BREAKING: Warner Bros.’ is betting its $250M million digital media account on a new ad agency as they are in talks to move that portion from Omnicom to Merkle, which is a an agency that focuses on customer relationships. Merkle is owned by the Japanese firm Dentsu. The move would come as the studio tries to line up all of its disparate units under one focused branding message on digital platforms across all Time Warner companies. Merkle also handles HBO so it would add another Tim Warner company into the mix.
Usually after a purchase of the magnitude of AT&T’s gobbling up Time-Warner, there are ad agency and media buyer reviews, but this decision is apparently not part of that process. A major account like Warner Bros. deciding to park itself at Merkle is a shift for the company, but makes sense as Merkle is more adept at the big picture of branding digital marketing, as The Wall Street Journal pointed out, and as industry observers also say.
This was something that Jack Gao, group VP/CEO international investments and business development for Wanda addressed today at the U.S. China Expo in downtown Los Angeles. He said the Chinese are very good at engaging fan bases via digital media. “The moviegoers versus the movie makers are never connected and we don’t even call them the consumers, we call them moviegoers,” he said in encouraging a connection online with the fan bases and consumers in non-traditional ways.
“In traditional media, there’s a line separating advertising from editorial content, but in digital media it’s a blur,” says Robert Marich, author of Marketing To Moviegoers. “This is a big opportunity for Hollywood because marketing messages for entertainment products can be subtly integrated in what seems to be independently-created editorial content online. So digital marketing involves creating a varied array of marketing content.”
Neither Time Warner nor Warner Bros. would comment on the shift of the digital media account.