IPG's New Branded-Entertainment Unit: Ensemble

Former Entertainment Weekly Publisher Scott Donaton Named CEO

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Interpublic Group of Cos.' Mediabrands named former Entertainment Weekly Publisher Scott Donaton to lead a new branded-entertainment unit dubbed Ensemble.

Scott Donaton
Scott Donaton
As president-CEO of Ensemble, he'll have a shared reporting structure to stakeholders in the unit, which includes Universal McCann, Initiative and strategic-advisory firm Media Link. In his new role, Mr. Donaton will give clients of Initiative and Universal McCann a first look at projects and direct access to strategic branded-entertainment opportunities. Universal McCann works with marketers such as Microsoft and Nationwide, while Initiative's clients include Home Depot, MillerCoors and Bayer.

"He's going to be closer inside the brands than anything we have currently," said Initiative's U.S. president, Tim Spengler."He'll work with our existing teams and our clients as opposed to being a hired-gun, separate guy."

"This alliance is very important to us," said Jacki Kelley, Universal McCann president-North America. "There's some complex business models that exist within this space, and the evolution of how these deals get done will be shaped by Ensemble."

There were hints of Mr. Donaton's latest move when he exited EW in late April. The magazine's memo to staff cited Mr. Donaton's plans to start a consulting firm that works with brands on entertainment and marketing. What wasn't clear at the time was that it would be housed under an ad-agency-holding-company entity and be allied with Media Link.

Media Link is a 5-year-old media-advisory firm with offices on both coasts that advises on deals between media sellers and buyers, as well as content producers and marketers. It also offers advice on acquisitions, technology solutions and new revenue opportunities.

Media Link, Mediabrands get closer
The new structure brings Media Link closer to Interpublic's Mediabrands, though the company is careful to point out it's not exclusively working with the agency. "From a Media Link perspective, it's important to note that it's a nonexclusive relationship," said Chairman-CEO Michael Kassan. "It's a strategic alliance, and we will continue to work with the best resources for a particular client, as we always do."

Before EW, Mr. Donaton served as longtime-editor-turned-publisher at Advertising Age. He also penned the book "Madison & Vine: Why the Entertainment and Advertising Industries Must Converge to Survive," published by McGraw-Hill in 2004.

Brokering deals in the space is a new challenge, but one Mr. Donaton called "a very natural extension of the work" he's done.

"Branded content is really still a discipline that hasn't realized its full potential," he said.

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