IPG Mediabrands launches global content studio

The media agency network is formalizing its capabilities across branded, original and dynamic content in 12 markets.

In today’s fragmented media landscape, the message has to fit the medium.

Media agencies are often in the best position to make that link because of the audience data they sit on and their expertise across media platforms. That’s why IPG Mediabrands said on Tuesday it’s formalizing a content offering across its agencies -- UM, Initiative and Reprise -- to deliver on this need for clients. 

The offering, called Mediabrands Content Studio, will be led by Brendan Gaul, who has been elevated to global chief content officer at Mediabrands. The group pulls together pockets of creative capabilities from Mediabrands agencies in 12 key markets, from long-form documentaries and branded content at UM and Initiative to dynamic content from Reprise. 

“There are great creative products across the Mediabrands agencies,” Gaul said. “I'm going to figure out how to connect the pipes for all of our clients.”

Gaul is developing a consistent suite of content products across Mediabrands, underpinned by a layer of technology that makes it easy for all of its agencies to access. Gaul declined to go into detail because the tools are in development.

But pieces of the creative offering exist across the Mediabrands network. UM Studios, for example, has 80 people creating award-winning documentaries for brands that allow them to show up on ad-free platforms like Netflix. For example, the agency created “5B,” a documentary about the 1980s AIDS epidemic backed by Johnson & Johnson that was the first brand-funded film to debut at the Cannes Film Festival and won the Cannes Lions Grand Prix in 2019. It’s now streaming on Amazon Prime. 

Entertainment-style content can be supported by partnerships with influencers and production companies through relationships at UM or Initiative, or with dynamic content created for e-commerce and digital media at Reprise. 

The goal will be to create consistent and personalized brand campaigns that reach audiences with the right message in the right context, depending on where they are in that moment. 

“Instead of having to go to different agencies, we will create one idea built to travel across the different kinds of content our media plans call for,” Gaul said. 

Mediabrands Content Studio will work closely with creative agencies to adapt big brand campaigns and ideas to specific mediums. Creative agencies can come up with the big idea, but they often don’t have the audience data or media relationships to pull off platform-specific tweaks, said Gaul, who started his career on the creative side at McCann. 

“We're in the strongest position to quarterback the way an idea should move across a media plan,” he said. “An idea needs to look different on Facebook, YouTube, in a TV spot or an e-commerce banner, and being at the center of the media ecosystem gives us a leg up.”

Media agencies are also in the right position to reallocate ad budgets toward original entertainment programs on ad-free platforms. Creative agencies are the masters of brand storytelling, but they often don’t know how to create entertainment that’s purpose-built to be sold to distributors, Gaul said.  

“Creative agencies make things that they give to media agencies to distribute,” he said. “To do that, you have to act and operate like an entertainment studio.”

All of Mediabrands’ clients are touching the content offering in some way through their individual relationships with its agencies. Mediabrands has about 330 creative people across its top 12 markets, and Gaul is evaluating where the group needs to hire talent to fill in any gaps in the Studio offering. He declined to share which markets Mediabrands Content Studio is launching in.

“Creative and media have been separated for so long, and clients have always wanted us to work more closely together,” Gaul said. “This gives us the opportunity to create a bit of infrastructure that can make that real for clients.”

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