Today we announced Edelman Studios, global content creation and production hub run by Jarrod Moses, head of our UEG business. There are two main content creation engines. First is the Blue Room, an earned-first studio that will create fast and shareable content at the intersection of news, culture and attention. It will be run by Katie Walmsley, who joins Edelman from Hawkfish and before that Brut and CNN. The other is Edelman Productions, which will be run by Pam Scheideler, formerly of R/GA, now head of U.S. Digital for Edelman. This unit will specialize in content connected across channels and audiences as part of campaigns powered by data and insights, activated by earned, owned and paid strategies. We have also signed a joint venture with Brut, a French-based video media company that has an audience of two billion people in 57 countries; this gives us guaranteed distribution of our content. Finally, we have made an investment in VidMob, which will enable our teams to optimize content in real-time.
So why this move and why now? Here are the reasons:
- We Need to Go Direct to End User—The mainstream media continues to be under economic pressure. The purchase of the Chicago Tribune by Alden Capital this morning is likely to lead to further cost-cutting and contraction in newsrooms. The viewership of cable news is down significantly with the change in Administration. At the same time, Disney+ announced another jump in subscribers, reinforcing the move to streaming. Press relations will always be a core part of our skillset, but it can no longer stand-alone.
- We Have New Muscles—We have built a significant data and analytics function with 350 people enabling us to go to the right consumers with relevant content. For example, for a leading pain reliever, our Data & Intelligence team used machine learning and people-level data to identify specific audiences that had consumed misleading online information to turn them into advocates. Our creative teams have done extraordinary work such as the Ikea Second Hand Furniture and Ajinomoto #TakeOutHate. Our digital team is helping eBay use storytelling and technology to build trust with sneaker aficionados. Our influencer team, on behalf of our U.S. Dairy client, worked with gaming influencers to raise awareness of sustainable farming.
- We Need to Be the Best Story-Tellers and Story-Makers—It frustrated me at Cannes Lions over the past five years that our ideas may be stronger but our production capabilities lagged far behind our advertising colleagues. CMOs are interested in data driven, inexpensive content produced at scale and at pace. Our production teams will sit in on the first meetings with clients and be thinking about how each idea can be made into a story that persuades, inspires and educates. This is the art of communications, blending rational and emotional at pace.
- We Must Do Content and Commerce—BuzzFeed just announced that its sponsored stories generated $500 million in revenue for its customers. This is a new form of competition from media companies. We intend to be part of this revenue opportunity through our collaboration with Brut, which is especially strong outside of the U.S. with 2 billion millennial and Gen Z users, while the U.S. is our home market.
- We Have Hollywood Connections—Our UEG unit organized the Dove Studios partnership, in which Shonda Rimes had the first all-female ad production company. We imagine partnering with other Hollywood talent, as we did recently with Kevin Hart on the Muscular Dystrophy on-line telethon.
- We Move at the Speed of News—We will be the only production studio that has global capability to deliver fact-based content in real time. We have the mentality of a political campaign in our team, with speed, shareability and accuracy as guiding principles.
We are getting closer to the adage coined by my friend Andrew Heyward, former president of CBS News, a decade ago. “Every company (or brand) should be its own media company.” We will enable clients to establish and own their narrative, generating attention because they can communicate at the pace at which viewers now consume information.
We're moving to offense. The competition is fierce but we have the people and the strategy to beat them. Let's go!
Richard Edelman is CEO.