Media Kitchen Tries New Media Model

'Kitchen Inside' Lends Planners to Creative Shops

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NEW YORK ( -- Media Kitchen's associate media director, Rebecca Wendorff, went to work on Monday and sat down at her desk 10 feet outside of Chief Creative Officer Marty Cooke's office at SS&K. While her e-mail address reflects her physical presence at the strategic-communications agency, her paychecks are still signed by the media agency -- and everyone involved couldn't be happier.
Media Kitchen President Barry Lowenthal
Media Kitchen President Barry Lowenthal

Ms. Wendorff represents the launch of Media Kitchen's "Kitchen Inside" program, which acknowledges the changing relationship between media and creative agencies and takes steps to fill the gap between the creative that's produced and the context in which it's presented.

'Great partner'
Mr. Cooke remembers, years ago, having "media guys within the agency with nothing interesting to say"; now he has found a media agency that's a great partner and idea generator, and he wants it around all the time.

"Proximity is the biggest barrier to collaboration," said Barry Lowenthal, president of Media Kitchen. "Every creative agency will tell you that, and every media agency will dispute that. They have to because they sit separately, and this is a project that will create the best kind of collaboration."

Mr. Cooke bemoaned the way creative flow is interrupted as soon as people at SS&K call their media partner to find out how the reality of a platform will limit -- or further inspire -- the concepts they have been working on. "We need someone in that flow from the start," he said. "And that also means having someone around who can be part of that weird happenstance when a PR person starts talking to an art director in the middle of the hallway."

He sees his Kitchen Insider, Ms. Wendorff, working off the model of a planner. She'll be part of every meeting, and will help ground the agency's presentations and pitches to clients based on the platform's capabilities and cost.

'Quintessentially Media Kitchen'
So why wouldn't SS&K just hire Ms. Wendorff away from Media Kitchen?

Mr. Lowenthal is banking on Kitchen Inside partners being attracted not only to the experience and training that makes Insiders "quintessentially Media Kitchen" but also to the idea that they will have almost unlimited access to the research capabilities and brain trust at their parent company.

SS&K and Media Kitchen have worked together for years on joint accounts, such as Delta Air Lines' Song. In fact, the idea for Kitchen Inside was born over sushi in New York's financial district when Mr. Cooke and Mr. Lowenthal were getting to know each other shortly after Mr. Lowenthal joined Media Kitchen earlier this year.

The change in their relationship means that rather than using Media Kitchen's expertise for just one project, SS&K can use its Insider across all of its accounts and projects. Should SS&K and Media Kitchen find themselves pitching the same account, the Insider's access to certain resources will be curtailed until the review is over.

Six-month trial
Media Kitchen receives a flat fee in exchange for Ms. Wendorff's services. "It's the standard sort of agency compensation: salary times some sort of profit and overhead multiple," Mr. Lowenthal said.

Ms. Wendorff will be with SS&K for a six-month trial period, and will check in with Mr. Lowenthal on a weekly basis to make sure the partnership is working and that she's being used effectively for media insights, direction and counsel. Mr. Lowenthal said he hopes that at the end of the trial period SS&K "will want another person, and then we can bring Rebecca back and give her client duties here."

Mr. Cooke is much more certain: "There is no way this won't work. We need it desperately; the big thing is moving media up to the front, because where you say stuff is so important now, and we're really interested in finding new ways to use technology. At the end of six months, we'll be asking for a second one" to join Ms. Wendorff.

No other partnerships yet
Media Kitchen has no other set partnerships, but Mr. Lowenthal has talked to a few potential clients who are interested in getting their own Kitchen Insiders. "It is going to have to scale slowly," he said. "I have a lot of people who are quintessential Media Kitchen, but I'll need to replace them here after I've given them out." Ms. Wendorff has been at Media Kitchen for seven years.

"Great media people have to go out and become creatives on some level. It makes them well-rounded, interesting media thinkers," Mr. Lowenthal said.

He sees only one downside to the program: "Whatever ideas Rebecca creates while at SS&K belong to SS&K. Media Kitchen does not own them and cannot profit from them."
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