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Media agencies: Perfect production partners?

Ask an adman what he associates with Cannes, and after a checklist that includes Domain d'Ott (quite probably top of the list), the Colombe d'Or, sunshine and yachts, he’ll probably settle on this month’s advertising creative awards as the defining characteristic. The twice-yearly MIP programme fairs are unlikely to register.

But not for long. Adland is stirring in the content stakes, and at MIPTV this year one small corner of the Palais was claimed for the UK ad industry. Now I’ve written here before about how ad agencies reckon they should be flexing their creative muscles in the programming arena. Ever since agency hotshop Mother scored a triumph with its award-winning movie Somers Town, the ad industry has been eyeing content as a new financial lifeline.

True, so far the thinking is not much more sophisticated than "we can make 30-seconds, why not 30 minutes?" but there’s no doubt that ad agencies are exploring the opportunities. But the optimistic adlanders trying their luck at MIP were not from a creative ad agency, but from a media agency: the people who buy the spots and space, not the people who make the ads that go in them.

It was a team from media company MindShare that found itself peddling its own content ideas down on the Croisette. MindShare has invested in a new content division designed to create programming ideas that can either be co-developed with a client’s financial support or solely as a revenue stream for the agency.

The agency hired Simon Willis, a former producer at Channel 4, to drive the operation. And so far they’re not doing too badly. They reckon their understanding of consumers and their existing commercial relationships with broadcasters can give them and their clients the edge when it comes to generating new programme ideas, getting them on air and then selling the format around the world.

They’ve already created and co-produced a cookery series with Cineflix for Unilever and a new entertainment series for a brand that’s about to start production in seven countries in Asia.

And they’re looking for production company partners to get ideas off the ground. For production companies eager to tap into blue chip companies’ marketing budgets, media agencies like Mindshare might prove just the allies they need.

Posted 14 June 2010 by Claire Beale
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