TBWA’s Media Arts Lab Rebundles For Apple

TBWA Worldwide is bringing media planners and creative agency staffers together again for key client Apple in what the Omnicom Group agency describes as a pilot project designed to explore new ways of connecting brands with consumers.

The 50-person group, dubbed the Media Arts Lab, includes nine media planners from sister shop OMD; the rest are a mixture of creatives, account planners and account leaders from TBWA\Chiat\Day. All 50 work on Apple and will relocate to a separate building adjacent to TBWA\C\D’s office in Playa del Rey, Calif. Although the focus initially is on Apple, TBWA hopes to eventually adopt this working model for all its clients.

James Vincent, global managing director on the estimated $250 million global Apple account, will lead Media Arts Lab as president, while Apple creative director Duncan Miller will be executive creative director. Vincent will report to North American president Robert LePlae, though the lab stems from a global initiative by worldwide chairman and chief creative officer Lee Clow.

“Words and pictures are still the tools. We just have to be much more creative in the way we tell stories and where we tell them,” said Clow, who defines media arts as an “understanding of every touch point a brand has and then the artistry of using that to deliver a message.” He added, “It’s just becoming more complicated. But it’s the same business we’ve always been in.”

Apple was chosen because the Cupertino, Calif.-based client “seemed to be the perfect lab for pushing the boundaries of all this stuff,” given its penchant for embracing change, said Clow.

Said Vincent, “It makes sense that we take Apple and experiment with the future with them and for them. What better partner is there to try to figure out how to do what we do better?”

Also, by housing the group in a separate building, the client will be insulated from another account, Sony PlayStation, whose parent competes with Apple in electronics, Clow acknowledged. “Both brands expect and want and deserve their security and autonomy,” he said. For example, fingerprint identification will be required to access the new lab, which will share space with architect Frank Gehry next door.

The media execs will remain OMD staffers and still report to OMD West managing director Monica Karo. But rather than sit with OMD in TBWA\Chiat\Day’s Playa del Rey office, as they had, they’ll be attached to the new unit. The move also frees up space in the crowded Playa del Rey office, where some 800 staffers now sit. In fact, the agency also is moving its broadcast production operation into another part of the Gehry building.

At first blush, the concept of reuniting media planners with their creative agency brethren seems familiar and harkens back to the days before the rise of media shops and unbundling, said Arthur Anderson of Morgan Anderson Consulting in New York. The proliferation of media channels today, however, cries out for something more.

“The difference is, media strategy/media planning is the new creative kid on the block, and in some ways, it’s more important than art and copy,” Anderson said. “I think this is an example where media strategy and media buying really is a creative discipline. And it’s much more about the customer.”

Clow agrees and says the location of the message at times is the creative idea, pointing to a vertical soccer billboard that TBWA created on the side of a building in 2003 for Adidas in Tokyo and the painting of a soccer scene on the ceiling of a train station in Cologne, Germany, for this month’s World Cup, also for Adidas.

The pilot will serve as a model for how all TBWA’s 258 offices develop ideas, and in that sense the separate location is moot, as Clow hopes the dynamic of planners, creatives and account hands working together will become part of TBWA’s fabric. “We’re going to challenge the whole network ultimately to the number of things we’re doing,” he said. “We want the entire network to embrace everything we learn.”

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