A New Creative Process

Feb 7, 2005  •  Post A Comment

Like many media agencies, Starcom MediaVest Group faced a conundrum about a year ago. The agency had been carving out a leadership role in the emerging media space and was advising clients on increasing their presence in video-on-demand, broadband, wireless and high-definition TV.

But media agencies don’t create ads, and creative shops are more traditional, focused on 30-second spots and print ads rather than VOD, interactive TV and broadband.

So Starcom constructed a new division called SMG Access, whose role is to develop creative for these new and emerging media forms that don’t fall neatly into existing categories and that often cross over from content to ads and back again. The media agency hired Tom Tercek, a former MTV producer who has also launched a number of international cable and satellite networks, as president of the new division, which he has shepherded in stealth mode for the past year.

Venture Unveiled

Now Starcom is taking the wraps off a new venture that sits at the intersection of media and creative. SMG Access is working with a half-dozen clients, ranging from marketers to cable programmers, and plans to debut later this spring the projects it’s been quietly molding for the past year.

“I think it all falls under the headline of there being a digital explosion in U.S. households,” Mr. Tercek said. “This explosion of new technology demands a new form of creativity. Six years ago, DVRs [and] iPods didn’t exist. The consumer-controlled era is upon us. That’s caused a technology revolution and that’s changed the ad business from an exposure-driven communications economy to an engagement-driven economy.”

Starcom’s work in this era is emblematic of a trend that’s just beginning to percolate in the advertising business. Media agencies need to offer more to clients. The research, insights and advice on new media also need to be paired with the ability to create new forms of ads and content. Along these lines, digital production agency Brand New World in Alexandria, Va., announced at the recent National Association of Television Program Executives conference a partnership with Magna Global Entertainment to develop creative for new platforms. Similarly, media agency Carat Digital has loosely aligned with new production company Urban Content to develop new ad content.

“The media agencies have all the education and measurement, but what they are lacking is the middle piece,” said Alan Schulman, chief creative officer for Brand New World. “They have all of the upfront knowledge of distribution and are out there educating their clients about the platforms. Then, they have the back-end, the measurement.”

What’s lacking though is the ability to initiate the creative, he said. That’s where his new alliance or an SMG Access comes in.

In the VOD and broadband realm, for instance, messages can take on a variety of new forms beyond 30-second spots bookended at the start or stop of a show, Mr. Tercek said. SMG Access will provide creative solutions for these new environments, such as additional content for a series distributed on VOD-reviews, highlights and other information about related product categories, packaged into a small regular show that complements an existing show. Other content that might be developed for broadband includes contests, festivals, information, reviews or trends.

“The focus is on content creation, either independently on behalf of [the] client or together with partner networks-in which case we would produce together with them,” Mr. Tercek said. “Ultimately, it’s about producing a new form of advertising-[one that] is more message/information-based-and that means in some instances, content creation.”

What Starcom won’t do is produce 30-second spots or aim to usurp the business of traditional creative shops. In fact, the work that Starcom, Magna Global, Brand New World and Carat are doing to fashion new divisions and alliances is a recognition that media and creative need to be more closely aligned.

While Mr. Tercek declined to reveal the names of the clients or the details of the projects, he said SMG Access will roll out several “original properties” in the next few months. Mr. Schulman said to expect to see new content from the Magna Global partnership in the third quarter. The alliance is with Interpublic’s Magna Global Entertainment to produce both short-form interstitial and long-form brand-based content for VOD, broadband, wireless and in-store retail networks. Mr. Schulman is the former creative director with Interpublic media agency Universal McCann, where he oversaw new media.

Interactive Ad Models

Carat’s new media guru and Executive VP Mitch Oscar has brought Urban Content into the interactive think tank his agency created late last year to brainstorm new interactive ad models.

Bernard Urban, who served as a creative director in the relationship marketing department with McCann Erickson Worldwide, formed Urban Content in New York in early January as a production shop for new media.

“Everyone in the room is talking about delivering the content, but no one is talking about how to make the content or how content will have to change,” he said.

One example of new content could be a long-form VOD ad produced by a pet food manufacturer on how to raise a puppy, Mr. Urban said, adding that consumers could link to it from a traditional ad.