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Hybrid firm combines Hollywood, digital media

May 21, 2008|From a Times Staff Writer

Peter Adderton, the wireless industry executive behind Boost Mobile and Amp'd Mobile, has joined with William Morris Agency to create a hybrid firm that seeks to combine the Hollywood connections of a talent agency with the digital media expertise of a technology consultancy.

The venture, dubbed Agency 3.0, will help companies, content providers and advertisers navigate the digital landscape by performing some of the traditional functions of an ad agency in addition to tackling technical areas such as user interfaces and product development.

"If there's anything that this does represent, it is a recognition that an agency no longer [simply] develops a marketing strategy and pushes messages out to consumers. They have to work the nuts and bolts of making sure the customer experience and the advertising experience line up," said James McQuivey, a digital media analyst with Forrester Research.

For example, Agency 3.0 worked with one wireless company to create a logo that better reflected the features of a new-media technology.

Then, drawing on Adderton's mobile experience, it developed a software interface for mobile devices that retained its look when displayed on bigger screens, such as those installed in car dashboards.

Agency 3.0's founding partners come from varied backgrounds.

Adderton is best known for the success of Boost Mobile, a cellular phone provider that targeted multicultural youth. He sold the firm to Nextel in October 2003. He also is known for Amp'd Mobile, a phone service aimed at 18- to 25-year-olds that wound up in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Greg Johnson, Agency 3.0's president of brands and agencies, created the Interpublic Group's Emerging Media Lab and has more than 20 years of digital marketing experience.

Steve Stanford, president of content and entertainment, was a co-founder and chief executive of Icebox, an Internet entertainment company that created original content for the Web.

William Morris' decision to take an undisclosed equity stake in Agency 3.0 signals the talent agency's desire to play a larger role in digital media.

This year it announced it was joining with Silicon Valley venture capital firms Accel Partners and Venrock, as well as telecommunications giant AT&T Inc., to invest in consumer technology and media start-ups.

Other talent agencies have taken different tacks when it comes to new media. Creative Artists Agency joined with Sequoia Capital to back Will Ferrell's online entertainment site, Funny or Die. And advertising agency Spot Runner and United Talent Agency helped start 60Frames Entertainment, which creates short-form online content.

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