As the co-founder and CEO of United Talent Agency, Jeremy Zimmer has been an innovator in connecting clients with their own branded podcasts—including Will Ferrell’s “Ron Burgundy Podcast” and Chelsea Handler’s “Life Will Be the Death of Me.”
“When we look at any talent, celebrity or artist, we always ask, what are the different buckets of opportunity that exist?” Zimmer tells iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman, host of the “Math & Magic: Stories From the Frontiers of Marketing” podcast. “For some of them, there’s a very clear opportunity for podcasts. You see in someone that they are a great storyteller, they live in a world that’s very interesting and compelling, someone who attracts other people in an interesting way.”
He adds, “We try to figure out what’s the right slice and the right world for you—where you can live and what you can talk about and what’s going to make sense for you that your audience is going to be excited to hear about.”
Los Angeles-based Zimmer comes to the entertainment business with quite a pedigree. His mom is novelist Jill Schary Robinson and his dad is stockbroker Jon Zimmer, while he is the grandson of Dore Schary, the head of studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
As a youngster, he says he flunked out from Boston University. “I’m 19 years old, I’ve no vision, notion or anything of a future. This is not the script for a nice Jewish boy from a good family. My grandfather called me and said, ‘Well, you’ve really done a nice job of screwing up your life. I’d like to help you. Are you ready to get serious?’”
From there, Zimmer certainly changed the course of his life. He worked as a talent agent at ICM Partners, moving up to run its Motion Picture Literary and Motion Picture Packaging divisions. He then segued to Bauer/Benedek Agency and became a partner—until he engineered a merger with Leading Artists Agency to form UTA.
Since, he has represented the likes of Mariah Carey, Bryan Cranston, DJ Khaled, Kevin Hart, Anthony Hopkins and M. Night Shyamalan—while the agency oversees those across the gamut: media, movies, TV, digital, broadcasting, theater, video games, books, music and live entertainment.
“We bet our future on finding and developing great young filmmakers and built the agency around that core idea,” he reflects. Among the fledgling agency’s clients were the Coen Brothers, Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach—all of whom are still with UTA today.
Asked by Pittman how he helps steward his brands, Zimmer says, “Today there are so many things that can happen in the blink of an eye that can really damage a brand. Our clients are humans and they’re going to have good days and bad days and good relationships and bad relationships. What we try to do is help create the right environment so when they’re putting themselves out there, they have an understanding of what their audience thinks of them and wants to see and will connect with.”
And as the world “has gotten more crowded and connected,” according to Pittman—with “digital, social, mobile, 5G, streaming, subscriptions, media and podcasts,” he inquires how the UTA chief manages so many tentacles.
“You have to be fluent in so many different areas and how they all interrelate and impact each other,” he responds. “You have to have some understanding about how this piece affects this piece affects this piece, how’s it’s all coming together, where it’s all breaking apart, so that you can predict with some degree of accuracy where things are going and where your client should be.”
And asked if there are times when he is able to disconnect from work, Zimmer waves off such a notion. “I don’t believe that Bob Dylan is ever not thinking about the next song or that a great novelist isn’t writing while he’s sitting there having dinner with you. This is my art. It lives with me all the time. I love it.”