ABC ad partnership raises eyebrows

Mindshare to pitch, develop, produce shows for net

ABC’s new partnership with media buyer Mindshare North America gave pause Monday to some Hollywood creatives, concerned over the growing influence of advertisers in the creative process.

Under the pact, Mindshare will pitch, develop and produce shows for the Alphabet, and will get the chance to incorporate advertisers via cross-marketing and product placement from the get-go.

The pact launches immediately, which means Mindshare will now have a chance to partner with the network on sitcoms and dramas already in development.

But ABC TV Network prexy Alex Wallau took pains to stress that, while Mindshare will express its opinions in the development process, the network has final say in everything it airs.

“The development process won’t be distorted by this at all,” Wallau said. “People with good ideas will come in with or without Mindshare (and) ABC does have creative control. At the end of the day, what goes on our air will be under our complete control.”

Former CBS Entertainment prexy Peter Tortorici, now an indie producer, was hired earlier this year by Mindshare to facilitate program development for the agency’s clients. He’ll work closely with the Alphabet net and various studios on behalf of Mindshare to develop scripted shows for ABC targeting a family aud.

Once the programs air, MindShare and ABC will split the commercial time, with MindShare selling units directly to its clients, and ABC, directly to its advertisers — similar in some ways to syndication’s barter advertising model.

MindShare, a division of Britain’s WPP Group, will help pay for the making of shows as well as share in any back-end profits.

Advertisers aren’t known for stomaching edgy or controversial series, but Wallau said he didn’t believe the alliance would wind up with “bland programming.”

“I would absolutely second that. We want to develop and create successful series that are going to be important vehicles for us and an important ratings attraction for ABC,” MindShare North America prexy-chief executive Marc Goldstein said.

Wallau also said product placement was only a small component of the deal.

“We have never forced in product placement that isn’t organic and we aren’t going to do it,” Wallau said.

There is intense pressure on every sector of the TV biz to nurture alternate business models as audiences tune out ad-supported television in favor of other entertainment platforms — or watchwith ad-zapping technology in hand.

In some ways, the pact between the Alphabet and MindShare harkens back to the early days of television, when big advertisers owned the shows.

“This is a matter of how do we get in partnership with our revenue stream to make smarter decisions about programming earlier in the process, and how do advertisers get involved with the networks in order to create a more powerful bond with their consumers,” Wallau said.

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