Making Nice With Mad Ave

Hollywood honcho says collaboration is the new imperative

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%%STORYIMAGE_RIGHT%% A little more than 10 years ago, Jeffrey Katzenberg wrote a memo that served as a clarion call for change in an industry renowned more for acquiescence than for action—especially when it came to meddling with the blockbuster formula so prevalent in the entertainment industry. Jeffrey didn't buy into the idea that big box office was necessarily predicated on big budgets.

Creativity—both of the artist and yes, occasionally, the studio executive, was being subsumed by the notion of simply buying success with grandiose special effects and big names on the marquee. The "formula" was to win at the expense of creativity – namely, the story—and Jeffrey wasn't having any of it.

By the tone and message of Steve Heyer's speech earlier this month at Advertising Age's event in Beverly Hills, Coca Cola's new president isn't buying into the "business as usual" mantra either. But this time, it's about the commingling of brands and bands. It's about the merging of content and commerce at the intersection of Madison+Vine.

The shot across the bow here was being directed primarily at the ad community as Heyer advocated a move "away from spots in pods," "away from product placements that are gratuitous" and toward "ideas that elicit emotion and create connections." But, by the same token, if Hollywood is to succeed in helping to make these visceral connections between brand message and consumers, by way of content "co-creation," then the entertainment community will similarly have to transcend its transactional approach to launching product.

Successful, collaborative partnering with brands—that results, in effect, with the parties serving as co-marketers of a film, TV show or music act—will %%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% instead require a more holistic perspective. Make no mistake, effective and seamless brand integration is hard, and synchronizing that process with the media buying functionality on both sides (which is critical), is harder still—but without that effort, there will be contact without connection.

There are more similarities between advertising and entertainment than differences. Manufacturing and marketing new products is not that far removed from the process of production and then opening a movie or launching a TV series. The defining difference is the involvement on the entertainment side of the creative artists in the process and the most important consideration in marrying the two worlds is picking the right content for the right brand.

Talent agencies, by their very nature, live at the nexus of intellectual property creation and can predict, fairly reliably, what people will be watching, reading, and listening to further into the future than any other resource available to marketers. That information flow and access is what credibly provides us with the platform to connect brands into the pulse of "what's next." Yet, that doesn't keep everyone with tangential ties to entertainment from trying to go it alone. These days it seems that everyone "who knows a guy who knows a guy" in Hollywood has a shingle out offering "brand integration" services.

Amidst this increased noise level surrounding the concept of integrated marketing, William Morris Consulting will continue to quietly provide consistent and measurable entertainment-based solutions to a select group of clients— in some cases in coordination with their agency partners and in some cases, without, but always in the service of and at the direction of the client. The biggest wins,though, will come when there is a confluence of activity by all the parties—working in tandem to elevate and leverage a particular initiative. That, without question, is where cold fusion takes hold. Where Madison and Vine not only intersect, but connect.

Jim Wiatt is the president and co-CEO of the William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills.

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