Peter Dang Sees No Reason Why PR Can't Compete in the Space

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Who: Peter Dang, exec VP, chief marketing officer at public relations agency Bragman Nyman Cafarelli.
Peter Dang, exec VP and chief marketing officer at Bragman Nyman Cafarelli, helped create the ‘GM All-Car Showdown,’ hosted by Shaquille O’Neal, that was broadcast on ESPN.

Why you need to know him: Mr. Dang is currently shepherding BNC’s branded entertainment strategy as it works with heavy hitters such as General Motors Corp., Sony PlayStation, American Express Co. and Johnson & Johnson.

Credentials: Mr. Dang joined BNC in June. Before that, he served as exec VP of consumer products at Sony Pictures Entertainment, where licensing and merchandising became an integrated part of the marketing mix for films such as "Godzilla," "Men In Black," "Stuart Little," "Charlie's Angels" and "Spider-Man." “Before getting into entertainment, my marketing credentials were rooted in classical strategic packaged goods, in categories a marketer would kill for: beer and toys,” he said. He worked for the Adolph Coors Co., where he was involved in its national expansion and the launch of Coors Light. At Mattel Toys, he helped develop new categories for Barbie including Barbie Consumer Products and Collector Barbie. “Who knew we could sell $100 Barbies?” he said. The next move was to Bandai Toys and then Saban Entertainment, where he launched The Power Rangers.

With your classical marketing credentials why did you go to BNC? “BNC and nontraditional marketing is the wave of the future for marketing and I wanted to be part of it. When Michael Nyman first brought me to BNC to consult with them on re-branding the agency, I realized that many of the things they were doing for their corporate clients under the banner of PR was, in actuality, marketing. More importantly, BNC had started using its position as an entertainment insider to help create that experiential emotional bond between brand and consumer way before it was chic to do it.”

What marketers does BNC represent? “We are lucky to have such great clients as GM, PlayStation, Jordan [Nike], T-Mobile, American Express, Carl's Jr./Hardee's, Johnson & Johnson, Oakley, Moet Hennessey, Bank of America and Doubletree Hotels.”

What branded entertainment deals has BNC recently put together? “We developed and executed the concept of the ‘GM All-Car Showdown,’ hosted by Shaquille O’Neal, that was broadcast on ESPN. We developed an event to unveil Pontiac's new Solstice in Times Square featuring a live concert by Jet that was simulcast on 'The Jimmy Kimmel Show.' We are currently developing a broadcast concept to air from Detroit during the week prior to the Super Bowl, along with other activation activities for a number of our clients.”

When it comes to credit for putting together branded entertainment deals, publicity firms are often overlooked. Why is that? “The perception of a PR agency's role as part of the marketing mix is too narrow even in the entertainment space. Traditionally, it is their role to put their clients in the spotlight, not themselves. As such, it is not readily perceived as an entity who could package such deals. In reality, most of them can't. But agencies like BNC, who have evolved PR or marketing communications as a branding tool, can and have put these deals together.”

How would you like to change that? “I think corporate America has to look at who they trust to put together a 360 package for them. Who has the best concepts? They have got to look at not only the specific piece of branded entertainment but how they can activate around it to maximize their increasingly costly investment. Look, Hollywood is full of dreams and dreamers. Anyone can have a good idea. But there are very few who can deliver on these ideas.”

When compared to product placement shops or branded entertainment producers, what role can a PR firm play in putting together branded entertainment deals? “I will not presume to talk for all PR or marketing communication firms. All I can say is that at BNC our insider status in entertainment allows us to put these deals together. We have a product integration team, we know the producers, we have access to the networks as well as our clients’ media buyers.  More important, we have the advantage of being agnostic. We have no specific agenda. We can help our clients develop whatever components are necessary to  provide the best 360 program for their brand.”

There is still some confusion out there on what exactly branded entertainment is. How do you define it? “Most people on both sides of the fence think of it as mere product placement or integration. It's too damn narrow.  Because we believe that entertainment has the power to create a true emotional bond between brand and consumer, I believe that branded entertainment should be defined as anything that uses pop culture as a platform to interface a brand with its consumer. With the cost of integration in film, TV, videos and games skyrocketing, companies without those budgets will look to other non-traditional avenues that use entertainment to approach their consumer.”

What are the best or worst examples of branded entertainment that you've seen lately? “If I thought taking potshots at some of the turkeys out there would bring them to my door as clients, I might consider it, but I don't think that will happen. Suffice to say, consumers are getting smarter and more sophisticated. As the incidence of branded entertainment increases it will become increasingly difficult to strike a sincere note with the jaded consumer. There will probably be a backlash and a settling down. But it's not going away.”

What are some obstacles branded entertainment still faces? “Legitimacy on the  part of the entire spectrum of nontraditional marketing is the biggest obstacle versus the traditional avenues of advertising and media. The intrusion of brands and products into the creative process is another.”

How can those obstacles be overcome? “Just like licensing, merchandising or product placement when it first started, it will take time. The proof is in the pudding. I am convinced that what we are doing in the non-traditional marketing and branded entertainment space will become a permanent part of the marketing landscape. It will evolve, morph, transform and continue to grow in sophistication.”

How do you measure success? “Sales is the ultimate measure of success. Have we succeeded in moving the needle for our clients? BNC is working with Nielsen and other measurement organizations to attempt to put a value on what we do. Like anything new, the metrics are not there yet. In many areas of non-traditional marketing that measurement may never appear. How do you measure a halo?”

What's on your TiVo? “Episodes of 'Rome,' 'Weeds,' 'CSI' and the Agassi/Blake match from the U.S. Open.”

You're a foodie. What's your favorite restaurant in L.A.? In New York? “You can't ask a foodie for one favorite restaurant! We're talking segmentation by cuisine. However, in L.A., I like La Terza, Joss, Sona and Harold and Belles. In New York, I like Megu, Lure, Craft and Freeman.”

What do you do on your free time? “What free time? It's a good thing I only sleep 4 1/2 hours a day. That gives me time for yoga, reading, eating and an occasional tennis match.”
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