The Marketing Arm's Ray Clark Sees It All as Entertainment Marketing

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Who: Ray Clark, founder and CEO of Omnicom’s The Marketing Arm.

Why you need to know him: Mr. Clark’s led Marketing Arm's charge to provide branded content, product integration and talent/music licensing for
clients such as Frito Lay, Pepsi, AT&T, Yahoo and Lucky Brand. Omnicom agencies Davie-Brown Entertainment, Millsport, USM&P and ipsh! operate as part of Marketing Arm's network.

Ray Clark is a pioneer in branded entertainment, even if he doesn't use the term anymore.

Credentials: Mr. Clark represented athletes’ marketing rights and ran events and promotions before starting Marketing Arm in 1993 at the age of 28.

Explain how Marketing Arm's network of companies work together. What role does TMA play? “The Marketing Arm primarily serves our four business units in two ways: One, we provide centralized agency resources such as creative, insights and analytics, new business, integration, and back office functions. Two, as an umbrella brand, the Marketing Arm is the go-to-market strategy that represents a seamless, high-octane, multi-dimensional service-offering unlike anything in the marketplace.”

Does the Marketing Arm have specific clients it works with, or do all of the companies in the network share the same clients? “Purposely, each of the Marketing Arm’s four business units have their own P&L, clients and brand identity. All revenue and expense flows through the business units. Currently, we have 90 brand clients and 700 employees.”

What types of branded entertainment deals has the Marketing Arm recently brokered? Mr. Clark said that many of the "hundreds of television, film, music, wireless, talent, cause, gaming, sports, motor sports, events, 'retailtainment' and promotional programs" that Marketing Arm's companies have put together "look like branded entertainment," citing such recent examples as Aquafina's involvement at the Sundance Film Festival; celebrities secured for Super Bowl commercials; AT&T at the Olympics; or the creation of its music portal; as well as ‘Star Wars’ events at Wal-Mart and AT&T’s holiday tie-in with Warner Bros.’ ‘The Polar Express.’

How do you measure the success of programs like these? “It depends on the program. Some are immediately quantifiable. The incremental revenue at Wal-Mart for the ‘Star Wars’ program blew my mind. Measurement seems to be perceived differently by each client. What we believe is that marketers will be forced to message differently if they want to (a) break through the clutter, and (b) change consumer behavior. Increasingly, marketers realize the platform has to deploy emotion, and that’s our bull’s eye. Our insights and analytics group is working to establish a more defined approach to determining success against our clients’ objectives. The idea is that research will provide the clarity necessary to elevate a program’s performance.”

There is still some confusion as to what branded entertainment actually is. How do you define it? “I don’t define it, and now I don’t say it anymore. It might be popular, though, because the last time I was in L.A., I met a waiter, a doorman and a mailroom clerk who had each started their own branded entertainment firm. They all said it was going to be amazing, with lots of great meetings with their good friends at blah, blah, blah. It’s really become a catch-all phrase for all things related to entertainment marketing.”

What's the best example of branded entertainment that you've recently seen? “I’m entertained by brand-driven content all the time. I just saw the Mountain Dew Films’ movie ‘First Descent,’ and it rocked. I crack up at the cavemen in the Geico commercials, and I think Gatorade nails it every time I see it on the sideline. It’s all branded entertainment. Yikes, I just said it. The weekly talk show that Amazon just announced is pretty interesting. They’ve got a well-known host in Bill Maher and it makes a lot of sense because the guests and topics on the show will relate to items that -- big surprise -- that can be purchased on their site. It’s a good example of entertainment marketing having a direct, immediate and measurable impact on sales.”

And the worst? “Most marketing has little value. When I see a company sponsoring something, I ask, ‘What does the brand bring to the party? Why should I care?’ and ‘Why are they there?’ If I don’t have good answers, it was a mistake.”

What challenges still exist when putting together branded entertainment deals? “Let’s face it: The easy way out is to produce a TV spot and buy a bunch of media, so most clients default to that idea, which is increasingly ineffective. The challenges are big, the risks are significant and high profile, and most clients don’t have the stomach to champion such ideas."

How do you think the space will change? “With regards to all forms of content, an on-demand world will create more marketing challenges and opportunities than ever before. And, soon, the consultants who are pretenders and generalists will be kicked to the curb because the experts will have built a brand- and a user-friendly interface in which to serve as a conduit for brands and content. I think you’ll begin to see more emphasis on measurement and evaluation.”

What's the best lesson you've learned when it comes to branded entertainment? “There are a million ideas, but only a few people who can deliver.”

What's on your TiVo? “‘Arrested Development,’ ‘24,’ ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm,’ ‘Boston Legal’ and, oh , ‘Power Rangers,’ 'SpongeBob SquarePants’ and ‘The Incredibles’ -- over and over and over again.”

What's on your iPod? “I have moods. My favorite is my Nirvana and Puddle of Mudd mood, but I’ll flip from Lenny to Sade to Tupac to Justin Timberlake to Molly Hatchet to old-school Michael Jackson. Did I really just say Justin Timberlake? I did, what the heck. I like Kelly Clarkson, too.”

What do you do on your downtime? “Play with my wife and two little boys. I’ve always liked to play any sport or game, and every week I try to catch one movie. Go see ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.’ You’ll be only the 100th person to see it and you’ll laugh your ass off.”
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