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Companies Vie for Endeavor Unit

Dec 20, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Ad agency holding company Interpublic Group of Cos. has joined the race as a possible buyer of Endeavor Marketing Solutions, the corporate division of the Endeavor talent agency, agency executives said.

The Omnicom Group already has thrown its hat in the ring as a potential buyer.

None of the principals in these companies are talking, but entertainment marketing executives are wondering aloud what assets are of value for these two giant ad agency holding companies.

The potential deal appears to be less about acquiring the Endeavor division and its corporate clients and more about securing the services of Mark Dowley, who is a partner in Endeavor and runs Endeavor Marketing, according to media and talent agency and marketing executives.

“This deal is not about acquiring corporate billings,” one veteran marketing executive said. Rather, insiders say, the deal is about buying executive talent, namely Mr. Dowley.

Mr. Dowley worked as chief executive of the Interpublic Sports & Entertainment Group, an entertainment and sports marketing division, before joining Endeavor in October 2003. Executives said it is Mr. Dowley’s close association with companies such as American Express and Microsoft that makes the deal attractive.

An Endeavor spokesman had no comment. An Omnicom Group spokeswoman said the company doesn’t comment on speculation. An Interpublic spokeswoman declined to comment.

Executives questioned whether Endeavor’s ongoing clients, such as American Express and Entertainment Weekly, will even stay if a deal happens. A major selling point for Hollywood talent agencies when dealing with potential corporate clients is that as part of a talent agency, corporations can be close to the creative community and thus have access to entertainment market intelligence and relationships.

Unlike the relationships at ad agencies or those between traditional talent agency clients like actors, talent agencies’ corporate clients aren’t necessarily long-term. Endeavor’s Marketing Solutions has two-American Express and Entertainment Weekly. But the rest of Endeavor’s corporate roster-similar to that of other talent agencies that have corporate accounts-are companies that work on project-by-project bases. Endeavor has worked project-by-project with such companies as America Online, Target, Ferrari and Maserati.

Marketing executives questioned whether Omnicom Group needs to add another entertainment agency when it already has other agencies and executives that handle entertainment projects for corporate clients.

This includes Full Circle Entertainment, a TV production operation run by its president and CEO Robert Riesenberg. Omnicom also owns Davie-Brown Entertainment, a product placement agency with clients such as BMW.

Interpublic has entertainment divisions as well, such as Magna Global Entertainment, its TV producing unit, and PMK/HBH and Bragman Nyman Cafarelli, two high-powered West Coast entertainment public-relations companies.

In recent years Hollywood talent firms have expanded their business beyond actors and producers to include corporate accounts. Creative Artists Agency has clients such as Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble. William Morris Agency has General Motors and the National Football League.

Consumer product companies are increasingly using talent agencies in seeking alternative entertainment marketing to supplement their media buys on television as broadcast ratings have eroded. Additionally, TV advertisers are threatened by digital video recorders, which have ad-skipping technology.