|Dieter Abt's latest venuture with Meteor is Pliq, a mobile-content creator and distributor.
Why you need to know him: Mr. Abt's Los Angeles branded-entertainment company has gone from exclusively representing Volkswagen's product-placement efforts in the U.S. to developing branded-entertainment projects for all of Havas' clients to handling product-placement deals for Universal Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures and Paramount Pictures. It recently integrated Louis Vuitton into Ang Lee's next film, "Lust, Caution." It also launched Pliq, a mobile-content creator and distributor, through which it has a deal with Reveille, the TV-production company fronted by the prolific producer Ben Silverman ("The Office," "Ugly Betty," "The Biggest Loser").
Credentials: Mr. Abt was the owner and chairman of Berlin TV-production company Meteor Productions before opening Meteor Worldwide in the U.S. in 2003 in order to oversee product-placement efforts for Volkswagen. Prior to that, Mr. Abt was chairman of J. Lyons Catering Co. in London, arranging and overseeing VIP events from the Wimbledon Tennis Tournament and the Ryder Cup to private functions for England's royal family. He is also the author of three books, including the best-seller "Funeral on Ice," which was published in 2001.
You recently launched Pliq to produce branded entertainment and other programming for mobile phones. Why get into the mobile space? "Pliq is the next step to satisfy clients on all sides. People who work with us have been looking for us to do this. We feel that the model of premium content and paying for content is not sufficient, and that mobile content has to be brand-sponsored to make it more attractive to the consumer. What we try to do as a branded-entertainment company is put the brands together with the content."
What kind of content will you launch with? "We will produce [through White Flower, Meteor's in-house production entity] our own content, like telenovelas, behind-the-scenes content for music stuff or singers and groups on tour, so we keep people updated through the cellphone. We have 10 shows that will be launched in the next couple of months as part of our Pliq Flick series. We have a satirical cartoon, a couple of TV soaps, five-minute soaps, a couple of short horror series, a stand-up comedy competition show. We have also done a deal with Ben Silverman [which will repurpose shows such as 'The Restaurant,' '25 Million Dollar Hoax,' 'Meet Mr. Mom,' 'The Club' and 'Adrenaline X']." Mr. Abt said Nike, Dannon and Volkswagen are exploring mobi-series.
Why partner with Ben Silverman? "He's a leader in TV and reality TV, and it just makes sense to work with him. We had been working with him before on product placement. He's also a friend of mine."
Which advertisers are signing on to be integrated into the content? "There's nothing much I can say yet. It's all contractual stuff. But we're talking to all the Havas brands first. We will have the Havas brands."
Why should brands put content on mobile phones? "Because if there's one thing that's true about the mobile phone, it's what will you not leave home without? It's the mobile phone. You will, more and more, live your life on it. If you're at an airport and want to catch up with something, your life will be more based on mobile information and mobile entertainment. When you're on the road or on the go, you will always have that with you. If you think that Pepsi-Cola spent a couple million dollars to produce a documentary [Mountain Dew's "First Descent"], other brands will [produce content] for cellphones. It's much more cost-effective. It varies from $5,000 to $200,000 per episode [for a mobile series]."
We always hear about the capabilities of everyone else's phones overseas, but when will the technology finally take off in the U.S.? "We are two years behind Asia and nine to 12 months behind Europe. In America, the technology will suddenly rapidly approach the other markets."
What will that content look like? "You have to adapt [the content] for the small screen. You have to produce it differently. You can't have 15 people on the screen, for instance. You can have action, but as long as you film it in viewable ways. There's no way that you'll have movies on the cellphone or a half-hour show. It must be a shorter form of content. Like five to six minutes. The same with advertising. You won't have 30-second ads. You'll have 10- to 15-second ads."
How will consumers be able to watch it? "We will sell the shows worldwide to networks around the world. But we will have our content not just on the providers, but also on our own web portal."
How will you measure success? "We are working on a formula for brands to calculate that based on how many hits they get. It's a little based on Nielsen ratings. You can do that with a mobile phone. The cellphone has the same principals as TV. You know how many people are watching it. With mobile entertainment, people have to opt in. They just don't get the content. We'll know the demographics and where they are. And you can follow up with direct marketing. It'll be a very helpful tool for a brand to market their products. All that's more difficult with product placements. How can you measure that? How do you measure a movie that costs $5 million or $300 million?"
A lot of other companies have talked about doing this type of thing before, but haven't really taken off. What makes you different? "Companies who did this three four years ago were too early. The time is right now. Look at YouTube and MySpace and how those have taken off. Now if I missed my 'Desperate Housewives,' I watch it the next day online. The time is now right for these kinds of ways to market products and entertain people in all areas."
There's still a lot of confusion out there as to what branded entertainment is. How do you define it? "I define it as when you have entertainment and it is sponsored by brands and you have product placement in it.
Which branded-entertainment projects have you recently liked? Mr. Abt said he liked BMW's mobile series in China, in which the automaker enabled users to download exclusive content to their phones, as well as customize a 3-Series, learn about the car's features and call to set up an appointment for a test drive. It ended up generating 2 million page views from about 500,000 customers.
Which haven't you liked? "I haven't seen much that I hate. But when you overcrowd people with too much brand messaging, then it's not fun. You have to be discreet on the brand's involvement."
What's on TiVo? "'Boston Legal,' 'The Office,' 'Dexter,' 'Desperate Housewives,' 'Little Britain,' 'The Catherine Tate Show,' 'Access Hollywood' and 'Entertainment Tonight.' My No. 1 show is 'Ugly Betty.' I wouldn't go anywhere without watching 'Ugly Betty.'"
What's on your iPod? "A variety of music. Everything from classical to hip-hop to reggae. Anything which is melodic. The Rolling Stones. I didn't think I would ever say the Beatles, but I like the Beatles now."
What do you do on your free time? "I exercise, swim a lot, watch TV, read. I do a lot of traveling. I'm in Europe every six weeks."
What's your favorite place you've visited? "Switzerland. That's where I'm from. Other than that, the Caribbean. Mustique."