Dentsu Creative Launches Investment Fund to Finance Gaming, Film, TV Projects (EXCLUSIVE)

Courtesy of Dentsu Creative

With every big media entity from ABC to Warner Brothers seeking hours of content, a different kind of player is betting more heavily on the game.

Dentsu Creative, a global agency network formed last year by Japan’s large Dentsu advertising conglomerate, is launching an investment fund said by one person familiar with the matter to total “eight figures,” in a bid to finance games; scripted and unscripted TV projects; and films.

Executives at the advertising heavyweight see an opportunity to create entertainment that does a lot more than distract consumers from the real world. By giving clients access to 200 entertainment specialists in offices around the globe, the hope is to create project that encompass everything from behind-the-scenes extras to merchandise, live events and music soundtracks.

“We want Dentsu Creative to be the first choice for clients looking to operate in the entertainment space,” says Fred Levron, Dentsu’s global chief creative officer, in a statement provided to Variety. “With this new offering we will help brands act as entertainment companies that also happen to sell snacks, drinks or fashion.”

Dentsu intends to make the investment fund available to game creators, advertisers, talent and media partners to develop original productions, with Dentsu Creative on board to generate new streams of revenue from the projects. Possibilities might include short-form video, podcasts, virtual-reality and augmented-reality experiences and interactive gaming. In the past, Dentsu entities have helped create original properties for Netflix, Amazon and Discovery, including “The Cost of Winning,” a four-part documentary series produced in part by Michael Strahan and Procter & Gamble’s Gillette that ran on HBO Max.

Dentsu wants to amplify its efforts in a business that is already in full churn. With most big U.S. media companies trying to navigate their way from linear TV to broadband streaming, advertisers have grown fearful about how to get messages about fast-food meal deals, glitzy consumer electronics and the latest pharmaceuticals in front of the big crowds that used to congregate around the TV set.

Some early ideas have already surfaced. A bevy of marketers have worked to develop partnerships around select pieces of streaming content, hoping to establish at least a connection to programs such as Netflix’s “Stranger Things” or “Glass Onion” and the Disney+ showing of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton,” even if those services won’t put commercials alongside them.

In other cases, advertisers are developing streaming series all their own. Tech player HP Inc. In 2022 launched a short sci-fi film on NBCUniversal’s Peacock about data scientists trying to track down a rare plant. The show was listed for a time in Peacock’s “Just Added” section, among other places on the site.

Dentsu believes advertisers are likely to have interest. In a 2022 survey commissioned by Dentsu of chief marketing officers from the United Kingdom, U.S., China, India and Brazil, 63% of respondents agreed “completely” that brands should aspire to create culture and build their own audiences. Meanwhile 85% of CMOs believe brands need to “think like a publisher,” and create everything from characters to movies.

Juan Woodbury and Cathy Boxall have been appointed to oversee Dentsu Creative’s new entertainment production efforts. Woodbury, who was named global head of branded content and entertainment, has produced work for Samsung, Coca-Cola, Nintendo and Disney. Boxall, who has worked for NBCUniversal and Disney, will oversee business and commercial opportunities for both Dentsu Creative and through the group’s media agencies outside of Japan.

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