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MSN-Vet Mike Siegenthaler Jumps to UM

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Mike Siegenthaler, who most recently led MSN’s Branded Entertainment and Experiences Team (BEET), is making the jump to UM to become executive vp, head of the agency’s burgeoning MOR group.

MOR (media owner relationship) is charged with helping the agency’s clients conceive and execute on large-scale, breakthrough programs that run the gamut from branded entertainment series to highly integrated, custom sponsorship packages. To do so, MOR aspires to connect with the agency’s media partners much earlier in the creative process—meeting with programmers and researchers rather than just sales executives.

Siegenthaler, a 10-year MSN veteran, started at UM last week. (MSN officials were unavailable for comment on a potential replacement.) He now oversees a four-person team tasked with serving all of UM’s U.S. offices, which includes Scott Laine, formerly of Wired magazine.

Siegenthaler, 42, who had a brief run as a media planner at J. Walter Thompson earlier in his career, said he saw a unique opportunity in returning to the agency world to help reshape how media gets bought and sold. The ideal is for his team to be included in most major planning and creative briefings, as well as new business pitches—rather than receiving a planning budget after most major strategic decisions have already been made.

“This is not a group with a ‘special’ budget that works on a ‘special’ plan,” he said. “It’s not about, ‘Send me your out-of-the-box ideas in 48 hours.’ It’s holistic. And it’s not just branded entertainment. It’s about using every tool in your box. If you want something breakthrough and completely custom, you’ve got to get in early. And everyone needs to embrace this.”

Embracing the MOR concept is so core to the UM culture that the company is placing logos on its office walls and Web site with the word “vendors” circled with a slash through it. That directive comes from CEO Matt Seiler, who first conceived the MOR approach back in 2008 when he noticed creative agencies expanding their offerings to become more integral to their clients’ business.

“I felt we needed to rethink  what a full-service agency could be,” Seiler said. “I thought there was a real opportunity [for media agencies] to be a one-stop shop because of the money we manage. You have a partnership with the media owners that isn’t being leveraged now. But media owners can really be your creative department.”

They can even be your market research department, said Carolyn Everson COO, executive vp, strategy and operations at Viacom. “Matt’s vision is to be more closely aligned with media owners to tap into our creativity and our consumer insights,” she said. “We have expertise in certain markets. For example, we know millennials, men or kids.”

Everson said that most media companies are glad to ditch the vendor/buyer relationship. “McCann is looking to change the model—that is really inspiring to work with,” she said. “It’s refreshing, frankly, to have a media agency think about us in this way.”