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Magna Entertainment Fades to Black

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NEW YORK Interpublic's Magna division has shuttered its entertainment unit Magna Global Entertainment, which had most recently had been headed by Bill Hilary in New York.

The move comes as Magna has been repositioned by the holding company as a unit that supports the efforts of IPG media shops with research and marketplace intelligence gathering. When it was formed in 2000, Magna was conceived as a division whose primary mission was to negotiate the prices of network ads on behalf of the two biggest IPG media shops, Initiative and Universal McCann.

But seeing that clients were increasingly wanted alternative ways to get their messages to consumers, Magna formed an entertainment division that in its heyday produced hundreds of hours of programming, some of it award winning, on broadcast and cable networks for more than a dozen sponsors. Notable examples were the telefilms, The Ron Clark Story, with Matthew Perry, and A Perfect Day, with Rob Lowe, that were produced for TNT under the Johnson & Johnson Spotlight Presentation banner.

Hilary joined Magna's entertainment division as president in 2006, coming from BBC America, where he was president and CEO. He couldn't be reached for comment.

A representative at Mediabrands, the IPG media management arm, said the holding company is now taking a different approach to branded content where individual agencies are taking on most of the responsibility for addressing the content needs of their clients, with some assistance, as needed, from other specialty shops within IPG.

"Mediabrands believes that branded content is an integral part of the brand strategy and communications planning process," the rep said. "Many of our key clients are extremely active in this space, therefore this capability is embedded into the fabric of our core agencies, Initiative and Universal McCann."

The rep cited Initiative's Innovations and Entertainment units, led by executive vice presidents Jason Meil and John Nuzzi, respectively, which conceptualize and execute brand integrations for clients.

At UM, branded entertainment experts are embedded into the global teams of Sony, Microsoft, MasterCard, Verizon and J3, among others.

IPG also operates the youth marketing and entertainment agency Translation that partners with individual IPG shops on certain projects, the rep said. Additionally, Sandbox, a division of Mediabrands run by Wayne Fletcher, is also a player in this space, the rep said.

Mediabrands also has a strategic alliance with talent agency Endeavor Marketing to develop content.