Blagman Teams With Mercury to Target Brand Advertisers

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Blagman Media International Inc., a DRTV media company in Los Angeles, formed a joint venture with Mercury Media Inc., a DRTV media agency in Santa Monica, CA, to develop infomercial projects for major corporations.

Blagman Media, which manages the infomercial and radio divisions of A. Eicoff & Co., a DRTV agency in Chicago, partnered with the agency because its media buying volume is large enough to create an efficient economy of scale. Mercury Media is the largest long form media buyer in the United States with billings exceeding $80 million a year. Its clients include infomercial marketers Guthy-Renker Corp., Good Times Direct, Tristar Products Inc., HSN Direct International Inc. and Smart Inventions Inc.

"This agreement basically allows us to go to corporate clients and provide them with the best access to long form media," said Robert Blagman, president of his namesake company.

Industry observers speculated whether Blagman's venture with Mercury would create a turf battle with Eicoff, a unit of Ogilvy & Mather that has its own long form media buying unit. Because most of Eicoff's billings are in the arena of DRTV spot buying, Blagman said he does not foresee a conflict.

"I have contracts with both agencies that I think can be managed without any turf war," Blagman said. "It's one of these things that has to be managed carefully."

While many mainstream advertising agencies had started infomercial divisions in the early 90s, only to scrap them after a couple years, Blagman said he sees many opportunities for Fortune 1,000 corporations to air infomercials to fully explain products, tell a complete story and build brand image. His company launched a campaign in December for Eastman Kodak Corp., Rochester, NY, which rolled out an infomercial to explain the complex features of its new line of technologically advanced digital cameras.

"We're going to aggressively target pharmaceutical companies," Blagman said. "Long form advertising allows them to tell a complete product story and still meet FDA regulations."

Problems in Poland

While Blagman is pursuing corporate clients on this side of the world, he is also busy confronting managerial problems in its recently launched home shopping channel in Poland. Blagman is the majority owner of World Shopping Network Plc., London, which discontinued its home shopping programming in Poland last month, but plans to re-launch in June. The channel first aired in September and became mired in difficulties with the Polish management team.

"We had some problems on a lot of levels, mostly in our staffing," Blagman said. "We decided to take it off the air for a couple months and weed out people before staffing up and going back on the air again."

No programming now appears on the satellite channel, which has been running a test pattern since last month. World Shopping had planned to invest about $2 million in the Polish operation and grow its viewership to 3 million households during the first two years. Blagman said he found a new investor, Beechtree Capital in New York, to commit another $5 million to the company. Meanwhile, Blagman said he is in the early stages of setting up another home shopping operation in Romania, which would extend the company's reach from Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
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