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Conference in L.A. reflects city's rise as ad industry hub

The American Assn. of Advertising Agencies is holding its annual confab in Los Angeles for the first time in the advertising trade association's 95-year history. The event's title is Transformation LA 2012, and one of its themes is the intersection of Madison Avenue with Hollywood and Silicon Valley.

March 25, 2012|By Meg James and Dawn C. Chmielewski, Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles is casting itself in a leading role in advertising.

For the first time in its 95-year history, the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies is holding its annual conference in Los Angeles. The event's title, Transformation LA 2012, acknowledges the city's rising profile as a major advertising hub.

Although the region's ad community has produced award-winning television spots for years, advertisers increasingly are focusing on integrating their messages into digital media, video games and music videos.

A theme of this year's three-day gathering, which kicks off Monday at the Beverly Hilton, is the intersection of Madison Avenue with Hollywood and Silicon Valley.

"Los Angeles has always had a strong advertising agency contingency," said Nancy Hill, chief executive of the advertising trade association known as the 4A's. "But what we are starting to see is the convergence of the entertainment industry with the gaming industry and the technology industry."

Advertisers no longer rely primarily on radio and TV spots to act as a megaphone to reach the widest audience. Instead, they are tailoring messages to tantalize a more select group. Borrowing a page from video game makers that have long incorporated products into their stories, marketers are weaving their brands into entertainment.

That puts L.A. at the epicenter of the forces dramatically reshaping advertising.

"Los Angeles has a chance to replace New York as the world capital of advertising," said Eric Johnson, president of Ignited, an El Segundo ad agency. "Innovation is happening here at an incredible pace."

Last fall, Google Inc. allocated $100 million to launch original channels on YouTube, attracting entertainment industry professionals and sparking a new boom in digital production.

And major advertisers want in on the action. The Internet and mobile devices represent an opportunity to reach affluent and young consumers — spurring more spending. Last year, online advertising topped $32 billion, a 23% increase over 2010, according to research firm EMarketer.

Nearly half of all cellphone owners have a smartphone, according to Nielsen. Companies can engage consumers using their phones to get traffic reports, make restaurant reservations, buy movie tickets and play Angry Birds and other games.

This year, U.S. mobile ad spending is projected to grow 80% to $2.61 billion, EMarketer said.

The topic of convergence will be on full display at this week's L.A. convention of 4A's, which has supported agencies with research, education and lobbying efforts since its founding in New York in 1917.

Lee Clow, one of the creators of the celebrated "1984" Super Bowl ad that launched Apple Inc.'s Macintosh computer, is scheduled to reminisce about that pivotal marriage of technology and advertising.

Anthony E. Zuiker, creator of one of television's biggest franchises, "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," is expected to highlight his new digital ventures.

"There is no rule book anymore," said Susan Franceschini, executive director of ThinkLA, a media and marketing trade organization with 6,000 members. "We are seeing a broader collaboration that often involves technology companies, incubators, entertainment companies and clients who are coming together and changing the definition of marketing."

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