Some TV viewers who watched a special kids’ broadcast of an NFL game on Nickelodeon might have witnessed an interesting special effect: a slime monster rising from the football field. Executives at ad giant Interpublic Group saw something else: an opportunity.
Interpublic, the ad giant that owns agencies such as Deutsch and McCann WorldGroup, is taking what is believed to be a minority stake in The Famous Group, a technology company that creates mixed and augmented reality experiences for live events. The company created dynamic images that were placed alongside the recent Nickelodeon football broadcast and has worked at the Super Bowl, the PGA Championship and the NBA All-Star Game, among other events, says Jon Slusser, a partner and owner of the company. Executives declined to discuss specific financial terms of the alliance.
The deal is likely to help Interpublic clients get more value out of work they do to promote their goods and services at sports matches or similar gatherings. In an interview, Interpublic Group CEO Philippe Krakowsky envisioned advertisers working with his company’s agencies and Famous Group to create new concepts at music events, games, and the like. “You can build a much more holistic digital experience around a cultural event,” he says.
In a different era, Interpublic and rivals like Omnicom Group and WPP were in a race to grow larger, and fueled it by making dozens of acquisitions over a short period of time. In 2022, the advertising companies are much more selective about making purchases, and their deals often spotlight marketing disciplines that are gaining more traction with clients.
One of those areas of interest is in reaching big, live crowds at sports events, concerts and the like, after a period of dormancy spurred by the recent coronavirus pandemic. “There has been a meaningful uptick in demand for events again,” says Krakowsky. “It’s partly because that’s the part of the business that was dramatically impacted through the pandemic.”
But he believes the disciplines in which Famous Group specializes, currently generating less than 5% of overall Interpublic revenue, are poised to grow significantly. The global virtual events market is seen reaching nearly $504.8 billion by 2028, according to trade analyst Research and Markets, which cites a rise in virtual business meetings and gatherings as one of the factors in the growth.
Digital technology has given advertisers a broader array of capabilities at events, including the ability for consumers to use social media to interact with signage and displays, and the opportunity to create bespoke digital images on screens and telecasts. “We find ourselves in a place where there is high demand from audiences, and we are really excited to bring these experiences to Interpublic clients,” says Slusser.
Famous Group will continue to operate under its agency name and retain its ability to work independently with existing and future clients. But the company is also expected to work with Interpublic Group companies such as Momentum, a large agency specializing in experiential marketing; Jack Morton, a unit know for events; and Octagon, the sports and entertainment firm.
(Above, pictured: Interpublic Group CEO Philippe Krakowsky)