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CBS Switches to Small L.A. Agency : Entertainment Unit’s Move Puts Mednick in New League

Times Staff Writer

Poor ratings at CBS translated into good fortune on Thursday for a tiny Los Angeles graphic design firm.

In a move that took some advertising and entertainment executives by surprise, CBS stripped its print advertising business away from one of New York’s largest, multibillion-dollar ad firms, then handed the $2-million-plus account to Scott Mednick & Associates, a fledgling Los Angeles agency.

CBS, which has ranked third in the network ratings during much of the past year, is now the only major network to hire one agency to create ads for its entertainment division and another agency to place them. Officials from the network would not discuss that Thursday. “We have no comment,” said a CBS spokesman.

But executives at the network’s new agency were happy to talk about the windfall business. “We absolutely believe that better print ads can help improve ratings at CBS,” said Scott A. Mednick, the 32-year-old president and creative director of Scott Mednick & Associates. For nearly two years--on a free-lance basis--his firm has created various print advertisements for CBS, including those illustrations of cowboys riding off into the sunset for the hit miniseries, Lonesome Dove.

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Mednick said his firm--which now employs just 42 people--may have to nearly double in size to accommodate the CBS entertainment division. The agency, which has also created movie posters for Universal Pictures (“Coal Miner’s Daughter”) and Warner Bros. Pictures (“Everybody’s All American”), will now set up a separate division to take on the CBS assignment.

“They want a fresh look, and we’ll give it to them,” said Mednick. His firm will immediately start creating print ads for such CBS shows as “Wiseguy,” “Designing Women” and “Beauty and the Beast.” It will also begin creating ads for upcoming shows, as well as future CBS miniseries and movies.

Meanwhile, executives at Backer Spielvogel in New York--which will continue to buy and place advertising for CBS--tried to play down the loss. “We’re naturally disappointed,” said Judy Torello, vice president of corporate communications. “But we will continue to be an important marketing partner of CBS, and consider it a privilege.”

But why would CBS look to a design firm--and not an ad agency--to create its print ads? “I suppose they feel it’s more of an art and design function than creative strategy,” said Patrick King, chairman of AC&R;/CCL Advertising, a Los Angeles firm that places ads for several entertainment companies.

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One top executive from ABC said the switch is highly unusual. “It’s a great plum for Scott Mednick,” said Mark Zakarin, vice president of marketing at ABC Entertainment. “Of course, the easiest people to blame are the people putting out the message about your product. It’s not as if you can fire your entire staff--or the whole Hollywood community.”


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