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CORRECTED 8:31 p.m. PT Nov. 27, 2007
Guy McCarter, who was director of entertainment at Omnicom’s media buying agency OMD since its U.S. inception in 1999, took on the role of managing director of Green Room Entertainment when Omnicom restructured its branded entertainment offerings this year. Part of Omnicom Media Group’s entertainment and sports group, Green Room Entertainment offers branded entertainment consultancy, negotiation and activation services to Omnicom clients as well as some of its own independent clients in TV, the Internet, film, music, wireless content and video games. Among the branded entertainment deals McCarter has orchestrated is Pepsi’s upcoming integration into “Quarterlife,” the MySpace Web series from “thirtysomething” creators Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick that recently was picked up by NBC. McCarter spoke with The Hollywood Reporter’s marketing reporter Gail Schiller.
The Hollywood Reporter: Can you tell me about some of your recent branded entertainment deals for clients?
Guy McCarter: We managed an Oprah Winfrey partnership for Lowe’s Home Improvement. Anytime “The Oprah Winfrey Show” is doing any kind of renovation or home building, Lowe’s is the featured supplier for those segments. The deal was done directly with the production company, Harpo Studios, and there’s actually no media piece to that. The integrations started in the beginning of 2006, so we’re in Year 2. The deal is renewed on an annual basis. We have content integration in “Quarterlife,” and we have exposure on Quarterlife.com, the social-networking site. Pepsi will be featured in multiple Web episodes and a two-episode arc on NBC. Pepsi is in the story line, and our integrated episodes will air before the end of the year. We’re integrated into the Quarterlife.com site, with Pepsi giving consumers the opportunity to design their own cans. The site is there to help promote the arts and to help creative people get a start in their creative pursuits.
THR: Did you need to negotiate a separate deal with NBC because the show will air on the network as well?
McCarter: We didn’t need to negotiate a separate deal, but we knew there was the potential for NBC to pick up the show, so it was factored into our valuation.
THR: Any other recent branded entertainment initiatives?
McCarter: We did a deal with Nivea and “The Tyra Banks Show” when Nivea was launching the Goodbye Cellulite cream earlier this year. The audience members used the anti-cellulite cream for about six weeks. We did an episode where the results were shown. The integration dramatically impacted sales. We also did another Lowe’s deal around (Fox’s) “Night at the Museum” this time last year promoting holiday gift cards. We’re also in our fifth integration deal with (CBS’) “The Amazing Race” and Travelocity, which gives away these major trips to the people who come to pit stops first at the end of every episode. And then we integrate the gnome, which is their corporate icon into challenges. Last year, we extended it with a digital travel game that featured the gnome on CBS.com and Travelocity.com. We also did a green initiative with Travelocity and the film “Evan Almighty” that promoted Travelocity’s carbon offset program and a consumer-generated project that gave amateur filmmakers the opportunity to create short films based on Visa’s “Life Takes” campaign.
THR: Do you work closely with the media buyers at OMD and PHD or with Robert Riesenberg’s Full Circle Entertainment, which I understand is also a part of OMG’s sports and entertainment group?
McCarter: For TV deals that are media leveraged, that need a media spend behind them, we’ll work with the investment teams at OMD and PHD to get those deals done. But a lot of the deals we’ll do are film deals or music-based deals that don’t involve media buying, and then obviously we don’t need to work with the buyers. At Green Room Entertainment, we provide consultancy and strategy, but we’re not producing our own content. That’s where Robert (Riesenberg) lives. When Robert is taking out a property, we get a first look. We’ll take it to our clients and, more broadly, all the clients of OMD and PHD. We’re the conduit to expose the opportunities to, and then we’ll negotiate them on behalf of our clients.
THR: Where are you from originally, where did you attend college and what was your career path before becoming director of entertainment at OMD in 1999?
McCarter: I am from Los Angeles, and I studied English at UC Berkeley. I spent two years at Grey Advertising as a media planner. Then I joined BBDO as a media planner in 1985. I was a vp and then a senior vp at BBDO, which had a programming unit that was actually started by Robert Riesenberg. When Robert left back in, I would say, 1995, I made the move from media strategy into that program development group, which was in the media department of BBDO. When OMD started, the media departments of advertising agencies BBDO, DDB and TBWA/Chiat/Day were rolled into OMD, and I brought that entertainment capability from BBDO into OMD.
THR: Where do you see branded entertainment headed in the future?
McCarter: I see more and more moving to the Web as more and more original content is being produced. I think there are opportunities for both brand integration and for custom content to be developed for brands. If you look at what’s happening this year with the broadcast networks — where they’re effectively sold out of commercial time due to declining ratings — my sense is the networks may look more closely at doing straight integration deals. I also think activating around entertainment properties is something that we’re doing more and more. Our clients are definitely interested in how they can leverage an entertainment deal to increase sales.
THR: What impact do you think the writers strike will have on branded entertainment deals?
McCarter: There are more deals that are done in nonscripted shows than in scripted shows, so from where we sit there’s not too much that fell out of bed. But we definitely were in conversations on some scripted shows. If the writers strike ends in the next couple of weeks and everything goes back into production, I think we’ll look at TV integration deals just like we have been.
THR: What happens to those advertisers that did do integration deals with scripted shows?
McCarter: That didn’t happen to us, but you just have to protect yourself for that possibility when you do the deal. There’s always a potential for something not to happen. Contractually, you just need to be in the position to not have to pay for anything that ultimately doesn’t go on air. If it’s part of a media buy, then you either negotiate it so that if it doesn’t happen you’re not responsible for the media commitment, or if you didn’t have that protection, then you’ve got to spend the media dollars. But most of these deals now are media plus an integration fee. You’re not going to pay an integration fee until you know something’s aired.
THR: What do you think will happen if the strike does last for an extended period of time?
McCarter: There are a lot of other distribution opportunities, so these branded entertainment deals are going to follow where their content goes. Advertisers will look at even more nonscripted and digital opportunities.
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