ICrossing's branded content unit - which launches, not coincidentally, one year after the agency's acquisition by publisher Hearst - will focus on real-time execution across the social graph, said Adam Lavelle, iCrossing's chief strategy officer, on Wednesday.
The iCrossing Live Media Studio will generate branded content assets such as videos and interactive polls for brands that can be distributed whole or piecemeal across platforms. The studio, located in Hearst's Midtown New York offices, is set up to allow the iCrossing team to monitor social interaction across those platforms and release or tweak the assets as needed.
"The reason we call it the live media studio is it is our contention that marketers today need to literally be constant and present in the marketing that they do," said Lavelle. "What we see is iterative, adaptive strategies that are running in parallel with execution, developing playbooks more than we're developing freestanding, off-in-a-vacuum strategies. "
Founded as a search-engine firm, iCrossing was acquired by Heart last June for $325 million. Like Meredith before it, Hearst appeared to be getting into the digital agency market so it could offer its corporate clients more comprehensive in-house advertising services. ICrossing was highly valued on that front for its history of search-engine and reputation-management work, which combined with the magazine's creative prowess could make a compelling proposition for clients.
Indeed, Lavelle said the Live Media Studio will draw heavily on Hearst's lineup of more than 1,000 freelance writers and designers to create the content. Not that all work will be farmed out: Former Condé Nast Portfolio and Details editor Todd Pruzan has been hired as editorial director, and Emmy award-winning writer and producer Cory Bortnicker as editor.
ICrossing continues to pitch and win its own business, LG Electronics being a recent example. But Lavelle said that much of its work is now coming direct from Hearst, which has "phenomenal relationships with brands" who are "increasingly saying 'I don't just want to buy inventory, I want you to help me come up with solutions'" across platforms, he said.
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Douglas Quenqua is a journalist based in Brooklyn, NY who writes about culture and technology. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, The New York Observer, and Fortune.
March 19, 2014