Madison + Vine

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Last year could be considered a watershed in commerce/content convergence if for no other reason than various media outlets kicked off editorial initiatives and many an adver-tainment rogue expressed gratitude for "being legitimized." Well, you're welcome. But don't expect a free pass for 2003.

With the Internet getting its sea legs as an integral part of the ad mix and the cable companies continuing to pursue their aggressive digital TV initiatives, advertisers will continue to be challenged in harnessing an increasingly complex consumer-media paradigm.

Will personal video recorders give rise to even shriller cries of protest from such hidebound media barons as Viacom's Mel Karmazin and Turner Broadcasting's Jamie Kellner? Yeah, probably. Although it seems like a waste of time standing against a wave of consumer empowerment that appears inevitable. Network TV execs and their sales forces will increasingly feel squeezed by both clients, looking to gain the upper hand in negotiating product integration into their media buys, and talent agencies, emboldened as ever to cash in with lucrative packaging fees. Don't be surprised if a few more barbs than normal fly during the 2003 upfront.

While "Die Another Day" and "Spider-man" may have been trumpeted as case studies of how brands and tent-pole feature films can ride each other's coattails, underneath the hype, the fundamental challenge remains for 2003 and beyond: how to more effectively line up a studio's promotional horizon to those of brand marketers.

Now that Beyonce is Pepsi's new flavor of the month, will other brands follow suit? With the prospects for the record business continuing to spiral southerly, don't be surprised to see more brand tie-ins. And while neither Bruce Springsteen nor Neil Young have backed off their vows never to soil themselves with brand associations, look for increasing numbers of artists to become less and less precious about "artistic integrity" and more focused on survival.

All in all, don't expect the dam to break on the number of deals between content producers and advertisers. Momentum can only sustain if both sides dedicate themselves to finding a way to set aside the suspicion-paranoia in some instances-that lurks over all conversations between marketers and Hollywood.

Hostility notwithstanding, there's a good chance that an ad agency holding company and a Hollywood talent agency will link up in a joint venture in 2003, at least according to one high-level ad agency executive who requested anonymity. Makes one think of Burton and Taylor. Madonna and Sean Penn. We all know how those Hollywood marriages ended.

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