Y&R, NBC mull massive linkup

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Young & Rubicam and NBC are working on a partnership that would give the agency's clients integrated marketing opportunities combining programming and promotions across NBC properties worldwide.

That would include the No. 1-rated broadcast network, plus the media company's cable networks and online services.


Discussions have reached the highest levels, with Peter Georgescu, Y&R chairman-CEO, and Bob Wright, president of NBC, attending at least one of the meetings.

"We've had good discussions," Mr. Georgescu told Advertising Age. He characterized them as "advanced" but declined to discuss specifics.

The Y&R chief said he also has approached other media companies about forging similarly stronger ties.

The objective of the discussions is to move the agency/network relationship beyond the normal buying and selling of commercial time. Though ad agencies and networks often strike promotional and programming deals for big advertisers, Mr. Georgescu is seeking more than simply one or more special deals for his clients; he wants a new way of doing business that could help all of Y&R's clients.

Y&R spent $480 million last year buying commercial time on network TV for Ford Motor Co.'s Lincoln-Mercury division; Sears, Roebuck & Co.; AT&T Corp.; and Colgate-Palmolive Co., among others.


"The agency business is not just about selling the lowest cost-per-thousand [viewers] to clients. That's bad for media and bad for clients," Mr. Georgescu said.

In approaching NBC, Y&R selected a company eager to experiment.

"NBC has been looking for some time for a way to combine all of their properties for advertisers," said a media executive familiar with the discussions. "Companies have used the S-word before--synergism--and those kinds of deals are few and far between. But with NBC and Georgescu, you've got folks who are out-of-the-box thinkers."

Besides the broadcast network and its owned-and-operated TV stations, NBC owns or co-owns cable's CNBC, MSNBC, A&E, History Channel, Prime Network, seven regional SportsChannels, Prism, NewSports, Bravo, American Movie Classics, Independent Film Channel and Romance Classics.

Internationally NBC owns Canal de Noticias, NBC Europe, CNBC Europe, NBC Asia and CNBC Asia.

Network executives are currently working on proposals to bring to a future meeting with Y&R. Those involved in the discussions include Neil Braun, president of NBC Network; Andrew Capone, NBC's senior VP-marketing; and Marty Yudkovitz, president of NBC Interactive Media; and as Ed Vick, chairman-CEO of Y&R Advertising.


"The media business and the agency business have grown too far apart over the last 10 to 15 years," Mr. Georgescu said. "We needed media as purely media, and networks looked at agencies as just a pure conduit to clients. We need to optimize our ability to impact customers in the marketplace by building new bridges of understanding and collaboration with the networks."

Y&R has developed what Mr. Georgescu calls "value-added" opportunities for clients with networks, including NBC, in the past. Earlier this year, for example, Fox ran a Valentine's Day watch-and-win contest for Dr Pepper Co. on "Melrose Place" and "Beverly Hills 90210."

Copyright September 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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