Advertising group merging content, brands

PARIS — Gallic advertising group Havas Media’s Sports & Entertainment network is leading the trend of branded entertainment in France, aligning with U.S. ad practices and paving the way for alliances between Gallic producers and brands.

A merger of B6 Entertainment, Havas and Cake Group, the Sports & Entertainment division will be represented at two Mipcom events: Non-Traditional Branded Entertainment and Digital Innovation and panel Can Branded Entertainment Be Great? The Mipcom TV mart runs Oct. 13-17 in Cannes.

Havas’ move toward more content-producing activities reflects an emerging trend in France fueled by the boom of VOD, the Internet and a change in the law that will prohibit ads on pubcasters.

Havas recently partnered with Nike to produce a talkshow called the “Franck Ribery Show,” created for the Euro 2008 soccer championship. And even though the French legislation forbids product placement in TV programs, Havas subtly inserted the sports brand’s image into the show.

Ribery, for instance, invited teammates who are associated with the brand because they have appeared in Nike commercials, and in one of the hidden-camera sequences, the player-turned-talk-show-host even visited the Nike store in Munich.

Helmer Luc Besson, who recently launched Blue, an agency that will produce films, TV shows and commercials co-produced and financed by consumer brands, told Gallic newspaper Le Figaro that he expects regulation changes in the near future that would allow for more branded content on TV.

Indeed, in May 2007, a European committee of pubcasters submitted a proposal called TV Without Borders to the European Parliament, which aims at liberalizing the use of product placement and branded content on European TV.

Havas Sports and Entertainment CEO Lucien Boyer, pointing to falling ad revs on the French networks, agrees that something must be done.

“The current economic context in France calls for a deregulation of advertising practices on TV,” Boyer says. “We have a lot of catching up to do with other countries.”

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