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Media: Web Site Seeks To Link Marketers And Producers
Some see a threat to product placement agencies.

November 14, 2005
By Jim Edwards

A former Fox TV sales executive next month will launch a matchmaking service that, in theory, could put agencies that specialize in product placement out of business.

The service, MediaMatchmaker, is essentially Internet dating for clients and TV producers. Advertisers are asked to enter details of their hoped-for product placements and sponsorships on one side of the site, mediamatchmaker.com.

TV producers, in turn, enter details of their shows and sponsorship needs on the other side.

They can both search for each other by altering the parameters for their desired partners, in much the same way that singles do on Match.com. Search parameters include a huge variety of variables, including production dates, media (theater and online productions are included) budget size, product and genre.

Users pay a yet-undisclosed fee to make their searches and to view contact information for possible partners. The fee will be scaled to match the size of the companies doing the deals. Mediamatchmaker is not involved in any deals they make after that point.

"We won't know who is calling who," said MediaMatchmaker.com CEO Betsy Green, a former Fox manager of product placement. Dealmakers are asked to report the results of their deals, if any, to the Culver City, Calif., company, which promises to keep those agreements confidential. The site is currently in beta mode, and will not be fully functional until its Dec. 9 launch.

Green, who left Fox in 2002, has been making the rounds of TV ad sales chiefs and Madison Avenue. She says her idea has been warmly received on both sides so far.

The service potentially brings Hollywood and large media-buying agencies closer together after a period in which their relations have been disrupted by the growth of smaller, Los Angeles-based product placement specialists, who have been cutting deals with producers under the radar of the large broadcasters and media owners since the 1980s.

Those product placement agencies are banned from the new service, at least initially, Green said. "We're getting a lot of traction in ad agencies," Green said. "We don't see a need to go to product placement agencies."

For that reason, the service potentially commodifies the placement business, undermining the traditional propmaster-wardrobe culture in which placement agencies are strongest.

Of course, not everyone believes the specialist will be so easily dislodged. Producers are powerful in Hollywood, and directors frequently call for last-minute items, said Jay May, president of Feature This! in Burbank, Calif., which handles Fisher-Price and XM Satellite radio, among others. "The difference between me and them is I'm on the set," May said. "Things change on the set on an hourly basis."

Tony Wilson, director of marketing at Motion Picture Magic in Encino, Calif., whose clients Oral-B and T.J. Maxx, was more charitable. "Oh boy, they're missing out [by not allowing product placement agencies]. We have clients who're looking for people right now," he said. "Conceptually it sounds great. [But] we've had people from Universal call us and literally ask us for something that afternoon. There is a relationship we build with people out there [so] I wouldn't feel threatened by it. It's just another avenue."

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