PR Company Edelman Strengthens Branded-Entertainment Offering

Acquires Production Shop and Consultancy Matter to Create Content

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LOS ANGELES -- Public relations firm Edelman has bolstered its in-house branded-entertainment division by purchasing Matter, a production company and consultancy that specializes in brand-backed programming.
Andy Marks (left) and David Freeman of Matter bring their brand-backed content creation to Edelman.

While Edelman had been integrating its clients into various forms of entertainment over the years, the company officially threw its hat into the branded-entertainment ring in 2004, when it hired Ferris Thompson away from United Talent Agency as its head of marketing to serve as president of the company's entertainment marketing practice.

Since then, Mr. Thompson, who is based in Los Angeles, has helped work on projects for Axe, Dove, AstraZeneca, Warner Bros. and Microsoft.

Representation on two coasts

Although financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, the purchase of Matter now gives Edelman another branded-entertainment rep in Los Angeles and one based in New York.

Matter's founders, Andy Marks and David Freeman, will serve as managing directors and joint leaders of the practice, alongside Mr. Thompson. Mr. Marks will be based in New York.

Although Matter will merge with Edelman's entertainment marketing practice, it will continue to operate under its current name. "We wanted to continue to evolve independently or on a stand-alone basis," Mr. Marks said. "The decision was really to carry on with the kind of momentum we'd established over the last several years," Mr. Freeman added.

The company will "support our clients by creating original content or co-creating branded content directly with audiences," said Pam Talbot, US CEO of Edelman. "PR can no longer just be the brokers of information."

What Edelman is essentially buying is two executives with experience producing sponsored events and brand-backed programming to work with Mr. Thompson, whose experience in the past has mainly been brokering deals.

"With this expanded capability, we can build on our PR expertise and create entertainment content to help brands transform and connect more deeply with consumers," said Gail Becker, Edelman's Western region president and general manager of the Los Angeles office.

Environment, health and awareness causes

Messrs. Marks and Freeman launched Matter as a branded-entertainment consultancy and production venture in 2003. The company recently helped XM Satellite Radio and Knitting Factory Entertainment develop an independent emerging-music concert series, which will air on XM's indie rock station XMU. It also produces the annual Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) Forum, sponsored by Ford Motor Co. and other marketers, and the Green Apple Music & Arts Festival in New York City, an Earth Day celebration that will expand to Chicago and San Francisco in 2007. Matter also represents Lime, Steve Case's new health and wellness multimedia network.

Matter plans to expand its green, health and awareness practice at Edelman. "We want to continue to be leaders in that space," Mr. Freeman said.

With branded entertainment taking off as a viable alternative to traditional marketing, advertising agencies, media buyers and other Madison Ave. companies have been looking to snatch up companies such as Matter.

"For us, PR was the right practice to partner with," Mr. Marks said. "PR is all about telling stories about brands. They're great storytellers. The really good ones have widened the aperture of what PR companies are capable of and driving that big idea."

Prior entertainment relationships

Before Matter, Mr. Marks served as exec VP-brand partnerships and was a founding member of Hypnotic, a production company backed by Universal Pictures, where he led its foray into branded entertainment, developing projects such as Reebok's "Terry Tate Office Linebacker" campaign and the Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival.

It was while working on the film festival that Mr. Marks first met Mr. Thompson, who at the time was VP-corporate marketing and strategic alliances at Universal Studios.

Meanwhile, Mr. Freeman headed a joint venture between Omnicom Group's OMD and Aaron Walton Entertainment, where he developed branded-entertainment programs for the company's clients, including Pepsi Smash, a TV series featured on the WB and later Yahoo.
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