Shows such as Lux Radio Theatre and Kraft Music Hall will mean
little to young ad executives of the 21st century. But these radio shows
from the 30s serve as a reminder of a time when advertising agencies
could, legitimately, claim to rule the airwaves.
Now history looks set to come full circle, with J. Walter Thompson in
New York - the agency that pioneered the development of radio and
television programmes for advertisers - making the first step towards
reappropriating some of its showbiz heritage.
The agency has formed an exclusive alliance with the Hollywood
entertainment company, Brillstein-Grey Management, and its parent, Basic
Entertainment - the company which represents, among others, Nicholas
Cage, Courtney Cox, Brad Pitt and Sylvester Stallone. It has produced
hit US shows including The Sopranos, Just Shoot Me and Politically
Incorrect. The company also has a joint venture with Sony to develop
programming for the Columbia Tristar Television Group, and a literary
management company whose clients include Martin Amis and Elmore
JWT has formed the alliance through its new agency marketing division,
fJWT - the f stands for content. The new division is headed by Marina
Hahn, who joined JWT last May as executive vice-president for strategy
and entertainment from the William Morris Agency. JWT will pay Basic for
its work with clients and receive a cut of the revenue from projects
that reach fruition.
The move is intended to enable JWT to improve its offering beyond
traditional advertising, sponsorship and celebrity endorsement.
Unusually for WPP, the JWT-Basic alliance is not equity-based.
As ever the key issue will be the intellectual independence of the fJWT
offer. But Hahn is adamant that JWT will recommend the most appropriate
client solution if the talent rests somewhere else.
’We chose Basic because it is not a traditional talent agency,’ she
’It doesn’t operate in the narrow context of its own clients; it is
neutral, which means it can access any talent, giving us the broadest
access to the creative pipeline.’
There are seven projects in the pipeline, including one for
Warner-Lambert’s Listerine brand. Basic Entertainment is also expected
to play a role in new online opportunities developed by JWT’s internet
advertising arm, @JWT.
’This is about big ideas and the possibilities are endless, from
advertisers becoming partners to the networks and owning programming, to
doing a radio show or a book deal,’ Hahn says.
It is nearly ten years since Coca-Cola stunned the industry when it
bypassed traditional ad agencies to appoint the Creative Artists Agency
to make its commercials. Yet there is a feeling that advertising
agencies have been slow to adapt to the changing communications
But the merger between AOL and Time Warner has rammed home the message
of media convergence and there is a feeling that if agencies want to
stay ahead, they need to come up with something to supplement, if not
replace, the 30-second TV commercial.
The coffee chain, Starbucks, has set up its own music production company
to make the music it plays in its stores, and it has signed a
promotional deal with Oprah Winfrey. If the response JWT has had so far
is anything to go by, advertisers will need little persuading.