Forget Kabbalah: “Media agnosticism” the new Hollywood religion – and its unions’ newest Satan

I first noticed Hollywood’s newest faith in last Friday’s Daily Variety, in a story by Mike Fleming about a talent agency’s new role as matchmaker for Madison Avenue: “ICM gets into brand biz” index-img.jpg

One of the Big Five talent agencies, ICM, had just launched “a global branded entertainment division,” and hired The Weinstein Company‘s Lori Sale to run it.

“ICM will not represent brands, but the agency will work with them, creating matches for the talent and intellectual property which the agency does rep,” Sale said. “We will be agnostic, working with any brand, its talent agency or media-placement agency that represents it.”

Then it happened again today, when the former head of the WB network, Jordan Levin, announced his new venture, Generate – a content development company for TV, film and new media. AFC-Brands-Large.gif

“We’re trying to apply a platform-agnostic approach,” he said. “We’ll hear the idea first and then decide if it’s better suited for broadband, mobile, TV or movies.”

Seized by agnostiphobia, I whirled around only to see that, yes, advertising has a new-found quasi-religious skepticism about media, too.

Do I bring this all up to, William Safire-like, rail agains the misuse of “agnosticism” and demand that media types start using the more, fitting and more apt “impartiality”?

Please. Long ago, we Fishbowlers wrote off any chances that Tinstletown might adopt correct usage when it comes to language. (These are the people who gave us “ankled” after all.)

No; we mention this agency agnosticism to explore what it means when a talent agency decides to get into representing the interests of brands while simultaneously representing the interests of talent. The two interests are not necessarily at loggerheads, but are they certainly aren’t always aligned.

To wit, product placement was up 30% last year. The Writers Guild and Screen Actors Guilds are livid about “implied endorsements” and “stealth commercials” – free promotions for brands through shows and films that are tantamount to uncompensated endorsements by their memberships.

Of course, in the case of the actors, they’ve no one to blame but themselves: ICM’s worship of Madison Avenue’s golden calfs comes four years after SAG voted down a decades-old rule requiring that actors be represented by a guild-franchised agencies. Having relinquished oversight over most of the town’s major agencies by refusing to revamp its master franchise agreement with talent agencies, the actor’s guild essentially removed itself from the debate.

Until they reopen the issue, the actors will have to get back to doing what they’re best at: Grandstanding – an activity performed on the sidelines.

That said, we can get back to our favorite comic of the day: Agnostic Dog.