NEW YORK — Dari Marder, Nicole Winnaman and Maria Dolgetta have joined forces to create a new branding and marketing agency, Creative Playground, aimed at fashion, entertainment, beauty and wellness industries.
Their alliance has been a long time in the making — though one that came together without any trace of a headhunter. On the October day in 2015 that Marder exited the Iconix Brand Group as global chief marketing officer, Winnaman, a celebrity and branding specialist, was the first to contact her. “Nicole said, ‘This is the day I’ve been waiting for for years,’” Marder said with a laugh Tuesday.
The pair first met in 2008, when Winnaman pitched Britney Spears to Marder for a Candie’s campaign. After working together for two years, they stayed in touch and always tried to work together. “Maria and I always felt that Nicole was the closest to being just like us. She was a businesswoman, but a creative and a mom, who somehow found this great balance to raise these beautiful girls. She was just juggling it just like we were,” Marder said.
In their 20-plus years working together at Iconix, Marder and Dolgetta handled a portfolio with 30 brands which included Badgley Mischka, Joe Boxer, London Fog and Starter. While Marder created and launched Madonna’s Material Girl fashion label, Winnaman was securing such partnerships as Justin Timberlake for MySpace, Fergie for Wet ‘n’ Wild and Ellen DeGeneres for American Express.
Winnaman is heading up the Los Angeles office and Marder and Dolgetta will be based in New York but traveling between the coasts as needed. Adding brands including fashion and entertainment ones like FidoTV to the Creative Playground portfolio is a priority. The dog-friendly niche cable network is currently in 5 million homes and the goal is to be in 50 million in a couple of years, Marder said. To try to get there, Creative Playground is developing some celebrity partnerships, programming content and reorganizing their digital platform, and adding key strategic brand partners.
On another front, Creative Playground has joined forces with Mimi Kim of ChefDance, which Winnaman helped build, and has a joint venture for an offshoot brand, “The Night Before…” which will be a series of events held the night before various red carpet events.
The company has also established Creative Playground Productions through a deal with 3 Ball Entertainment, the Manhattan Beach production company behind such shows as “Extreme Weight Loss,” “Bar Rescue” and “Kingin’ with Tyra.” Four shows are in development and a brand is being developed for each to try to drive retail sales. In development with Shabby Chic founder Rachel Ashwell is a rental makeover series called “Second Chapter: A Second Lease on Life.”
“We just said if we weren’t in this space, that we’d be leaving stuff on the table. We said, ‘There is a show around this and a way to package really interesting content so there are some digital ideas, long form, short form.’ It’s very exciting,” Marder said.
“It really is a think tank. The music industry changed, retail has fallen apart at bricks-and-mortar. You have to be able to find new ways digitally and with new technology to engage this customer,” said Winnaman, adding that her celebrity dealings have made her adept at matching brands with influencers.
Marder added, “We love to sit with our partners and really take a deep dive and try to figure out this whole new era of retail — how do brands fit in, how do you drive shoppers to retail, how are you reaching consumers, what’s the best way to engage, what type of content is most appropriate and how are we delivering it?”
If the multilevel strategy sounds a little daunting, Marder explained, “It really goes back to our years of experience at Iconix juggling 30 brands – sports, entertainment, fashion, electronics. That feels natural to us.”
Moving forward they are leveraging their relationships with management, talent and agents including one with a yet-be-disclosed “massive influencer in the beauty space” that came from their partnerships in the past, Marder said.
With several opportunities on the investment front, Creative Playground declined to comment on projected billings. At the point in their careers where they can be selective about projects that excite or interest them, Marder said, “We want to have fun. That was always something that was important to all three of us. We all felt that you work so hard. You should enjoy the people you work with and the projects that you work on.”