Stretch Media, My New Company, Makes LA Times Front Page!

Hi!  I’m very excited to report that the LA Times was so enchanted by Stretch Media’s jingle spot for Eat at Joe’s that they put us on the front page of the business section.  You can read all about it here.  Debrah Lemattre did the shooting and editing honors, I wrote the jingle and Creative Directed.  You can see the results on youtube: Eat at Joe’s in Redondo.

Now we’ve done another Italian-ish spot for Claro’s Italian Food Markets.  (Guess we’re going Italian.)

Anyway, check all this stuff out and by all means get in touch:  you can reach me at bill@stretchmedia.net.

My Next New Client

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I can now come out of the cold and announce the name of that New Start-up Internet Content company I’m working for. It’s Next New Networks the amazingly ambitious endeavor from some of the heaviest hitters in the New Media biz.

They’re going to launch 101 new networks in the next couple of years. One Hundred and One! And my job is to help them with Branding, Positioning and Promos. I’m honored. And a little scared. It’s the wild wild web out there, and the nearest law is a day’s ride away. Watch this site and I’ll clue you in on what we’re doing as it happens.

Meanwhile, here are the logos for the first eight Next New Networks…

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Published in: on May 20, 2007 at 5:58 pm  Comments (2)  

Making Ads With A Legendary Cartoonist

One of the high points of my career was when Don Martin, “Mad Magazine’s Maddest Artist”, agreed to make a series of ads with me at Fred/Alan, Inc. You have to understand, I idolized Don Martin. I was that kid who snuck Mad Magazine into class and covered it with a Moby Dick book cover. And Don Martin was one of my favorites. With his geeky characters whose feet folded over the curb and his uncanny sense of absurdist slapstick, he cracked me up over and over.

So, there I was, charged with creating a campaign for VH-1 that would position the network as an MTV for baby boomers. What better way to accomplish that than to invoke the boomer’s bible–Mad Magazine? To the best of my knowledge we are the only people who have ever made an animated film of Don Martin’s cartoons, either for commercials or pure entertainment value. That makes these spots pretty special. I’ll pause here to let you look at the second of the spots and then pick up the tale…

Actually, while you were watching the spot, I took a spin around the web and found that there IS a guy in Brazil who has been doing some decent Don Martin animations . You can find them by Googling “Don Martin Animation”. It’s not clear to me that he did them with Don’s blessing, but they’re kind of fun. (We did our spots with Don’s complete participation.) And apparently there was an unaired Mad Magazine special that contains an animated Don Martin cartoon. Still, I think our ads are unique in that they remained true to the spirit of the master and also delivered a strong marketing message. These ads spoke to the prevailing thirty-something sense of living with stress and anxiety and troubled times, and the corresponding feeling of entitlement. “After all you’ve been through, you deserve your own channel.” Don’t we all feel that way? We’ve all been through a lot. We DO deserve our own channels. And with the Internet exploding into niches the way it is, we’ll each have our own channel before too long. (See Next New Networks one post up on this blog.)

Published in: on May 10, 2007 at 1:15 am  Leave a Comment  

Pan Am: Your Very Own Corporate Jet

Commuting is something you want to have happen to a jail sentence. It’s not something you want to do every day. And yet hundreds of business folk make hellish commutes between New York and Boston and Washington DC many times a week. To ease their pain, Pan Am decided to make its shuttle ultra-comfortable, with extra legroom, leather seats, private phones and frequent, dependable flights.

We dubbed it The Corporate Jet. I wrote a jingle which was played incessantly on the radios and TVs of the northeast. And we hired old J.P. Moneybags from Monopoly to come in and be our winking mascot. Here’s what it looked like…

Published in: on May 9, 2007 at 11:15 pm  Comments (1)  

The Hidden Soul of Canon Office Equipment

Canon Office Equipment was looking for a way to go head to head with IBM, without being so ungallant as to mention their giant competitor’s name. (As you probably know, the Japanese are extremely polite.) We came up with this “Think Again” campaign, which provided another opportunity to use groundbreaking animation in a television spot. Here, Glenn Batkin and I came up with an elegant way to express the hidden qualities of, ahem, an electric typewriter. (Hey, stop snickering, or I’ll force you to watch my ads for steam-driven typewriters.) An “animation spotlight” crosses the machine, revealing the poetry, strength, and versatility that lies beneath that beige exterior, accompanied by another Bill Burnett musical composition. It’s a lovely spot. Check it out…

Published in: on May 9, 2007 at 10:40 pm  Comments (1)  

Christmas Is A Gas At Hess Oil

Leon Hess had an interesting approach to branding: He never advertised his gas. (Although every ad agency who worked for him hoped and prayed that he would.) Instead, those sparkling clean green and white Hess Gas Stations sold a toy truck every year at Christmas time–a high quality toy at a low price point. And it was those toy trucks that Leon advertised.

The branding message, delivered very quietly, was that Hess Oil was as clean and pure and family friendly as Christmas. Here’s the charming spot I created with art director Walt Panek to sell the Hess Firetruck…

By the way, selling this spot was an interesting experience. The multi-billionaire Mr. Hess was something of a Howard Hughes-like recluse. Even his closest advisers couldn’t get an audience with him directly. When we pitched the storyboards, they were shoved under the door to Leon’s inner sanctum and emerged a half hour later with big red circles around the the frames he liked and X’s through the frames he rejected.  And that was that.  Don’t tell me I don’t know how to deal with clients.

Published in: on May 9, 2007 at 9:10 pm  Leave a Comment  

Put Us To Work For You!

I’m proud and excited to announce the launch of our new production company:

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(Click on the logo to visit the site.)

I say “our” production company because the super talented woman who runs it is my lovely wife Debrah Lemattre. Debrah is a tremendously gifted director, producer, photographer, editor and graphic artist. She can plan a project, shoot it, edit it, author the DVD, and make the packaging for it. No kidding. She’s a quintuple threat, at least.

As its name suggests, Filmanthropy specializes in doing film, video and graphic work for philanthropic groups and causes. Debrah has made Documentaries, Fundraising Videos, PSAs and Performance Films for the LA Free Clinic, Maria Shriver (and family), Physician’s Assistants, and many more. But she’s also worked on a host of “commercial” ventures. And of course, so have I. I have been on the Filmanthropy team, providing writing, music, animation and branding and positioning consultation.

Now, maybe you’re not a “philanthropic” organization. Maybe you like to make some money out of your worthy endeavors. Well guess what–so do we! We can bring the same budget friendly and brand savvy production techniques to your project that we use for our philanthropic clients. Check out the Filmanthropy A-Z page. I bet you’ll find something there that is just like a project you have in the works–or wish you did. Let’s work on it together!

Published in: on May 7, 2007 at 11:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

Positioning A Legendary Institution

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I arrived in Los Angeles on the day of the big earthquake. Which is perhaps appropriate, because the job I was applying for–and got–was to shake things up at one of the most venerable studios in Hollywood…Hanna-Barbera. The birthplace of a host of the world’s best known and beloved cartoon characters–The Flintstones, Yogi Bear, Scooby Doo, The Jetsons, Top Cat, Huckleberry Hound, Johnny Quest, to name but a handful–had lost its way. It was down at the heel and covered with cobwebs.

Its new owner, Ted Turner (remember him?) wanted it turned into a living, breathing success story again. I worked closely with Fred Seibert and a new staff of tremendously talented executives and creatives, and came up with a positioning document, along with a series of essays that addressed the misconceptions many people–myself included–had about Hanna-Barbera. These documents not only helped us turn Hanna-Barbera around. Hanna-Barbera and Cartoon Network turned the entire animation industry around, with such breakthrough hits as The Powerpuff Girls, Johnny Bravo, Dexter’s Lab, and Cow and Chicken. And our studio became the training ground for the next generation of young cartoon artists. You can find the document under the “Pages” section to the right of this blog.

Published in: on May 2, 2007 at 7:01 am  Comments (2)  

Dr. Brown’s Soda

dr-browns-libationistsml.jpg Branding and positioning can sometimes happen in public.

Here’s an example of RE-branding my team and I accomplished through execution:

Dr. Brown’s Soda wanted to shake itself loose from the image of being, well, a Jewish drink. At the time it was served almost exclusively at deli’s like Ratners in New York City.

I came up with the notion of making Dr. Brown a character–a totally goyisha Softdrinkologist. We turned him into a philosophical pontificator, like Dr. Johnson. My wonderful art director partner Glenn Batkin made the cans of Dr. Brown’s look absolutely scrumptious and created an elegantly simple design. We ran these ads in classy rags like the New Yorker and the New York Times Book Review.

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Did we succeed? You tell me–do you still think of Dr. Brown’s as a Jewish soft drink?

Published in: on May 1, 2007 at 1:47 am  Leave a Comment  

Branding and Positioning R Me

A lot of the stuff you will see and read on this site is funny.
I hope that doesn’t lead you to believe I’m just a comical copywriter.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I’m actually a dedicated student and skilled practitioner of Branding and Positioning–one of the few you’ll ever come across. I cut my teeth as copywriter at Grey Advertising in New York, working on everything from cereal to painkillers to motor oil. Then I became Creative Director at Fred/Alan Inc., the advertsing agency and think-tank for MTV Networks–one of the most brand-savvy corporations in the universe.

Look to the right of this blog and you’ll find several of my positioning documents under the heading “Pages.”

There’s the one I wrote to help give birth to Comedy Central. You know, the place where millions of eyeballs now turn every night to watch Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, South Park, and a host of hot new comics like Dave Chapelle, Sarah Silverman and Carlos Mencia. It’s a happening channel, no? Well, I was there at the beginning. I wrote their initial brand position and even made up the name Comedy Central. And there isn’t a plaque, or a statue of me anywhere in their offices.

I’m not bitter. I just wish that when Viacom recently paid $1.23 billion for AOL’s half of the network, somebody had kicked a spare million my way.

I also wrote positioning and branding documents for VH-1 and Hanna-Barbera and a slew of others. (Anybody out there know exactly how many are in a “slew”?) And I’m writing some now for an Internet start-up company. Maybe soon I’ll be able to tell you who they are. For the moment it’s very hush-hush.

Meanwhile, please look around this site and notice that all my work has solid branding and marketing purpose behind it. I’m no puny punster. I write persuasive, branded, smart-marketing advertising, and I take it very seriously. And that’s what you want.

Isn’t it?

(Click here for a complete history of Comedy Central.)

Published in: on April 27, 2007 at 7:27 am  Leave a Comment  
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