Farmers Insurance Group has found a high-profile way to get above the billboard debate: by putting its name and logo on the world’s largest airship.

Measuring 246 feet, the Farmers Insurance Group Airship is slightly longer than a Boeing 747. The zeppelin, which will float over California through June, is scheduled to make appearances at Farmers employee gatherings and charity events, and possibly make a media tour.

“This is the ultimate billboard for Farmers,” said Kevin Kelso, chief marketing officer for the L.A.-based insurer, in a statement. “Whether it’s flying over sporting events or flying over community-based fundraisers, the Farmers Airship will be a larger-than-life reminder of Farmers.”

The deal was not motivated by the supergraphics brouhaha in Los Angeles, but can help eliminate the need for large building signs. Farmers first contracted the ship in late January when it decided to sponsor the Professional Golfers’ Association of America tournament at Torrey Pines. The zeppelin, owned by Airship Ventures Inc. of San Jose, provided aerial video of the tournament to millions of TV golf fans.

The airship is touring Northern California but will return to Long Beach next week. It will appear at Farmers-sponsored March of Dimes fundraisers April 24 at Exposition Park and April 25 in Newport Beach.

Although other people can rent the ship for their events, “until end of June, it will say Farmers on it wherever it goes,” said Michelle Levy, a Farmers spokeswoman. “It’s sky-high branding that you can see for miles.”

The zeppelin rental was not handled through an agency, but was done by Kelso himself.

Feingold Joins H&K

Benjamin Feingold, a former Sony Pictures executive, has joined the PR firm Hill & Knowlton as a senior adviser in its Santa Monica office. He will act as a consultant to H&K clients on digital media strategy and product licensing deals.

The agency’s entertainment clients include Technicolor, Sony Pictures, Disney Home Entertainment and Yahoo Entertainment.

Feingold ended an 18-year career at Sony in 2006, where he attained the position of president of worldwide home entertainment and digital distribution. Since then, Feingold has become a media and tech angel investor. His investments include, Varitalk Holdings, Monty Python Ltd. and

“What were looking for from Ben is the big picture,” said Hope Boonshaft, executive vice president and general manager of Hill & Knowlton’s Santa Monica office. “We want experts who know where online content and distribution is moving. His expertise in home entertainment, digital distribution and deal-making, as well as his extensive relationships in Hollywood, will boost our growing entertainment practice.”

OneWest’s Launch

Davis Elen Advertising has won the task to promote Southern California’s newest and largest thrift, OneWest Bank.

Created in March from the assets of the failed IndyMac Bank, OneWest has grown through acquisitions and now ranks as the largest financial institution headquartered in the region, with 81 branches and $14 billion in deposits.

The downtown L.A. advertising shop plans to launch a campaign in May to position OneWest as “a regional bank focused on delivering personalized, relationship-based banking to its customers,” the agency said in a statement.

The campaign will include buys on local TV, radio, outdoor, upscale publications and sports sponsorships. Financial details of the account were not disclosed.

Creative directors John Evans and Stan Kaplan will direct the account.

Year’s Top Ads

Ace Metrix, a West L.A. ad research firm, said Samsung produced the best TV ad in 2009.

Ace uses an Internet panel of viewers to measure ads on two criteria: persuasion and watchability. Out of a possible combined score of 950, the Samsung “Wonder-Full” spot, which shows a man removing a piece of glass from an aquarium, rated 736, the top score for the year.

Samsung also produced the third highest-rated ad with “Monsters & Aliens Invade Home.” Both Samsung ads were created by Leo Burnett in Chicago.

In second place was the “Meet the iPad” ad by TBWA/Media Arts Lab in Playa del Rey.

Ace Metrix Co-founder JuYoung Lee said the top three ads show that today’s consumers are fascinated by new inventions coupled with strong presentation.

Hershey’s “Get Your Favorite in Pieces” and Lysol’s “Soapy Hands Harbor Germs” rounded out the top five ads for 2009.

Agencies & Accounts

McCann Erickson has hired Amy Palmer Messinger as director of strategic planning in the Miracle Mile office. She will plan accounts for Nestlé, Northrop Grumman and Bumble Bee Foods. Messinger previously worked at TBWAChiatDay and David & Goliath. … Beverly Hills-based Blaine Group is the new agency for Stampede Light Plus, a German-style beer formulated by the late Joseph Owades, creator of Miller Light. Blaine will implement a national consumer and beer industry PR campaign. … A spot produced by El Segundo-based David & Goliath for Kia Soul won Automotive TV Ad of the Year at the Nielsen Automotive Advertising Awards. The commercial stars two hamsters. … WorldLink, the L.A.-based advertising sales firm, has hired Mark Archer as vice president of sales development. He will sell for WorldLink’s digital media clients and develop video ads for online streaming and mobile phones. … RFPR, an L.A.-based PR firm, has a new account, Waiwera Artesian Water from New Zealand. … 72andSunny in Venice has hired Barton Corley as creative director. Corley previously worked at Wieden+Kennedy, TBWA and Goodby Silverstein & Partners. … Blitz, the online marketing agency based in Santa Monica, has hired Dave McClain as senior creative director. McClain previously worked at Razorfish.

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