As Predicted, Firebrand Flames Out


Less than five months after its launch, Firebrand, the all-ads-all-the-time cable channel and online site is, as we predicted from the start, closing operations. Investor's from NBC Universal to Microsoft to GE have pulled the plug and will no longer fund Firebrand and its ill-conceived belief people actually want to seek out and watch advertising as a form of content on equal footing with network programming or movies.

Despite our repeated doubt Firebrand would ever amount to anything more than a giant money hole, those involved with Firebrand, including CMO Shari Leventhal, continued to defend it. Following one of our many stories on the stupidity of the Firebrand business model and our prediction the end was near, Leventhal wrote us, "Your 'prediction' is wholly unsupported by your argument. Our model proves, once and for all, that marketing can be entertaining AND effective. And that viewers will gladly watch commercials. They just don't like to be interrupted...and won't watch bad commercials."

In one of our favorite trashings, we wrote, "when the historical behavior of modern day humans is to avoid most ads like the plague, we can't see Firebrand as anything more than a passing fancy especially when its entire business model seems to rest on a dying method of advertising. It's almost like someone in the conference room said, 'Fuck it. No one's watching our commercial so let's just create a branded destination, wrap it in hipster clothing and make it cool.'"

And so the flame has been doused. As we knew it would. And for those with aspirations to jump in where Firebrand failed, repeat after us, "ADS ARE NOT CONTENT. ADS ARE NOT ENTERTAINMENT. ADS SELL SHIT. THAT'S ALL THEY DO.'

by Steve Hall    Mar- 4-08   Click to Comment   
Topic: Commercials, Online, Opinion   

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next to go down? honeyshed.

Posted by: garb on March 5, 2008 2:46 AM

Awww, that used to come on really late on some other cable channel. I used to watch it for inspiration, but would turn it off after they would start repeating commercials. Honestly, I would have likes the program more if they'd gotten rid of the hipster announcers and gotten a couple of graphic designers and directors up there in lounge, picking apart the construction of the ads.

But who would make a channel just for designers to watch? Niche marketing does not sell (in "big" media, that is)!

Posted by: Rachel Nabors on March 5, 2008 12:25 PM

Remember checking it out last fall, but since they don't have an RSS feed (that I could find) I forgot all about it. Actually think its really cool. Ads can be entertaining. The Bud Light commercial that's currently number 5 on the most popular list? Hello!

Firebrand should have found a way for viewers to give more detailed feedback, or else require that you login with basic demo data. At least then it would also serve as market research.

Posted by: Mike on March 5, 2008 2:05 PM

8;( rip

shout out to Grayle, Doug, Erika and Seeta.

stay in touch, yo!

silver in the most dismal rain cloud...

think of me as your yenta/matchmaker.... ;)

Posted by: arthur barbato on March 5, 2008 3:39 PM

I watched Firebrand on TV and visited their site a few times. The whole thing was entertaining and well-executed. But, again, who aside from people in advertising would like it? If it was possible to get people to watch ads for the sake of ads, this should have done it.

Posted by: Jessie Birks on March 5, 2008 3:58 PM

Steve, I will give you that your prediction was right. But your argument still suffers. Yes, it is human nature to avoid most ads. Because, yes, most ads are awful. However, those were not the ads we were talking about.

You cannot disagree that SOME ads are downright brilliant. Some ads are better then the TV shows they interrupt. Some ads warrant awards and accolades and cult status. Say what you will about the ratings. Those that did tune in stayed for more than 15 minutes at a time. No small feat considering advertisers are killing themselves for just 15 seconds of the viewer’s attention.

As for putting commercials on equal footing with network programming or movies – that was never our intention. Because our demographic is not tuning into network programming or movies, either. For this generation of remote control babies with ever-shortening attention spans, Firebrand delivered the finest, award-winning, innovative, short films a logo can buy.

The only thing wrong with our business model is we spent too much money on ION Television. My prediction? This conversation isn’t over.

Shari F. Leventhal

Posted by: Shari Leventhal on March 5, 2008 5:30 PM

To respectfully disagree with Shari, even ads that are "better than the TV shows they interrupt" are still selling shit, which is primarily why people don't want to voluntarily watch them: it's tiring to be sold to all day long, and even the worst episode of Reba is better than watching 30 minutes of ads. I know it sounds unbelievable, but INTENT MATTERS. Why do you think young people like Obama more than Clinton, when their platforms are the same? Because INTENT MATTERS and the intent to entertain is not and never will be, synonymous with the intent to sell. You could make short films that entertain and are brand-sponsored, but even those aren't the same as commercials. Which is what Firebrand showed.

Also, speaking as a "remote control baby with an ever-shortening attention span" (the trends research doesn't back this up, btw, and anyone who gambles on it is about to get their ass handed to them) I find your entire condescending attitude to be offensive to my generation.

Posted by: Susie on March 5, 2008 9:19 PM

Also, to address the obvious, anyone who tuned in for more than 15 minutes probably either thought a show would be on at some point, or walked away from the TV.

Ratings... they're not the same as eyeballs anymore.

Posted by: Susie on March 5, 2008 9:23 PM

I watched while in Orlando during Christmas and I loved it. I thought this would be a really cool idea, then when I saw Firebrand was doing it I was like "yes!!". I like commercials more than I like the show most of the time. Do not stop the research on this it can work.


Posted by: Todd on May 5, 2008 3:22 PM