While it is no longer breaking news that WME Entertainment is joining forces with a select group of marketing executives and companies to create a new company ‘Lverage’; a recently released article will likely have some traditional ad agency execs on edge. Andrew McMain’s Media Week post begins: “Ari Emanuel wants your lead agency status.”
As the entertainment landscape continues to evolve and content continues to be consumed across multiple screens, platforms and channels (see Connected TV), the value of traditional content has diminished leaving marketers with the challenge of the century — how to target and engage the new consumer in this overly segmented and scattered landscape. While the creative in my blood always wants to believe that “content is king”, I believe it is the execution of that content that provides the most value. Just as Napster, Acquisition, Limewire and Kazaa turned the music industry on its head, Netflix, Hulu, YouTube and GoogleTV have begun to do the same to Hollywood.
Having recently had the opportunity to sit down with Showtime CEO, Matthew Blank, I was privileged enough to have the opportunity to hear first hand what our industry was like when first subscribing to premium content meant a cable guy coming to your home to literally cross a few wires – quite the contrast to today’s instant access. Mr. Blank provided insights into “where it all began” and spoke of the upcoming release of Showtime’s on demand platform, “Showtime Anytime” with unlimited access to content, anywhere, anytime.
With the entire entertainment industry in a stage of exploration in terms of content and with its distribution and business models being examined daily, Ari Emanuel has every reason to believe he is headed in the right direction. In my last post, I quoted Bob Jeffrey, Worldwide Chairman and CEO of JWT discussing the need for innovation. I also quoted Jason Kilar, CEO of Hulu talking about this new “golden age of media”. What could be more innovative and progressive than a company combining talent and entertainment roots with brand marketing expertise and interactive capabilities? Today, execution rules and pairing the expertise of advertising strategy with entertainment and creative development is required make an impact for nearly any and all brand campaigns. It still remains to be seen if Lverage will find the right balance of integrating these important disciplines.
“Emanuel, co-CEO of WME, has set his sights on replacing, not supplementing ad agencies, said sources who’ve discussed the venture with him. To that end, he has surrounded himself with partners like former Omnicom Group vice chairman Michael Birkin who knows the ad game and is well connected with marketers.
Birkin is chief strategist for Red Peak Group, a New York-based specialist in brand consulting and experiential marketing that WME acquired for Lverage, said sources. Red Peak’s CEO is Jay Lenstrom, former CEO of Omnicom’s Radiate Group. WME also acquired the Red Interactive Agency in Santa Monica, Calif….” (MediaWeek.com, 10/28/10)
Contrary to Mr. Emanuel, I certainly do not forsee Lverage or similar companies completely replacing traditional ad agencies.
While many competitive agencies have tried, many unsuccessfully, to create this integrated entertainment marketing company of the future, most have yet to commit in ways Ogilvy and a few others have in their respective departments. Even with all the negative “WME agency rivals [who] immediately interpreted this as WME throwing in the towel and selling off its marketing department,” if executed correctly Ari and Lverage have a decent chance for success. After all Ari always has his clients like Vinny Chase to fall back on.