Sapient Interactive Launches Production Unit

It might be close to blasphemy for an ad agency executive to say “consumers are immune to advertising,” but Jim Houck, the man in charge of Sapient Entertainment, Sapient Interactive’s new production group, doesn’t seem to care.

Houck’s group is making, for Sapient advertising clients, Hollywood-quality short films that focus on entertaining viewers rather than pushing the brand in typical advertising fashion. One of its first projects is a documentary series for Celebrity Cruises’ “The Starring You Network” that can be accessed at company’s homepage on the Web. Without dwelling much on the company, the films explore topics of interest to prospective cruise customers such as wine, spa treatments and onboard dining.

Houck, a member of the Writer’s Guild of America and a former employee of Crispin, Porter and Bogusky, has sold screenplays and teleplays to major studios. He’s been with Sapient for about 11 months and is one of three people working solely on Sapient Entertainment.

“What we’re trying to do is bring forward a different mechanism,” Houck said, adding that his group’s creations bridge the gap between entertainment and the typical marketing approach. “What I’m trying to do is create the perfect blend and structure a business model off of it.”

Houck said most consumers don’t really care if a brand “sinks or swims” and many actually want to see big companies struggle since competition can reduce prices. Therefore, he believes advertisements and campaigns focusing on building brand stature are less effective than creations that attempt to help the brand’s image by giving consumers something to learn from and enjoy.

“It’s entertainment-driven marketing and marketing-driven entertainment,” he commented. Houck said Celebrity Cruises reported a 230 percent increase in “propensity to buy” among those who saw one of the Sapient Entertainment films compared to those who did not.

Sapient Entertainment intends its films be viewed in various ways, including online, broadcast TV and mobile. “We have a lot of big plans in works for distribution,” Houck said. The company said it has created a variety of projects including a viral video series for Coca-Cola in Europe.

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