Media Shops Try New Tricks in Branded Content

It’s a brave new world for media agencies. Shops that traditionally focused on planning and buying media increasingly are creating branded content to reach consumers across a complex landscape of digital and traditional channels.

Take, for example, Zero Dot, a new six-person unit of Starcom MediaVest Group that’s led by Jonathan Hoffman. The group creates quick turnaround content such as video and events for the likes of Procter & Gamble’s Gain detergent and Beam’s Basil Hayden’s bourbon. P&G’s Cheer also is a client.

“The work and the ideas belong to the clients, and frankly—without sounding like a Pollyanna—everybody has something to offer in that mixture,” said Hoffman, a former Campbell Mithun creative chief who joined Starcom in 2011.

Zero Dot represents one of myriad ways that media shops are jostling with their creative brethren to create new types of content in an ever-shifting marketplace. And like creative shops, media agencies are using a mix of in-house units and new outside players, including Wochit and Bungalow Horizon.

“The reason why you’re seeing all these guys pop up and become the next big thing is because every brand out there has now adopted content as part of their marketing strategy,” said Doug Scott, president of OgilvyEntertainment and former North American chairman of the Branded Content Marketing Association. Marketers are “looking to capture lightning in a bottle.”

Below are some new ways media shops hope to achieve that Holy Grail.


Jonathan Hoffman

Head of Zero Dot, a unit of Starcom MediaVest Group that creates video, events

This fledgling unit already has a few projects under its belt. For Gain, it worked with sibling LiquidThread to integrate consumers’ Facebook
information into custom videos that aired during commercial breaks of
La Voz Kids, Telemundo’s Spanishlanguage adaptation of The Voice. For Basil Hayden’s, Zero Dot organized a poker event for Instagram users with big followings—generating 3 million impressions, including social media mentions earned from Bon Appétit.


Keith McAllister

CEO of Wochit, an Israeli startup that produces topical videos for Web publishers, agencies and marketers

This 30-person company produces hundreds of videos daily around breaking news and topics that are trending online. The videos in turn become content for Web publishers like Yahoo and AOL and brands—either directly or through their agencies. Speed is Wochit’s biggest selling point, as it can churn out a video in as little as 10 minutes. That real-time quality is a big part of the appeal for Colin Kinsella, North American CEO of Mindshare, an early customer.


Robert Friedman

CEO of Bungalow Horizon, a joint venture with Horizon Media to create long-form content

Friedman, a former top executive at and AOL Time Warner, is well-positioned to create branded content for TV. With his new shingle, he also hopes to capitalize on the consumer shift toward digital and the marketing dollars that follow. As he put it, “With the disaggregation of media in effect creating smaller audiences ... you just have to be more clever about how you reach your audiences and how you syndicate a message across various media.”