NEW COMPANY TO PAIR MARKETERS AND PRODUCERS ONLINE Hopes to Automate Branded Entertainment Deals

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LOS ANGELES -- The producers of branded entertainment now have a place to go to create a love connection.

Well, sort of.
Jim Mahoney, an attorney and former talent agent, and Betsy Green, a former product placement executive, felt the current branded entertainment world was 'too difficult to navigate.' They hope their online service will solve that. takes a page from a slew of popular online dating services and gives entertainment producers and marketers the chance to pair up for product placements and various forms of branded entertainment.

Betsy Green, a former advertising, sales and product placement executive at Fox Television Studios, Samuel Goldwyn Co., Viacom and King World, founded the company in July after becoming increasingly frustrated with the way branded entertainment deals were being made.

'Too difficult to navigate'

“Here was an area that everybody was talking about but was too difficult to navigate,” said Ms. Green, who serves as the company’s CEO. “You didn’t know who to go to or what opportunities were out there. I wished there was a service that would connect buyers and sellers.”

Ms. Green partnered with Jim Mahoney, a former entertainment attorney and talent agent, who most recently was exec VP-business and legal affairs at Jack Nicklaus Productions, and together launched in January.

The site is about making introductions and facilitating dealmaking across all forms of media, including film, TV, mobile content, video games and events, Ms. Green said.

“It’s about helping people on both sides get organized and manage the process better to save time and money, as well as evaluate the inventory that’s available to producers and marketers,” she said.

The site enables users to search through a database of entertainment projects or what opportunities marketers are looking for. Listings cover everything from product categories, target demographics, program types, deal windows, coverage areas and ratings deliveries, as well as how an integration would appear -- whether a product will simply be mentioned in dialogue, used by talent or shown on set -- to the financial details of how much a marketer is willing to spend.

Access is limited to who’s using the site. For example, producers can only view what advertisers are looking for and advertisers can only access what producers are offering.

$2,000 to $10,000 monthly

Users pay anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 a month to gain access to the site’s database; fees vary depending on the size of a producer or agency and how many brand or entertainment opportunities they put on the site. The site, however, will remain free for users through April, as it ramps up.

So far Media Matchmaker has lured 30 clients, ranging from production companies in Hollywood to advertising agencies and media buyers in New York. They include 20th Television, Buena Vista Television, Sony Pictures Television, Starcom and Magna Global.

But the company is especially interested in attracting small- and mid-size players on both sides of Madison and Vine who can’t afford to hire major product placement firms or even Hollywood’s talent agencies to represent their entertainment efforts. They’re also looking for marketers who want to eliminate the middleman and deal directly with the creative community.

And the roster of users isn’t limited to the U.S. The site has already generated interest among potential clients in Canada, various countries around Europe, as well as China and India.

Limiting participation

But Media Matchmaker’s creators have the final say in who gets to sign up. For example, Media Matchmaker will only allow producers with established track records, and projects that are already set up at a network or reputable production company. The door’s closed to companies working in the adult industry.

“It’s a judgment call on our part,” Ms. Green said.

The site also won’t allow product placement firms to join and peruse its listings. The reason: The site technically competes with those types of firms -- companies like NMA Entertainment and Davie-Brown Entertainment -- that are hired by brands to scout for entertainment opportunities. With Media Matchmaker, they can essentially do that themselves, and the site’s founders argue it can even provide clients with more leads than a product placement firm ever could.

“There will always be major firms who will pay [a product placement firm] to get what they want,” Mr. Mahoney said. “They certainly fulfill a valuable need. We are more like a Travelocity or an Orbitz. For people who want to be more in control of their product placement choices and opportunities.” And don’t have the time to negotiate through a placement firm. “When you need to make a deal and in a specific time frame, you don’t have the time to play games,” Mr. Mahoney said.

Executives at product placement firms say they aren’t necessarily worried by the launch of Media Matchmaker. That’s because the site, while attempting to facilitate branded entertainment deals, is actually oversimplifying the way those deals are made.

'Don't pay too much attention to them'

“I don’t pay too much attention to them,” said Norm Marshall, CEO of NMA Entertainment. “All they’re doing is aggregating. It’s hard to sell these deals on a one-off. You can influence things, but you never have complete control. These deals aren’t made by pointing and clicking. They’re dependent on relationships with producers, with prop masters. And you need people who are working the deals at all levels.”

And companies aren’t necessarily looking for a list of every opportunity out there. They want someone to sift through the projects to identify what might be right for their brand.

Either way, any deals made through Media Matchmaker will add up to incremental dollars “that can grow the industry by bringing people together,” Ms. Green said.

But the site will also start revealing just how these deals are structured and what exactly marketers are willing to spend to associate themselves with entertainment. It’s all up there on the screen for everyone to see -- at least those willing to pay to see it.

“It does make things a bit more transparent,” Mr. Mahoney said. “Before, all of the deals were done behind closed doors and nobody knew what was going on. [Media Matchmaker] now puts up everything on the screen. It takes some of the mystery out of it.”
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