Move Follows Exodus of Key Executives

By Published on .

NEW YORK -- Following an exodus of key personnel, J. Walter Thompson has closed down Icon Entertainment @ JWT, the unit it launched in 2002 for branded entertainment projects. The move marks the WPP Group-owned agency's second failed attempt in the Madison & Vine arena.
JWT's Icon Entertainment focused on music while the branded-entertainment shops of other agencies focused on TV.

The departed executives include Steven Flanders, an entrepreneur hired to serve as president of Icon. He left the agency late last year, as did music industry veteran Joanne Schwartz, brought in under Mr. Flanders to develop business opportunities across multiple entertainment properties.

Hollywood talent shop

While it not yet clear what Mr. Flanders is doing after leaving JWT (he did not return calls by press time), Ms. Schwartz runs two firms, Schwartz Management and TV production company 84 Entertainment, and is also represented by the Gersh Agency, a Hollywood talent shop. She had managed actress-comedienne Sandra Bernhard and previously was an artist and repertoire executive at Warner Brothers Records, where she worked with artists including Eric Clapton and Michael McDonald.

Also having left the company is Dave Lory, whom Mr. Flanders hired to serve as director of music for Icon. A former head of international marketing at Mercury Records who took artists such as Shania Twain, Kiss and Steve Earle beyond the U.S., he now works mostly on his own, managing various artists, including Irish tenor Ronan Tynan. He continues to maintain a strategic relationship with JWT.

'Bailey's in Tune'

Icon Entertainment's biggest achievement during its short life was creating and executive producing the first episode of the "Bailey's in Tune" concert series for clients Bailey's, the Diageo-owned Irish whiskey, and the Rock-and-Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The show aired on VH1 in 2004, and featured two musicians, John Mayer and Paul Simon, talking about each others' work and what they admire.

Other agency-owned entertainment production ventures, such as WPP's MindShare Entertainment, Omnicom Group's Full Circle Entertainment and Interpublic Group of Cos.' Magna Global Entertainment, have focused on TV rather than music. But music had always been envisioned to be an important part of Icon's strategy in light of the cost-cutting that has hit the music industry due to years of declining record sales.

Plans third attempt

An agency spokeswoman said that while Icon Entertainment no longer exists, JWT has not abandoned its interest and efforts in the entertainment and music arena.

One of Icon Entertainment's problems was its structure within the agency. "It didn't work as a separate entity," the spokeswoman said. One likely change is that branded-entertainment efforts will be integrated into all of what the agency offers clients.

Two executives, John Garland, most recently in charge of the agency's broadcast production operations, and Stuart McLean, a former partner in branded entertainment agency BedellMcLean, are now developing a plan for JWT's next branded-entertainment push.

Prior to forming Icon Entertainment, JWT in 2000 created [email protected] as a marketing unit to leverage a partnership between J. Walter Thompson USA and Hollywood-based Brillstein-Grey Management, and its parent company, Basic Entertainment. Former William Morris executive Marina Hahn was hired to lead the venture. That effort ended after about a year.
Most Popular
In this article: