out of the network TV model, Kanner speculated that if a studio can't deliver an agreed-upon threshold of box office, the advertiser could be offered a make-good in another film on the studio's slate.

Redditt himself offered a measurable success story in the co-branding effort between his PepsiCo client for the launch of Pepsi Twist and New Line Cinema's "Austin Powers" franchise. Omnicom marshaled the collective acumen of its numerous entertainment-centric units including BBDO, Davie-Brown Entertainment and Aaron Walton Entertainment to bring Britney Spears and "Austin Powers" star Mike Meyers together with Pepsi Twist. As a result, Pepsi generated 20,000 new registered members on its Web site.

Despite these examples, there are many advertisers who are enamored of the idea of jumping into the entertainment space but remain on the sidelines because they're too afraid of going out on a limb.

You certainly couldn't say that about two brand marketers, who participated in Monday's dialogue.

Lubars' client Jim McDowell, VP-marketing at BMW North America, asserted in another panel discussion that BMW Films provide great accountability. "With the Web, we know who those people are and how often they come back." McDowell said the company has logged 45 million views and that the BMW-Fallon braintrust is "exploring ways to extend it" beyond the second season.

Jim Schumacker, Anheuser-Busch VP, creative development and innovation, is looking at both a Budweiser-branded sitcom and at feature-film opportunities. "We're always looking for the next new thing." Schumacker said this year, unlike the past, he's set aside specific dollars for branded-entertainment projects.

And in a space, where leading Hollywood players such as talent agencies and other entertainment outfits are increasingly vying for the ear of brand marketers, Schumacker offered a public vote of confidence to his traditional branding partners. "Our most important partners in this space right now are our ad agencies like DDB."

%%PULLQUOTE_RIGHT%% "We wouldn't be doing [BMW Films] if it weren't for Fallon," McDowell echoed.

Two execs, who acknowledged the crucial role that advertisers play in today's increasingly difficult entertainment marketplace, also happen to be two of the most successful, Charles Garland, partner at 19 Entertainment, the creators of "American Idol," and Michael Davies, executive producer of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire."

"The reality genre owes a lot to advertisers," said Davies. "'Millionaire' wouldn't have gotten on the air without McDonald's and AT&T."

AT&T also has been one of the primary underwriters along with Coca-Cola of Fox's "American Idol." "It really was a great platform for AT&T Wireless to showcase its SMS service," said Garland.

Garland revealed that despite the show's phenomenal success in the U.K., U.S. networks were originally reticent about the property. He said that the best that Fox would offer was a six-episode commitment—"which would have been impossible"—and the network also insisted on complete advertiser funding.

Garland and his partner Simon Fuller ultimately have the man atop News Corp. to thank for getting a green light. "It took [Rupert] Murdoch's intervention to make it happen."

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