Firebrand CEO Laments Company's Demise, Misunderstands Commercials
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?