Helping an Agency (and Clients) Branch Out Into Content Space

Entertainment-Industry Vet Brian Murphy Brings a Different Perspective to TBA Global

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NEW YORK ( -- TBA Global recently announced the creation of a new branded-entertainment division, TBA Deep, to be headed by Brian J. Murphy, exec VP-branded entertainment (Deep stands for "digital, entertainment, engagement and programming"). A veteran of the entertainment industry, Mr. Murphy spent a decade as exec VP of Warner Music Group, and was responsible for the joint venture of Warner/Avalon (which would later become Warner/TBA).
Brian J. Murphy
Brian J. Murphy

During his time at Warner, he also helped create the first joint divisional strategic marketing programs between General Motors and Warner Bros. Films/ Warner Music Group, one of the original branded-entertainment initiatives. He later founded Fearless Entertainment, a branded-entertainment specialist firm, and led it as CEO for seven years until it was picked up by TBA last March.

Madison & Vine spoke with Mr. Murphy to get a quick sense of Deep's purpose, the branded-entertainment industry and the advertising industry's current obsession with content ownership.

M&V: Why create a new division for branded entertainment?

Mr. Murphy: It's what's we've always been doing. Fearless was in the branded-entertainment space for seven years and was acquired by TBA Global last March so it could develop on branded entertainment. TBA's core business is a combination of marketing and communication, with particular success in business-to-business initiatives. ... We created Deep in order to clarify to the market where these capacities of TBA reside. It's a way of branding our division, and giving it visibility. TBA aren't an advertising agency, they're not PR and they're not a sales promotion company. TBA is from the consumer marketing side. The brand thing is new.

M&V: How did Deep come about?

Mr. Murphy: Well, our co-chairman Irving Azoff's background is in the entertainment industry. Mr. Azoff heads the Frontline Management talent company, one of the best in the world. ... PQ Media recently mentioned that branded entertainment is due to become a $25 billion market this year. That's where the marketing community is going. That's part of the reason [TBA] acquired Fearless.

M&V: There's a lot of talk about agencies trying to monetize content they create for branded entertainment as a bulwark against diminishing revenue from traditional sources. What is your take on that?

Mr. Murphy: We started out as entertainment professionals who got involved in marketing, so we are approaching this issue differently. The traditional agency model looks at the declining revenues from traditional sources, and uses content creation and ownership as a new revenue stream. We flip that model over. We start out from an entertainment model. We create entertainment exclusively for brands, and we also create properties that we then own and license. Most brands are not interested in owning [intellectual property], they are interested in achieving marketing objectives. TBA's business is healthy. This isn't just a margin play.

M&V: What kind of assets does Deep have?

Mr. Murphy: We have groups of strategists and architects bred on consumer/entertainment/digital thinking. We also have dedicated groups of sales people from TBA. The value in being in TBA is that the production services, creative, etc., are all integrated and accessible when we need them.

Our acronym begins with "digital" because we live in a digital ecology. One of our premises is knowing that and manipulating it. TV has been mandated to become fully digital and interactive by 2009, but even now live events and concerts are experienced as much digitally on huge screens as they are live. New York cabs have interactive screens in the back for passengers. It's not just cellphones and computers.

M&V: What is your impression of branded entertainment today?

Mr. Murphy: If you are marketing your brand through any kind of entertainment, then you are in branded entertainment. Clients are demanding more and more from branded entertainment, because that's how people are living.

From a brand standpoint, what is important is being able to control their destiny in the world of entertainment, which wasn't always possible before. If branded entertainment doesn't do that for them, there is no point. They're the ones who are putting the money down.

Brands need to think about how they fit organically in what they are trying to do. You have a sophisticated consumer population out there. If you are transparent and organic, they will welcome you. If not, they will tear you apart. In some cases, the product may not be in the entertainment content created at all.

The key questions are: Is this the best way to get things done? What is that brand doing in essence?

M&V: Does it bring back the expected return on investment?

Mr. Murphy: When people spoke of impressions back in the day, what was that? Is that ROI? Engagement that turns to sale, or word of mouth, that's real ROI. A lot of companies have all the brand awareness in the world. What they need is to convert that into sales and lifetime consumers. The typical lifespan of a 30-second spot is about three months. Typical lifespan for content can be one to two years, depending on the approach. It's a strategic standpoint rather than a tactical standpoint.

How effective something is depends on your objectives going in. We like to stress to our clients the importance of having clarity on the objectives you are trying to accomplish. Metrics are only a piece of the entertainment branding result. What are you trying to do?
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