Ben Silverman Raids Media Agency Starcom and Steals Major Talent

Feb 10, 2010  •  Post A Comment

By Andrew Hampp
(with contributions by Brian Steinberg)
Advertising Age

In a move bound to raise eyebrows, veteran entertainment-marketing specialist Laura Caraccioli-Davis is leaving her longtime roost at Publicis Groupe’s Starcom USA to take up with Electus, the entertainment joint venture of Barry Diller’s IAC and former NBC Entertainment executive Ben Silverman.

Ms. Caraccioli-Davis, executive VP at Starcom Entertainment, will join the fledgling company’s Los Angeles office, while Starcom Entertainment’s senior VP Tom Weeks has been elevated as the unit’s new head. In an e-mail, she said she was "very excited."

A 2002 Ad Age Media Maven, Ms. Caraccioli-Davis has headed Starcom Entertainment since she formed the group in 1998, and pioneered some of the agency’s first major entertainment projects, including Kellogg’s Pop Tarts sponsorship of the "American Idol" concert tour and Fruit of the Loom’s "Countryfest." More recently, she helped Applebee’s secure a co-starring role in "Friday Night Lights" during Mr. Silverman’s tenure at NBC and works with NBC Universal’s Women@NBCU, a think tank of top-level female marketing execs.

"When you look at Ben’s pedigree — it’s very interesting,” Ms. Carracioli-Davis told Ad Age in 2007, when the colorful Mr. Silverman was named co-chairman of NBC Entertainment. "He worked at William Morris, so he gets the talent side of the equation. Then he worked a lot with Madison Avenue, so he understands that side of the equation. I don’t think we’ve had a person who’s worked both sides in [a programming] position. He can be a friend to many.”

Mr. Silverman’s Electus could use a few friends in the ad community as it seeks sponsors for a new deal it recently inked with Yahoo, bringing in A-list talent such as "Arrested Develpoment" alums Jason Bateman and Will Arnett.

Mr. Silverman formed Electus in 2009 with the idea of putting into stronger practice an idea he has long preached: tying advertisers into extremely close relationships with particular pieces of content. Before working through a roiling tenure as co-chairman of NBC Entertainment, Mr. Silverman gained fame as founder of independent production company Reveille in March 2002. He quickly became a well-known Hollywood name who very early on realized that marketers looking for more engaging advertising could also help fund the development of new shows.

In 2003, Mr. Silverman really focused attention on the idea of having advertisers build programs, such as "The Restaurant.” American Express, Mitsubishi and Coors were all overtly featured in the show. In the past, products placed in programs through ad deals were often integrated discreetly. Mr. Silverman’s efforts have helped show that consumers will watch shows where products get center stage — although some of his efforts have sparked controversy.

Ms. Carracioli-Davis has also worked at the forefront of the trend. In 2004, she helped craft an interesting deal for the U.S. Army, then a Starcom client.

Under the terms of the deal, the History Channel ran a 22-minute show that previewed its re-airing of the popular HBO miniseries, "Band of Brothers." The Army show mixed scenes from "Brothers" with inspirational interviews with soldiers who had served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Shorter video pieces, lasting anywhere from one minute to several, were slated to appear during other History Channel programs in commercial breaks, or to help fill gaps between shows. As part of the deal, the soldiers featured in the preview offered commentary before and after various "Band of Brothers" episodes.

The maneuver was an early effort in the now-burgeoning business of creating commercials that play off the programs they support. Ads that take up elements of the shows in which they air often capture more audience attention, an important fact as digital video recorders gain more momentum among consumers. These days, networks are filled with such stuff, including the appearances of characters from programs in the commercials that surround them.#


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