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Firm grasp on brands

Frank sets deal with ZenithOptimedia

The Firm has become a consultant to media buyer ZenithOptimedia Group.

Management/production company will use its relationships in TV, movie, music and other media to make brand integration deals for ZenithOptimedia’s client list, which includes General Mills, Hewlett Packard, JPMorgan Chase, Lexus, L’Oreal, Nestle, Scion, Toyota, Verizon and Verizon Wireless.

Deal was set up by Firm chair Rich Frank, the former Walt Disney Television chairman whose own brand integration business, Integrated Entertainment Partners, was absorbed by the Firm when he joined in 2004.

Since then, Frank has made several brand alliances that include securing an onscreen presence for Toyota in reality show “The Contender.”

But the ZenithOptimedia deal is the company’s most ambitious move, and the Firm will now be representing a slew of national brands.

ZenithOptimedia, which runs two media-buying services, is owned by French conglom Publicis, which owns numerous ad agencies that work with the buying companies to fully service brand clients.

Brand integration has become a growing focus for Hollywood rep firms; reality shows from “American Idol” to “Survivor” and “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” have made brand-name products part of the fabric of their shows. Sponsorships in programming on cell phones, Internet and even videogames are now viewed as worthy brand integration opportunities.

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“This is becoming a very large business for a number of good reasons,” Frank said. “The 30-second spot is by no means going away. But within the last two years, brands have seen their commercials watched less and less with the advent of TiVo-type devices, and they aren’t getting the bang for their buck that the traditional 30-second spot once provided. That needs to be supplemented, and there are brand integration opportunities everywhere.”

Toyota, a ZenithOptimedia Group client, had its trucks displayed in strength contests involving the pugilist contestants on “The Contender,” and cars were given away as prizes. It was the Firm’s brand awareness work for the carmaker that led to the alliance.

Frank, who will oversee the consultancy assignment, said there is potential for brand identification in sitcoms and dramas as well.

“There is no set model yet, but if you were putting ‘Friends’ together now, why not set it in a Starbucks?” Frank said. “Kevin James works for a package delivery company in ‘King of Queens’ and he wears a brown outfit. How could it not be UPS? And, when I was at Disney and we did ‘Home Improvement,’ we could have created a good source of revenue for the show and helped the product by using lines like Black & Decker or Sears.”

Frank said that these ploys don’t rob networks of paying advertisers because the companies behind the integrated products often advertise their wares as part of the deals.

“By next week, we’ll have started sitting down with production companies, producers, writers and others to try to find these integration opportunities,” he continued.

Frank said that the Firm’s cause was bolstered by its own client list, which includes Cameron Diaz, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, Justin Timberlake, Jennifer Lopez, Ice Cube, Linkin Park, Kelly Clarkson, Snoop Dogg, Vin Diesel, Benicio Del Toro, Kate Hudson, Samuel L. Jackson and band Weezer.

The ZenithOptimedia deal comes after the Firm has completed an internal restructuring. Jeff Kwatinetz and Rick Yorn renewed and extending their partnerships, and many of the execs at the company reupped, including Dave Baram, Stacy Boniello, Adam Schulman, Alan Nevins, Jen Davisson, Simon Millar, Eli Selden, David McIlvain, Paul Frank, Constance Schwartz, Dan Field, Peter Katsis, Arthur Spivak, Stu Sobol, Jon Leshay, Rob McDermott and Michael Papale.

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