"Rx for Agencies [excerpt]
Create programming designed as the optimal environment for the specific client. Agencies should bring programming to their clients which utilizes the new more efficient production technologies. These will include… programs with fully integrated cast presenter commercials and product placement, and subtler forms. This again is an integration function and one which exploits the agency's core competencies placed halfway between the world of the advertiser and the world of the talent."
—The Marketing Pulse, Sept. 30, 1993
When I was writing the Marketing Pulse back then, I distinguished in my own mind the difference between articles in which I would exhort, vs. articles in which I would predict. This was an exhortation article. I knew that all the agencies weren't going to immediately jump on this complex idea just because I tossed it out there.
This was not a new idea even then. Agencies had produced virtually all of the first television shows. That phenomenon mostly went away except for P&G soap operas, LBS (P&G/Grey's syndication company); and until Bill Cameron left, JWT and Needham were doing great Specials.
It's coming back. As reported by Jack Myers, at NATPE recently, Sir Martin Sorrell said, "Legacy media owners are very challenged. New media companies are hungry. We intend to be at the forefront of this new opportunity… [media owners] will need to understand what clients want and how they are going about achieving their individual goals." GroupM Entertainment evidently intends to compete in the creation of video content via that special edge of knowing the client advertiser's needs better than any TV production company or distribution outlet. This speaks to the "optimal environment" idea as in the first paragraph above. Peter Tortorici who heads GroupM Entertainment had been president of two broadcast networks and helped bring such shows to television as Cosby, “Third Rock From The Sun”, “Murphy Brown”, “Touched By An Angel” and many more. More recently he served as Executive Producer of “We Are The World 25 For Haiti” with Quincy Jones, Lionel Richie, and Oscar winner Paul Haggis.
How will optimal environment be determined? I suspect it will turn into a race between alternative tech/research teams to pretest program content in advance so as to be able to better predict the size and composition of the audience, and to tweak the program to get higher involvement from its audiences that rubs off as a subtle form of gratitude to the sponsor.
Speaking at the 4As annual conference on March 8, 2011, WPP client Unilever’s Chief Marketing & Communications Officer Keith Weed emphasized the importance of content, underscoring the importance of agencies becoming more heavily involved in the creation of video content. Obviously nowadays the words “video content” mean more than just big screen television, instead also including Internet and Mobile, and probably increasingly, in-store.
Publicis at SMG level, has four pillars for communications planning: Community, Conversation, Currency and Content. And content is definitely a core part of the Publicis paid, owned, earned media focus – creation of original, brand-owned content being "owned" – applicable across all media forms. Liquid Thread which used to be called ConnectiveTissue is comprised of producers and is headed by Brian Terkelsen. Under Brian’s direction the unit has already created over 200 television programs for its over 100 client brands, totaling over 8000 minutes of original content, including award-winning programs such as CoverGirl’s involvement in America’s Top Model, the M&M Characters’ roles in Entertainment Tonight. And numerous new programs created for clients such as “New You” with P&G Beauty Brands and “South Beach Diet” for Kraft.
Omnicom unit OMD, to quote Joe Mandese, "has created a new division that utilizes a strategic planning approach to develop custom media and content that fits into its clients' communications and branding goals." And he might have included ROI. Calculating that will include the advertiser's backend in the after windows, if any is negotiated, presumably varying on case by case basis according to the current zeitgeist. The new unit, called the Content Collective (good name for the business), will be producing for all screens, judging from the Flipboard deal on the New Media side, and on the TV side, the Pepsi Refresh campaign, which could be considered a form of program content because of its unique cause angle.
Although Interpublic’s Magna Global Entertainment stopped operation in September, that was done so that each IPG agency can brand its programs, not due to any slowdown in program content creation. One of MGE’s biggest ongoing program efforts was its longtime made-for-TNT movie series "Johnson & Johnson Spotlight Presentation." Recent films included "The Ron Clark Story" with Matthew Perry and "A Perfect Day" with Rob Lowe.
Emotional gratitude toward a brand, whether conscious or subconscious, brought about by content sole sponsorship (does not work as well or at all for more than one brand at a time), pays off in dollars and cents, and produces high scores in well-grounded exposed/unexposed persuasion tests. As I mentioned in a footnote to my prior blogpost, results of 28 studies proving this were published in my paper with Stu Gray and Gerry Despain in the December 2006 Journal of Advertising Research. On average, gratitude sponsorship on the Internet has 7X the persuasion effect of the ARS benchmark for 30 second TV commercials. Norm Hecht proved the same thing in TV in 5 studies for CBS, finding that gratitude-producing sole sponsor TV Specials produce 3-5X the persuasion score of the average TV commercial.
Gratitude sponsorship on TV today is a rara avis. I predict that this decade will see great growth for this form. Agencies will start out producing all sorts of content, some that generates gratitude and some which doesn't. The invisible hand of the marketplace will kill off the programming that doesn't.
Best to all,