Digitas Launches Third Act

BOSTON Publicis Groupe’s Digitas has entered the content development arena, opening The Third Act, a brand content practice designed to help clients leverage new and emerging opportunities to create and distribute media content.

“As traditional production and distribution hierarchies erode, video is set to explode into exciting new ways of reaching audiences — rapidly following where music has already blazed a trail,” said Mark Beeching, Digitas’ global chief creative officer. “This explosion opens up infinite new possibilities for brands to play.”

The unit is headquartered in New York and operates as an autonomous division under the leadership of svp, managing director Stephanie Sarofian and vp, group director John McCarus. Third Act will tap into Digitas’ resources in Chicago and at its Boston headquarters as needed.

In a related move, Digitas will launch a digital content event, the Digital Content NewFront ’08, on June 5 in New York. Content creators, producers, distributors and agency execs are expected to attend.

With the formation of Third Act, Digitas follows a recent industry trend in which shops have attempted to more closely merge content and commerce. Another recent example in Digitas’ competitive set is i-shop AKQA, which this month said it launched a film division in London to craft and distribute digital programming for clients.

There are, however, dissenting voices.

For example, Barbarian Group CEO Benjamin Palmer in an Adweek column warns of the pitfalls of agencies rushing toward content development. He writes: “Most of the time, something that’s going to make a perfect TV or Web show, proper video game or film is going to be an idea that doesn’t inherently play directly in line with the brand story (like, let’s say, insurance.) Because, what makes a great show, game or film? Artistic merit, humanity, story, talent. These occasionally overlap with marketing demographic, industry sector and brand penetration, but more often than not, they do not.”