In the race to own branded entertainment, BBDO's David Lubars believes storytellers will win, and he's betting that a media agency player with Hollywood roots will put his shop ahead of the competition.
This week Teddy Lynn becomes the first director of content at BBDO, New York. At that level, he'll work closely with Lubars, the agency's chief creative officer for North America, on both new business pitches and existing client briefs.
BBDO has had success in branded content with the likes of Starbucks, General Electric, and HBO. But from Lubars' perspective, the agency's branded content work has been almost incidental. "Catch as catch can," he says. Lynn's main charge is to make marketers take the option more seriously from the get-go.
"There's a way to do it up front," says Lubars, who describes Lynn as "the missing link" in that equation.
The Lynn hire underscores the reality that as marketers question traditional forms of advertising, branded content has gained appeal, particularly amid the proliferation of new media channels.
Lynn's varied background itself illustrates the many paths to branded entertainment. The son of the director of My Cousin Vinny (Jonathan Lynn) and a psychoanalyst, he started out as an associate producer or co-producer of feature films, like 1998's Pleasantville. After returning to school to get an MBA, he launched a marketing/entertainment consultancy that became the foundation for creative shop Arnold's foray into branded content. More recently, Lynn was an executive creative director in the content and experiences group at Universal McCann, working on Microsoft's Bing, Windows 7, and Xbox Kinect.
"What we found at UM in the last couple of years is you need the right balance" between ads and content, Lynn says. "Ads performed better when they were next to content.
"The UM experience also taught the 38-year-old London native the value of being able to measure the success of a branded content effort, be it a program, vignette, or integration into a TV show.
So why leave a plum position at a media shop to join another creative agency? Like Lubars, Lynn believes that storytelling, as championed by creative shops, is all that matters. As he puts it, "A lot of the business has become commoditized, and a good idea never can."
And, from afar, Lynn had envied BBDO's leadership status with major marketers like AT&T. The clincher, though, was the chance to be a key lieutenant in the shop's 185-person creative department, rather than someone building yet another separate content group.
That integration of Lynn into the shop will be key to Lubars' plan to make branded content more than just an afterthought for BBDO and its clients. And Lubars believes he found the right person for the job. "He's a firecracker," Lubars says. "He has done the stuff. He's not a bullshitter."