SMG Builds Out Digital Creative Unit

NEW YORK While the debate over rebundling media and creative continues to smolder, some media shops are building their capabilities in digital creative.

Publicis Groupe’s Starcom MediaVest Group is leaning on Pixel, a 25-person digital creative group it has quietly built over the past four years. The unit, which had operated within Starcom USA, will now work with other SMG media shops, including MediaVest. It already works on display advertising, microsite development and strategy for Starcom clients Allstate, ESPN and Walgreens.

“We’ve seen a steady increase in clients saying when they want digital marketing solutions, they want someone to cover media and creative at the same time,” said Jeff Marshall, the Starcom USA digital managing director who is leading Pixel, which also works for non-SMG clients.

SMG is not alone in bringing creative closer to media through digital channels. Carat earlier this year merged digital and media operations. Zenith gained creative through the acquisition of Moxie Interactive. And when WPP Group bought Schematic, it aligned the digital content creative shop with GroupM.

Publicis has explored new models for melding creative, media and digital. It created the Insight Factory this year in order to better link Leo Burnett, SMG and Digitas.

Pixel got its start with fairly simple jobs: creating banner ads that mimicked print executions. It moved on to building landing pages to microsites to more extensive Web development. Last year, for example, it built out a social networking site for Petsmart.

It recently increased its creative capabilities by hiring Brook Nanberg from Avenue A/Razorfish to serve as executive creative director. The ability to work with other SMG agencies will allow Pixel to further expand, Marshall said.

“For us to realize our potential, we need to be put at a place we’ll have more clients and resources,” he said.