Volkswagen's Former Hollywood Deal Maker Branches Out

Meteor Teams With B6 to Handle Product Placement for MPG Clients

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LOS ANGELES -- After spending the last several years planting a flag for Volkswagen in Hollywood, entertainment-marketing shop Meteor Worldwide is ready to tackle another brand or two.
Meteor negotiated the $200 million product-placement and promotions deal between NBC Universal and VW. The Los Angeles agency is now working with B6 and MPG clients.

The Los Angeles-based company has brokered a deal with B6 Integrated Entertainment, the London branded-entertainment division of Havas' media-buying agency MPG formed last year.

As part of the pact, Meteor will help identify and broker product placements in entertainment, as well as negotiate long-term strategic partnerships and alliances with film studios and TV networks, and develop mobile projects for B6 and MPG's client list, which includes Nike, Danone, Reckitt Benckiser, PSA and France Telecom, among others. Meteor's in-house production company, White Flower, will focus on creating content for mobile platforms.

The companies have been developing branded-entertainment projects for the past several months, but declined to disclose the clients for which they're intended.

Brokered $200 million VW deal

Early last year, Meteor negotiated a $200 million product-placement and promotions deal between NBC Universal and Volkswagen that encompasses the studio's films, DVDs and theme parks over the next three to five years. Volkswagen vehicles recently appeared in Universal's animated film "Curious George" and the Spike Lee heist flick "Inside Man." Across town at Disney, Meteor landed VW's Touareg SUV and New Beetle in "Herbie: Fully Loaded."

Altogether, VW's vehicles have appeared in 11 films and in TV shows such as CBS reality show "The Amazing Race" and ABC's "Desperate Housewives," and made appearances at events such as the Sundance Film Festival since Meteor took on the account.

Meteor no longer reps Volkswagen. The automaker's product placement efforts are now handled by Creative Entertainment Services in Los Angeles.

Meteor was founded by Dieter P. Abt and Ben Blanco in 2003 to essentially develop Volkswagen's entertainment strategy and handle its product-placement, celebrity seeding, events and sponsorship efforts in Hollywood. Mr. Abt, with experience as a film and TV producer, had already served as an entertainment consultant for Volkswagen AG and Volkswagen Worldwide for nearly two years before being approached to officially rep the company.

"We were commissioned to change their image and emotionalize the brand," Mr. Abt said.

Expanding into branded entertainment

But Meteor, and its 20 staffers, has been looking to expand its business in the area of branded entertainment and move beyond just working exclusively with one client. The company is in the midst of developing a mobile network for branded content that will be rolled out later this year.

At the same time, B6, with its strong presence in Europe, has been looking to expand its presence in Hollywood, and is turning to Meteor to help it make connections throughout the entertainment community. MPG's senior executives were familiar with Meteor's work on Volkswagen over the years; VW had been a client of Havas' Arnold Worldwide.

Whereas most branded-entertainment units at the agencies or media-buying firms are focused on the North American market, B6 is taking a more global approach, given the clients it represents.

"We're taking a much more international perspective," said Guy Champniss, managing director of B6 London, and global director, strategic marketing and branded entertainment, for MPG. MPG hired Mr. Champniss, who has produced TV shows for the BBC and ITV, early last year to build the company's entertainment division, which includes the production of brand-backed programming.

"We tell our clients that we can find ways to make sure their relationship with content is not limited to one market," Mr. Champniss said. "But as soon as you talk about international content, the West Coast comes up very quickly."

That's where Meteor comes in.

B6's entertainment arm

"We will be their entertainment arm in Hollywood," Mr. Abt said of the company's relationship with B6.

Although, B6 will exclusively work with Meteor, Meteor has the option to work with other agencies to develop branded-entertainment concepts. B6 also has the option to work with non-MPG clients.

The name B6 refers to what it considers six key media channels (TV, film, digital, radio, print, events) and six key relationships (moviemakers, TV producers, digital pioneers, broadcasters, mobile aggregators and music specialists).

"The increasing need for brands to be associated with strong, entertaining content is unmistakable," Mr. Champniss said. "But we don't just want to put brands into content. We want to start having brands be credited for bringing content to an audience. We're interested in it being an audience relationship and a consumer relationship later on."
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