Why Hollywood agency bought UTA MediaLink Consultancy

  • The Hollywood agency UTA bought the media consultancy MediaLink for 125 million dollars in December
  • The companies’ presence at Cannes Lions signaled how the links between entertainment and brand marketing are deepening.
  • Zimmer said social media has helped celebrities connect with fans and become more open to brand relationships.

Six months after UTA’s $125 million acquisition of MediaLink, the combined company had a debut of sorts at the Cannes Lions marketing festival this week.

Signs reading “MediaLink, a UTA company” were hard to miss at a large cabana spot on the beach along the Croisette. Inside, representatives from both companies held meetings with a variety of entertainment, media, technology and consumer goods brands. And throughout the week, bold names like Paris Hilton and Malala Yousafzai walked the room for panels and talks.

Although MediaLink has been a longstanding presence at the festival, its return to Cannes arm in arm with one of Hollywood’s top talent agencies demonstrated just how much the boundaries are blurring between the worlds of entertainment and brand marketing.

“It was originally a festival just for [advertising] Creatives,” MediaLink CEO Michael Kassan told Insider in an interview with UTA CEO Jeremy Zimmer. Now that companies like NBCUniversal, Spotify, Roku and Warner Bros. Discovery are attending the festival, “it takes on a different tone. They’re here because this is where the action is,” he said, noting that many companies book real advertising deals while sipping rosé.

Hollywood’s presence was even stronger this year with the arrival of


Netflix

to the festival for the first time (in person, at least), with co-CEO Ted Sarandos being named Entertainer of the Year. That


stream

The giant’s decision to launch advertising on its platform was a hot topic of conversation along the Croisette. Advertising seems to be sexy again in Hollywood, with most major streamers offering ad-supported tiers.

It is precisely for this reason that UTA, which already had a marketing department before the MediaLink deal, decided to purchase the marketing and media consultant. “Brands have always been a very important part of the whole entertainment and media business,” Zimmer said. “I wanted to be able to build a really broad and strong bridge between our company and our customers and brands.”

Nobody demonstrates the potential of a collaboration between talent and brands better than Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds, who spoke to the Cannes Lions about the work his company Maximum Effort does by promoting brands like Peloton and Aviation Gin. in which he is also involved. UTA customer Paris Hilton now has multiple product lines including an NFT collection and a sunglass collection.

Zimmer noted that social media has been instrumental in breaking down the barriers for celebrities, allowing them to connect with fans in direct and powerful new ways. It has also become more acceptable to appear in ads than it used to be. “I think they started to understand and see that there are different ways to expand their brand,” he said of stars who may have previously avoided explicit product relationships.

Since joining UTA, MediaLink has taken over the talent agency’s marketing team and they are finding other synergies. For example, at the Cannes Lions, this meant that UTA client Issa Rae was brought together with MediaLink client IBM for a panel on dealing with prejudice. MediaLink also played a key role in recruiting Sarandos for this year’s tribute, which included an interview with journalist Kara Swisher on the Palais’ main stage.

Ascential, the operator of Cannes Lions, was the previous owner of MediaLink and the two still work closely together on the event. Kassan said the split was amicable and a result of a conversation he had with Duncan Painter, CEO of Ascential, about his desire to find a new owner after realizing Ascential prioritized digital commerce over digital commerce marketing services that MediaLink specializes in.

“Ascential and MediaLink didn’t divorce, we deliberately decoupled,” Kassan said, adding with a laugh, “The only thing Duncan Painter and I can’t figure out is who is Gwyneth Paltrow and who is Chris Martin.”

Finding a new home at UTA was a full-circle moment for Kassan, who had spoken to the agency about starting his business there in the early 2000s: “I thought MediaLink would have started its journey there aim to be the bridge between the two communities, centered on talent.”

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