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Fred Seibert's Blog

Archive for the ‘Brands’


Late to the WALL-E party.

August 14th, 2008

As usual, I’m very late to the party, but I wanted to say a few words about Floyd Bishop’s fabulous Pixar debate.

(Immediate background: I just returned from seeing WALL-E with my family. My 13 year old was somewhat bored but appreciated the theme; my 11 year old saw it for the second time, surprised how much he loved it the first time out; my wife loved it both times she saw it; I was way impressed but not deeply engaged.)

I love everything Pixar does, for every reason imaginable, not the least being it’s the only studio (Frederator excluded, of course) that relies on animator trained folks as their primary writers (Lasseter, Stanton, Doctor, Bird, et al). And it really shows in the unique quality of the movies. And, of course, [Read more…]

R.I.P. Tony Schwartz

June 17th, 2008

Tony Schwartz
Tony Schwartz, 1923-2008: his ‘daisy ad’ changed political advertising.

Even though he became famous in an era of black & white and radio, Tony Schwartz taught core lessons of communication to everyone in the media. Whether they knew it was coming from him or not.

His most famous piece was this campaign spot for Lyndon Johnson in 1964, which, lore has it, ran only once (and never even mentioned the opponent’s name) but was responsible for defeating Barry Goldwater in a landslide.

The Responsive Chord
My mentor, Dale Pon, not only insisted I buy and read Tony’s book “The Responsive Chord,” but that I should meet the man himself, which was an incredible experience. From then on, I made the book required reading among my promotion staff.

Check it out. The things you think you know because you’re smart are probably things that Tony was smart about before we were born.

The Stove Top Stuffing Mountains.

June 10th, 2008

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This advertising was one of the choice campaigns from one of our pet projects at my ad agency. Like I said a few days ago, in the mid-80s my partner Alan Goodman and I came up with the idea of the first oldies TV network, Nick-at-Nite, and our creative director Noel Frankel developed the ad that was the perfect way to start telling people about our nutty approach to building the identity. Then, writer Bill Burnett kept coming up with the twisted ads for places like TV Guide.

Soon Nick-at-Nite was the most popular cable network in prime time and we needed to start selling some ads. Bill Burnett came up with the idea of a faux editorial campaign for the advertising trade magazines (like Advertising Age and Adweek) from a media pundit, Raul Degado (written by Bill, modeled by Tom Pomposello, who had one outrageous media buying scheme after another, every week. By the end of each column, of course, Nick-at-Nite seemed the perfect real time solution to the advertisers’ problems.

This one could be my favorite. It’s funny, and, it came true!

Happy with the mess.

November 12th, 2006

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Wanna read about cartoons? That’s mainly in the second section down below. Someone asked me for this piece because of my recent rants about the changing media. I believe it has everything to do with you and cartoons, but you might diagree or be too bored with my writing to care. Either way, thanks for hanging around our blogs.

Happy with the mess.
Thanks goodness media is in an upheaval again. As every art form should be. Sure media is a ‘common carrier’ of writing, music, film, and all sorts of art. But media itself is art, an expression. And like everything in art, in order to remain essential it’s got to be turned upside down and shook out ever so often to maintain its vitality. And its viability.

I’m pretty happy with this state of affairs; it seems like most of my baby boomer life it was television exploding network radio and movies, or the Beatles throwing over Elvis and Sinatra. Then as professionals in cable television we rewrote the rules of how TV talked to the world, and watching the beginning of interactive technology and communication alter everything in media that has come before in almost inexplicable ways. For me it’s always been the way of the world. And the way that I work.

TV, the massive bore.
Early in my career I struggled looking for places in the media where the rules weren’t already written (the Beatles influence was pretty clear; the idea of creating wild eyed commercial success crossed with high art held on strongly). Radio sure didn’t have it, music recording should have had it, and television and movies…please! Bob Pittman came along and made me the first member of his new cable programming team and we brought the rules of Top 40 radio to all kinds of television, from music to kids to comedy, and eventually around the world.

Let’s face it, to us 20-somethings, broadcast television was one massive bore, programming to everyone, satisfying no one except the out of touch advertisers.

The rules had been happily, and profitably, established 30 years before and there was an incredible army of conventional wisdom established that didn’t want to be rocked. We just wanted take over the world, so minute by minute and day by day (I’d say show by show, but we didn’t have no TV shows) we dissected how they did it, tore it apart. We reinvented the pieces that didn’t work (and kept the ones that did) and had the conceit that no one else knew how to do what we were doing.

I Want My {Brand} TV.
We were so conceited that when I took the world’s most famous TV moment, the 1969 moon landing, and planted a flag with 100 MTV logos, I joked that six year olds would forever wonder why the official version of the photo had an American flag. (And now those 31 years olds work with me and confirm my worst fears about how communication works.)

Unwittingly we were aided by mature industries (broadcasting and publishing) that had no room for our skills, our talents, or our ideas. There were hundreds of us that were too impatient to wait 20 years to take our place in the middle ranks of media management.

Along the way, the new orthodoxy presented itself:

• No TV stations, just channels.

• Don’t watch a show, watch a channel that talks the way you talk and sings the way you sing.

• It’s not your parent’s channel, it’s not your siblings’ channel, it’s not even all your friends’ channel. It’s your channel.

And my creative, marketing, and programming groups invented a brand new idea. Networks, nah! Shows, nah! Ratings, nah! (At least, not yet.) But what instead?

Brands.

Long before our current, common vocabulary, every channel I worked on was an idea, a community, an audience. A set of beliefs. In marketing: a brand. Add a vanity that our beliefs would not only change the media, but change the world. And now, take a look. MTV is the largest channel in the world, established in more countries than anything else in all of television, and synonymous with youth around the globe. Nickelodeon has more viewing than the children’s viewing of all the broadcasters combined (that is, before they abandoned kids altogether).

Now, if only MySpace and Neopets don’t steal their thunder.

………………………………..
CU Timmy Turner: “Ah? The internet?!?!”
But, of course they will. They’re already doing it.

I now produce cartoons. You know, like Looney Tunes, but newer. Cartoons went through their own paradigm shifts I won’t totally bore you with, but suffice it to say great feature cartoons (like Bugs or Mickey) gave way to simpler, more graphic TV cartoons like the Flintstones. They giving way to ‘animated sitcoms’ –yuck– and got really boring (The Snorks, anyone?). The producers like us who entered in the last generation couldn’t take it anymore and initiated a silver age explosion that resulted in The Powerpuff Girls, The Simpsons, and South Park. And now, they’re even boring! Why? I’ll let others speculate exactly how, but the truth is everything in media always wears out. And the new has to rush in.

What’s the new this time, and how’s it happening?

To quote Timmy Turner from our production of The Fairly Oddparents: “Ah? The internet!?!?”

You bet. All over the media (cartoons, news, sitcoms, whatever) a crucial link is being killed. It’s the network. Or more specifically, the network executive (or a producer like me, for that matter). Makers of all kinds of stuff are talking directly to their customers. Bloggers publish their own newspapers, filmmakers exhibit at their own theatres, cartoons run their own asylums.

Out of frustration with being ignored by the powers that be I’ve worked with regularly for 25 years (and we get in the door, they at least attempt to take us seriously) we’ve started over 50 blogs, and a handful of video networks. Within weeks we’d established millions of monthly viewers and readers and rendered out heretofore
back-room companies to brands with worldwide recognition. Advertisers are knocking on the door, and we’re being consulted daily within the automotive and entertainment industries as to how traditional brands can see the light (one day I’m hopeful they can, depressed the next they’re more interested in only protecting what they have instead of going boldly forward).

And the whole effort is being aided again by the perfect storm of talent and ideas. If you’re a young person with designs on media once again there’s a back-up. Buck the odds and get in the door and you’ll see a ten or fifteen year line ahead of you to get the job (or show) you really wanted in the first place. But, make your own idea, post in at Blogger.com or YouTube.com or ChannelFrederator.com, and you can have 500,000 friends in a couple of days waiting for your next pronouncement (ask my colleague Dan Meth what happened to his video Hebrew Crunk for a real life proof of concept).

The revolution will be televised.
Want to be a star? Want to be a living brand? Don’t wait for MTV, don’t wait for the New York Times, don’t wait for me.

Mostly don’t blame me. From now on you’ve only yourself to look at in the mirror if no one knows you’re alive.