After 20 Years, Lippin Group Keeps Bringing Brands to Hollywood

With a New Unit in Place, PR Firm Looks to Boost Celeb Endorsements

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Who: Dick Lippin, chairman-CEO, Lippin Group.

Why you need to know him: In addition to celebrating its 20th anniversary as an entertainment public-relations and marketing firm, Mr. Lippin's Los Angeles-based company recently opened a unit, Brand to Hollywood, to pair brands with celebrities, events and other opportunities.
Lippin Group Chairman-CEO Dick Lippin says getting celeb endorsements and media exposure is important because 'many people want to buy what celebrities feel is in.'

Credentials: Mr. Lippin founded Lippin Group in 1986, initially representing corporate sponsors of TV programming, including Chrysler, Apple, General Electric, Kraft, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson and Coca-Cola, and their shows. The company quickly expanded its client list to include producers and distributors of entertainment in TV, film, music, home entertainment and new media, such as Lions Gate Entertainment, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, the Disney Channel and its "High School Musical" phenomenon, as well as Dick Wolf and his "Law & Order" franchise. The agency handles events such as the Daytime and Primetime Emmy Awards, the Writers Guild Awards and ESPN's ESPYs, as well as organizations such as the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and the Hollywood Radio & Television Society.

Mr. Lippin spoke to Madison & Vine via e-mail.

Your company recently launched Brand to Hollywood. What does it do? "We create opportunities by developing ideas and events that will attract top celebrities through gifting, gift bags and the establishment of gift suites. The unit is headed by [Exec VP] Jennifer Price and supported by Alexandra Lippin, my daughter, a senior account executive with considerable experience in product placement before she joined the company. In addition, we have staff in our other offices in New York and London who have experience and contacts in this arena and work closely to execute the campaigns.

Why was the unit formed? "This new unit came about as a natural extension to the many years we have had of representing corporate sponsors in the areas of television and music, in particular. It also was in recognition of the need to expand services and make them more relevant to today's world. Clients do not want agencies that just write good releases. They want agencies whose contacts, relationships, creativity and experience can take them to places they can not go themselves."

Which corporate clients have you signed so far? "Specifically to the Brand to Hollywood unit, among the clients we currently represent are Architectural Digest, Marc Anthony hair products, Hearts On Fire diamonds, Victoria's Secret beauty products, Platinum Guild, Strivectin high-end skin care and Other clients for which we do special projects include Nokia and Lancome."

What types of branded-entertainment deals has the company recently put together? "All of the companies mentioned are successfully targeting the media and specific audiences in their worlds but look to us to get them noticed and raise their brand profile in the entertainment and Hollywood communities. They want to have associations with key events and have top industry celebrities photographed with their products, establishing third-party endorsements. Getting media exposure also translates to the consumer, because many people want to buy what celebrities feel is 'in.' For example, to capitalize on the publicity opportunities around the Emmys, we have created for Hearts On Fire the Hearts on Fire Diamond Indulgence Lounge. This will be a synergized lounge, which means every vendor will have a diamond theme: million-dollar manicures, flawless makeovers, diamond-tini drinks, massages using $100,000 of loose diamonds, bling apparel and 'rock' music. The lounge was already featured in TV Guide, and many national media outlets will be covering the lounge when it opens."

How does the company measure success when it comes to these types of deals? "Realizing campaign goals are measured in both tangible and intangible ways. The tangible evidence is: How much direct media exposure did the event or activity generate, and what is the estimated value of that coverage? The intangible factor is the significant value of an influencer or role model being associated with the product by wearing or using it."

What kind of role can a PR firm play in the area of branded entertainment? "Because our media relationships are close and very substantial, we have the ability to shape events and activities that we believe will meet the media's needs. Our direct and indirect involvement with many of the industry's major events also gives us a unique understanding of what will work for the media and our branded-entertainment clients."

Lippin Group represents many top awards shows. How important is it for brands to be associated with awards shows and events? "Award shows and industry events play a great role because they serve as magnets to attract top talent and allow for the development and implementation of campaign activities because they have specific dates to assist in planning. This year alone Lippin Group will have directly represented the NAACP Image Awards, ALMA Awards, Daytime Emmy Awards, Writers Guild Awards, ESPYs, Primetime Emmy Awards, International Emmy Awards and the Monte Carlo Television Festival Awards program."

There is still some confusion out there on what exactly branded entertainment is. How do you define it? "We define it as assisting brands interested in penetrating and being associated with the entertainment world to increase the opportunities to expose their products and services and, thereby, grow their businesses."

Are there any recent branded-entertainment deals that have stood out for you as being really innovative? "I think the recent brand integration of the Aston Martin on HBO's 'Entourage' was a perfect example of marrying a brand to influencers and celebrities in the entertainment industry that has a radiating effect to the more affluent consumer as well."

What hasn't worked? "Honestly, I would prefer not to criticize the work of other people."

What is Lippin Group looking to do in the branded-entertainment space in the future? "We have every intention of building this portion of our business even more. We are going to expand our client base -- virtually all of which comes to us from referral -- and add additional staff. We intend to target luxury brands that could derive value from our services. And we intend to make this portion of our business a larger percentage of our overall corporate revenue."

What do you do on your downtime? "Enjoy running, playing tennis, collecting antique slot machines and antique mechanical banks, and being part of a classic-car club."
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