Firebrand CEO Laments Company's Demise, Misunderstands Commercials

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Fighting to the end, Firebrand CEO Roman Vinoly shared his frustration over doubters of the ads-as-content concept with AdWeek, pondering, "Isn't it proven every Super Bowl and on lots of Web sites where people go? Isn't it proven by being one of the largest categories uploaded to YouTube? Is it that difficult to conceive that great creative created by great artists with all the money in the world could be compelling to consumers even though it's trying to sell a product?"

Vinoly can't seem to grasp the concept an ad is still an ad no matter how entertaining it is. There's only so much selling a person can take no matter how beautiful a bow is wrapped around a collection of commercials. The reason there are so many commercial uploads to YouTube is easy to explain. Marketers upload them themselves. Marketers hire viral distribution companies to upload them and to get people to embed the videos on their site. Voracious ad bloggers upload them so they can feature them on their blogs and offer commentary. The creators of the ads themselves upload them hoping for added fame and glory.

And those "great artists" Vinoly thinks would be so "compelling" to people are making ads mostly to pay the bills in between their primary artistic gigs. They're not doing it with the goal of creating Oscar-worthy content people will flock to on a site such as Firebrand.

While Vinoly says Firebrand's demise is due to lack of financial backing and "an unsustainable cost structure in our distribution deal with Ion that we tried in vain for some months to renegotiate," it's clear the offering wasn't attracting as many people as Firebrand had hoped.

With Ion Network's 95 million cable subscribers, Firebrand;'s weekly show was watched by just 135,000 people each week. Firebrand's website performed even more poorly achieving 54,000 visits last month according to Nielsen Online and 33,000 according to Quantcast.

Advocating for the connection people have with brands, Vinoly said, "I still believe that people have a relationship to brands that contribute to their identity as people, the same way someone is a Yankees or Mets fan, they're an Adidas of Nike fan."

He's right. People do develop deep connections with the brands they love. But the connection is with the brand's product or service, not, except in very few cases, it's advertising. That's an important distinction to understand.

Clearly advertising is a catalyst in developing relationships and admiration for brands. Without question, that is important and not to be diminished but commercials are a means to an end akin to Cupid and his arrow. If Cupid does his job, people fall in love...and then they forget about him. His job is done and now he goes away. Just like advertising does after it has served its purpose creating love for a brand.

Excepting a collection of classics, there's really no compelling reason to watch commercials as a form of content. And, even with the classics, how many times can a person watch 1984 before they grab their own giant hammer and toss it into their TV full of commercials that just won't shut up?

by Steve Hall    Mar- 5-08   Click to Comment   
Topic: Online, Opinion, Television, Tools   

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Comments



Comments

I agree with 99% of what you've said, except for you dismissal of the notion that creatives aren't looking to produce a masterpiece. As an account person, one of the hardest parts of my job is telling an art director or copywriter that they can't say or do something because it isn't on budget, strategy, etc. And even the smallest job that you'd think they'd simply want to bang out, they put their utmost effort into. Creatives are looking to build their portfolio... they're looking to sell a product/service, yes, but only in the most compelling and creative way possible. Remember, these guys don't have MBAs, they went to art & portfolio schools. If I were you, I'd check out the work that premiered during the Oscars. Definitely some Oscar-worthy work, though not all. But like I said, totally agree with most of what you've said. I'd love to think that Firebrand is right about consumer interest in advertisements, but it doesn't take a marketing research analyst to discover that it's probably not the case.

Posted by: Cassi on March 6, 2008 9:58 AM

Cassi,

Thanks. I don't mean to diminish the creativity or the creative aspirations of advertising creatives at all. Not one bit. It's more that the general public doesn't expect advertising to be an Oscar-worthy masterpiece. Not that it can't be and not that we in advertising don't strive to make it become masterpiece-worthy work. For sure, there is wonderful advertising work out there and can certainly be called a masterpiece.

I think most creative people want to create masterpiece work. If not, they wouldn't be doing it. But with advertising, there is more of a constraint on the work than there is with pure art, as it were. Advertising can be as creative and as wonderful as a creative can make it but it's burdened with the overriding constraint that it's supposed to sell something and that's not that case with art for art's sake such as an artistic video, a painting or a movie.

So while we're all looking to create a masterpiece, we can only go so far as advertising's walled constraints will allow us to go.

Posted by: Steve Hall on March 6, 2008 10:16 AM

It's obvious that industry folks would love a channel like this but there isn't enough of us to keep something like this alive.

Focus on your niche market and use your $$$ wisely.

Create a web channel rather than wasting the time and money on an attempt to make it something more.

Posted by: Patrick on March 6, 2008 2:59 PM

idiotic from the start. yet another example of the ad industry's deluded self-importance. i don't even think there was the element of conceptual bravery that distinguishes honeyshed in firebrand, it's just a total waste of time and effort predicated by the ability of any huckster to land a TV slot.

special congratulations goes to "firebrand partner" adweek, for its press-releasing, suitcase of cash and doe-eyed 'doy, that's a great idea!' support.

Posted by: Eli on March 6, 2008 4:12 PM

You people think too small. Firebrand was a good idea, just not well thought-out. What if there were a couple reality shows in the mix? You're telling me some of the giant egos in this business wouldn't want to be stars? And a "Project Runway" type-deal? Add in some classics, mix in the new...it could work.
I'll miss the presenters and their large, prominent...brains most of all.

Posted by: Hugh on March 10, 2008 1:32 PM

Firebrand was an exceptional teaching tool for my Fashion Merchandising Promotions & Advertising class taught at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. My students were so wired about the content. Perhaps, Vinoly should reposition this concept for an online education program for Promotions & Advertising. My student's favorite ad was the Orangina soft drink ad. It was creatively wild.

Kim
Fashion Instructor
LATTC

Posted by: Kim on December 29, 2008 5:00 PM

Firebrand was an exceptional teaching tool for my Fashion Merchandising Promotions & Advertising class taught at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College. My students were so wired about the content. Perhaps, Vinoly should reposition this concept for an online education program for Promotions & Advertising. My student's favorite ad was the Orangina soft drink ad. It was creatively wild.

Kim
Fashion Instructor
LATTC

Posted by: Kim on December 29, 2008 5:00 PM







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