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Weeks an Entertaining Kind of Guy

Jun 4, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Branded entertainment is an area of the media business that’s expanding. Starcom Senior VP and Entertainment Director Tom S. Weeks thinks it has plenty of room to grow.
Mr. Weeks said the future of entertainment marketing is that clients are going to own the underlying intellectual property of the branded content they get involved with, rather than just renting it or licensing the right to be in the content.
It would almost be a return to the days when Leo Burnett Television, a predecessor of Starcom Entertainment, produced programming such as soap operas and golf tournaments for its clients.
Mr. Weeks said Starcom believes branded entertainment works as a complement to old-fashioned advertising. Entertainment marketing doesn’t have to be as focused on brand attributes, so it gives the marketer a chance to tell a brand story.
“We’re figuring that’s a way to work around some of the challenges going on in this fragmented market is to create our own content that speaks to our clients’ brand positions by embedding it within content in relevant and seamless manners,” he said.
These days, Mr. Weeks is very busy with branded entertainment projects such as the “Earn Your Stripes” program for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. The client wanted an awards show aimed at kids who are working hard and demonstrating teamwork. Instead of putting it on broadcast, the agency recommended putting it on ESPN’s Web site, where kids spend a lot of time.
Starcom produces one-minute videos on outstanding kids. This year, viewers can vote from among 10 videos. The winner gets to go to the new Espys breakfast, an event put together for Kellogg, where athletes and other celebrities will gather on the morning of the Espy Awards.
Mr. Weeks said the program has been wildly successful, with a high rate of videos called up and watched to their completion.
Entertainment marketing is an area Mr. Weeks has long wanted to get into, although he arrived via an indirect route.
“I don’t have a traditional media background. I’ve always had a passion for entertainment and
advertising. Even in high school I wanted to become Darrin Stephens,” he said.
Mr. Weeks was born in Rolla, Mo., but because his father was in the military, he lived in Alaska, Kansas, Michigan, Illinois and Virginia growing up.
“I prefer to call myself an Army child, not an Army brat,” Mr. Weeks said, admitting, “I’m sure I’ve had my moments.”
After his family settled down on the small island of Grosse Ile, Mich., Mr. Weeks went to Bowling Green State in Ohio and majored in marketing and advertising. (The school has a pop culture department, and he regrets not taking more classes there.)
He was artistic, often working with his mother, watercolorist Jan Clark, whose painting are on the walls of his office and home.
“I had some deciding to do between art and business. I felt [advertising] would be the best way to do a hybrid of that,” Mr. Weeks said. “I didn’t think I wanted to make a career of being an art director or a commercial artist, but I really wanted to stay in contact with that creative portion.”
After taking a gander at the starting salaries in the advertising business, Mr. Weeks took a job as a salesman for 3M.
He got his first advertising job at a small agency called JRS, which specialized in direct marketing, and worked his way from traffic to account management.
Mr. Weeks then followed his boss to Kemper Financial, where he worked in an in-house agency.
“You’ve got to be very careful what you sign up for, because you might end up going down a path that isn’t necessarily where you want to take your career. At that point I realized that what I wanted to do was entertainment marketing and I don’t want to live in L.A. and I don’t want to live in New York,” he said.
So he made a list of places to work in Chicago—Burnett, Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions—and wound up at promotion agency Frankel, now part of Arc, which like Starcom is owned by Publicis.
At Frankel he worked in the entertainment marketing group on the McDonald’s account and got to work on entertainment and sports properties, doing tie-ins with Universal Pictures, the Walt Disney Co, the NBA, the NFL and the Olympics.
“That was a really great experience because of the churn that McDonald’s goes through,” he said. “They have so many monthly promotions; I got a lot of exposure very, very quickly. Four years of experience felt like 12 years of experience.”
He still felt he wasn’t close enough to content creation, so he got in touch with Laura Caraccioli-Davis, who was head of the Leo Burnett program department.
“We stayed in touch for a couple of years before it actually came to fruition and there was an opening,” he said.
In his spare time, Mr. Weeks said he enjoys exercising and nutrition. “I log what I eat, I log when I exercise, and that kind of art and science of really what you put in your body to get the maximum output,” he said.
He does boxing training, too. “It’s a good way to get out my aggressions and the stress of the industry,” he said.
He also spends time drawing and enjoys spending time outdoors and traveling, particularly to New York, which he does frequently for business.

Who knew
: Mr. Weeks’ full name is Thomas Selleck Weeks. His middle name comes from his grandfather, who was actor Tom Selleck’s father’s cousin. His relatives say that makes him fifth cousin twice removed. He met the actor once on the red carpet at the Golden Globes. After getting his attention, Mr. Weeks pulled out his driver’s license as evidence they could be related. “I’m sure he thought I was some form of a stalker,” he said, but he “was friendly and took some pictures” that day.

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