Olivier Gers, the recently named global president of LiquidThread, Starcom MediaVest Group’s branded entertainment content unit, has an impressive history of helping marketers capitalize on the success of popular TV programming dating back to his days as to top executive at FremantleMedia.
Through Gers’ efforts, American Idol, co-owned by Fremantle, was one of the first live performance shows to integrate mobile into the voting on the show, and since that time in the early 2000s, he’s done numerous multiplatform integrations of digital with TV, more recently as CEO of Endemol Worldwide Brands. In between, as senior VP and global head of digital media at IMG Media, he helped digitally market some of that company’s top sports clients.
While working on Idol from 2003 to 2007, he was responsible for garnering dozens of licensing partners for the show and for playing a major role in keeping the show’s initial three on-air sponsors—Ford, Coca-Cola and AT&T (originally Cingular)—on board. He also helped launch versions of Idol in numerous foreign countries.
Execs at SMG say Gers was always very ahead of the curve on digital integration, and not just as an extension of TV, and that this is an area that will be extremely valuable to LiquidThread as it continues to grow its presence outside the U.S.
Gers spent some time talking with MBPT about his background in branded content and digital media and his new role at LiquidThread.
This is a major position within Starcom MediaVest and one that Brian Terkelsen ran as global president before being named to the CEO post at MediaVest in the summer of 2012. In your past positions at Fremantle or Endemol, did you have a relationship with Terkelsen prior to applying for the position?
I actually first looked into the LiquidThread position through a headhunter, but I actually did work with Brian and Brent Poer [president, LiquidThread North America] back in my days at Fremantle. Brian was head of connective tissue [the SMG branded entertainment content unit that is now LiquidThread], representing Procter & Gamble, and Brent was leading integrated marketing at Lifetime network. I was with Fremantle representing the TV series How Clean Is Your House? Together we put together a partnership between P&G, Lifetime and the show.
What was your role at Fremantle?
I had a lot of different jobs in the five years I was there. But in general, I was trying to make money for the company by doing all sorts of brand extensions for shows like American Idol, The X Factor, Price Is Right and Family Feud, among others. I managed all components on Fremantle’s behalf of American Idol.
And your role at IMG?
I held two positions while I was there. As commercial director, I helped IMG Entertainment move into branded entertainment content production. As global head of IMG Digital Media, I managed the online and mobile content creation business. IMG was a full-service digital agency for IMG’s clients. We put together event sponsorships for clients like the International Rugby Board and created websites and digital content and managed sites for IMG clients like Roger Federer, Tiger Woods and Maria Sharapova. That was an experience that will help me a lot in this job.
And your role at Endemol?
I pretty much had a similar role as I did at Fremantle. I launched global second-screen strategies for Endemol shows like The Money Drop and managed online gaming for the shows.
You’ve been on the job at LiquidThread for just a few weeks. What kind of transition process are you expecting?
A lot of what I was doing for the TV shows at Fremantle and Endemol and for sports clients at IMG is similar to what we are doing for clients at LiquidThread. Back when I first started at Fremantle though it was more pure sponsorships and that has evolved to brand content and has moved to many more platforms. There’s a different way of telling a story for a client today. It’s less simply TV and more platform agnostic messaging.
There are so many more elements to telling a brand’s story today. Today you don’t just want to push and get publicity for a brand’s name alone, you want to push the value of the brand to the consumer.
And in your new role you are on the buying side for the first time?
Yes. This is my first media agency job so that is brand new to me. I’ve always been on the selling side. I’ve been learning the process. It’s a bit of a different mindset, which I hope I can master as well as I did in my previous positions.
How do you feel about being reunited with Brian, who you worked on a branded content deal with several years ago?
Well Brian’s my boss now and he is still very much involved with LiquidThread. I hope to take advantage of his experience and expertise in the area of branded content and I hope to be the global torchbearer for our clients’ global branded entertainment strategy. And I will also be working closely with Brent. Clearly there is a strong center of excellence in the U.S. for LiquidThread and half the global team is located there. I’ll be in charge of cross-pollinating the foreign markets with the U.S. markets for our clients to help create better coordination.
And you’ll be based in London?
Yes, but my mission is global. So I’ll be on a plane a lot of the time.