Design by Tom Corey & Scott Nash
We actually started Fred/Alan to make television shows.
In fact, we quit our jobs at MTV Networks to produce a series at the Playboy Channel. But, after that debacle branding and marketing took a higher bill paying priority for a while. There were some big and small shows here and there, but it wasn’t until 1987 we decided to hit it head on.
Albie Hecht, 1988 @ 277 Water Street; Photography by Elena Seibert
Albie Hecht was one of Alan’s closest friends, we all went to college together, and worked at WKCR. Like us, he’d worked in the music business as a record company executive, writer, and manager (Crack the Sky and Dean Friedman) but morphed into television, starting to establish his reputation. Our company was becoming a full service advertising agency, and we realized if we brought Albie in to run the agency’s commercial production, we could have our cake and eat it too. We set up a joint venture, and Albie took on the task of establishing us in series and specials production. Albie and Alan took the lead on all our shows.
Chauncey Street Productions was named after the street Ralph Kramden and Ed Norton lived on in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn in The Honeymooners (Fred/Alan’s original home was Jackie Gleason's production office in Manhattan). We asked Corey McPherson Nash to adapt The Honeymooners print work we’d done for Showtime when they reran the show for our logo.
We had a good run. Despite all the scripts that never sold (par for the course), our series ran on MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, AMC. Pilots and specials for CBS, A&E, and VH-1. More on these another time.0 comments Tagged: Albie Hecht, Chauncey Street, business card, Scott Nash, Tom Corey,.
A few years in the company was getting a little worn out exclusively working on branding projects, and we looked for assignments that would get us a little closer to the television show productions we hoped for when we started the company in 1983. Sometimes things would come our way that allowed us to bridge past our visible strengths towards our bigger goals. Like Rockschool.
This was a wacky gig. Whatever it is that moves rockers to be legit (can you imagine Hip-Hop Fantasy Camp?) has spawned a number of how-to-rock venues, but this BBC2 TV series was one of the first that tried to be formal about it all.
Fred/Alan didn’t produce the show itself, but in 1988 we were asked by our friend David Thomas at Thirteen to repackage it for United States consumption. We were to keep the name, but produce the American wrap-arounds with host Herbie Hancock (still hot enough off his MTV hit Rockit), and design the branding, instruction books, and advertising.
Be True To Your School.
There’s one school they make you go to…now there’s a school you’ll want to go to.
A TV series where real rock stars show you how they make their music.
With guest starts Chet Atkins, Bootsy Collins, Sly Dunbar, Bernard Edwards, John Entwistle, Larry Graham, Gary Moore, Ian Paice (Deep Purple), Carl Palmer, Nile Rogers, Robbie Shakespeare, John Taylor (Duran Duran) and more.
And special appearances by Stanley Clarke, Jimi Hendrix, Iron Maiden, B.B. King, Motorhead and The Police.
Hosted by Herbie Hancock.
Alan Goodman and I invented Nick-at-Nite.
It’s funny to see it in print. Ted Turner invented CNN the Cable News Network, Bill Paley created CBS the Columbia Broadcasting Company, John Lack invented MTV Music Television. But, there it is. Two guys most people never heard of invented America’s first oldies channel on television.
By mid-1985 Alan and I had developed the branding and vocabulary for MTV and Nickelodeon, and MTV President Bob Pittman had asked Nick General Manager Gerry Laybourne to figure out what to do with the dark hours after Nickelodeon went off the air at 8pm*. Gerry and her team tried to develop original programming for a number of months before giving up and asking us for suggestions. We were ready for them.
A couple of years before PIttman had purchased the rights to 300 episodes of The Donna Reed Show, a black & white series from from 1960s, because they were cheap and he thought they might be useful someday; I’d heard about the acquisition and started hatching up ways to use them. When we became independent producers in 1983 we spent over a year trying to convince ABC to create an “TV oldies” show in their daytime programming block. They eventually passed. “We’re a television network. We can’t run old, black and white shows!”
So, when Nick came a calling Alan and I had worked out the whole thing in our heads. We could run an entire network with programming that no one else wanted, but was solid enough to get a good rating. Perfect for the audience and perfect for advertisers. Our channel would be the television equivalent of oldies radio, the most successful format in decades. Just like “The Greatest Hits of All Time" we wouldn’t try to hide what we were. The networks might have reruns (sad face), but at Nick-at-Nite we’d be RERUNS!!! (happy face!). It would be a blast.
The powers that be at Nickelodeon did not like The Donna Reed Show at all; it was seen as a pre-feminist throwback that set a depressing role model. I’d watched it for weeks at a time in high school during an illness, and figured any show that could hold the attention of a high school boy for weeks had to be, at the very least, entertaining.
We convinced them to give it a try. Look for shows that fit the budget, were good (meaning strong characters and solid stories), package it all up under our guidance, and go for it. No one was sure what we were smoking, but after our last ditch presentation to Pittman, met with smiles and enthusiasm, they agreed to let us at it.
Alan and I were at Nickelodeon everyday for months lining things up (though we were still ‘outsiders’ we effectively served as the channel’s creative directors for the next seven years). Programming chief Debby Beece came up with the name ‘Nick-at-Nite;’ and she lined up a great debut line-up of Donna Reed, My Three Sons (the black & white years), Mr. Ed, and Route 66. Tom Corey and Scott Nash had already designed the Nickelodeon logo, so we tapped them again. We had a couple of bumps with our Nick promo team, the most important element in our scheme, because a couple of them with hipper-than-thou and thought oldies TV was the dumbest idea in creation. We convinced them by pointing out we didn’t think we were doing great art, just “good TV” (eventually one of our cornerstone promises to the audience). Scott Webb, Bob Mittenthal, Jay Newell, and others wholeheartedly committed to our vision and created some of the most memorable packaging a television network had ever seen.
Nick-at-Nite was an instant success. Within months it was the #1 cable network in prime time. It started being referenced in the popular culture, and became shorthand for suddenly retro culture. In competitive research Nick-at-Nite got credit for any old program a viewer liked, no matter where it ran on TV. And, it paved the way for Nick spinning off the 24 hour TV Land (check out Alan’s first written “positioning” for NANin 1987, “HELLO OUT THERE FROM TV LAND!”).
In many ways, Nick-at-Nite was one of Fred/Alan’s most satisfying triumphs. Creating success where most everyone else thought we had nothing. It doesn’t get any better.
* Back in the day, satellite transponders were scarce and extremely expensive; Nickelodeon leased their nighttime hours to the ARTS channel. When they got their own 24 hour berth and became A&E the cost was too much for Nick to bear without hope for revenue.0 comments Tagged: Corey McPherson Nash, MTV Networks, NIck-at-Nite, Scott Nash, TV Guide, Tom Corey, advertising, branding, print, trade advertising, NAN,.
Tom Burchill had a good idea in 1984. Lifetime (the result of a merger between Cable Health Network and Daytime Television) would become “Talk Television”, the TV euqivalent of talk radio. The hosts would be everyone from Regis Philbin to Dr. Ruth. Good idea, poor execution, run by the wrong executives, who were still trying to make broadcast television, when cable had clearly morphed into something different. And even talk radio hadn’t yet supercharged into the conservative powerhouse Rush Limbaugh initiated in 1988.
But I enjoyed the work we did. Lifetime was our first Fred/Alan branded network after Nickelodeon, and the IDs were done with Corey McPherson Nash, Buzzco, Colossal Pictures, Olive Jar Productions. Tom Pomposello produced, and that’s Tina Potter as “the annoucer.”
(Tom Burchill recovered, I should hasten to add, when he dumped the talk format and Lifetime became the very successful “Television for Women.” We, alas, were not involved.)0 comments Tagged: 1985, Lifetime, Network IDs, Tom Pomposello, animation, branding, Scott Nash, Tom Corey, Corey McPherson Nash,.
Fred/Alan started with working with Nickelodeon in late 1984 when Bob Pittman was made President of MTV Networks and he fired the existing staff, which had succeeded in losing the company tens of millions of dollars, and worse, making Nickelodeon the lowest rated cable network in America.
Bob assigned us to the remaining executives, Gerry Laybourne and Debby Beece, and suggested to them the Fred/Alan approach to branding could help them succeed. We immediately introduced them to our notion of network “promises” and then redesigned the network with Tom Corey and Scott Nash (Corey McPherson Nash, Boston) and hired some of our favorite writers and producers to create a ‘brand’. There was no money for programming or advertisting, so all the work needed to be done by the airtime on the channel itself. Nonetheless, our efforts succeeded in bringing Nickelodeon from worst to first in the ratings within six months, and Nickelodeon remains America’s #1 cable network of any kind, earning billions of dollars and making millions of kids happy.0 comments Tagged: Corey McPherson Nash, MTV Networks, Network IDs, Nickelodeon, Nickelodeon IDs, Scott Nash, TV spots, Tom Corey, animation, branding, cable, television, Tom Pomposello,.
In the late 70s Fred was producing jazz records and became friendly with Michael Cuscuna, soon to become one of the medium’s most revered producers and the leading reissue producer in history.
In the early 1980s Michael and former BlueNote/Columbia/Warner Records executive Charlie Lourie started the pioneering Mosaic Records as the first company specializing in boxed set reissues of classic performances, available only by mail order. Michael and Fred became reacquainted when he ordered their first set (The Complete BlueNote Recordings of Thelonious Monk) and he asked Fred/Alan to get involved with helping them out of the hole. It turned out their ‘sure thing’ idea wasn’t having many takers and they were worried about shutting down.
We turned them down two years in a row with a lot of unsolitcited advice about what they could do better —we were broke and our company was barely alive itself— even if we were talking through our hats. Everything we knew about direct mail cataloging was from being mail order catalog readers ourselves and from a direct mail how-to book Fred had read (at least the first chapter). We admired what Michael and Charlie were trying to accomplish at Mosaic, but our bandwidth was just too narrow.
Three years later Fred/Alan was doing a little better and Mosaic was doing a lot worse; Michael and Charlie successfully prevailed on us to finally help. We knew no more, but full of the arrogance of youth we took Alan’s first generation portable computer and invented the first Mosaic 12-page brochure on our summer rental’s picnic table. Alan wrote every word (Fred supervised “strategy” — what else is new?), our friends Tom Corey and Scott Nash designed the thing, Jessica Wolf supervised the production and we mailed out the first Mosaic catalog ever in the autumn of 1986.
We waited for the order phones to ring, and lo and behold, in the first three weeks Mosaic’s business had increased 10 fold. They were in business forever. Alan’s still writing the brochures, Fred’s still lobbing in ideas from the side. We’ve never been prouder of any project. So proud, in fact, that Alan continues writing all new release copy, and former Fred/Alan CFO Fred Pustay is now a Mosaic partner.
Do you like jazz? Order one of the Mosaic sets. They are still the standard by which all others are judged.0 comments Tagged: Mosaic Records, box set, catalog, jazz, mail order, Tom Corey, Scott Nash, Corey McPherson Nash,.
Back in the day my partner Alan Goodman and I were known as the logo guys. It was both flattering and annoying, because we’re not designers and it deflected attention from the brilliant people we worked with often, like Manhattan Design (Frank Olinsky, Pat Gorman, and Patti Rogoff designed MTV’s logo) and Corey & Co. (who designed Nickelodeon’s). But after we became known as the group who developed (not designed) the MTV logo, our reps were set in stone for a while. Eventually we were able to morph it into the idea of developing media brands, which more accurately reflected how Alan and I thought of ourselves.
After setting the vocabulary (more important than design in many ways) and “look” of MTV Alan and I left MTV Networks to set up our independent Fred/Alan Inc. and our first client was… MTV Networks. By 1984, the five year old Nickelodeon was in trouble, having lost an accumulated $40 million (that’s in 1980’s money, like $200 million today) and worse, it was the absolute lowest rated cable network in America. Dead last. MTVN chief Bob Pittman asked Alan and I to help. It was a tough decision for us to make since we were broke but had no interest in children’s television or the people who worked in it. The ‘broke’ part won out.
The key decisions we made:
• Keep the name “Nickelodeon.” We figured that 10,000,000 kids (there current circulation) knew the name and what it stood for. Management wanted to switch to “Nick,” since it was easier to spell and say; let’s forget that everyone outside the company would wonder why they were named after a garage mechanic. There were a lot of reasons for killing it: no one under a certain age had ever heard of a nickelodeon, and those who had knew it had nothing whatsoever to do with children; the word was hard to spell correctly in the age of pre-Google and spellcheck; and, the word was way too long and thin to dominate a television screen.
• Treat the network like an exclusive club, where only kids could join, not like a TV station with all kids shows. Kids in June of 1984 (when we started work) needed something they could call their own. They felt on the rear end of life, they told us so constantly. Adults (parents and teachers) made all the decisions for them. TV in the 80s wasn’t for them. They were scared of getting older, but their unconscious biology kept egging them on to age faster.
• Ban the word “FUN” from the Nickelodeon vocabulary. Every network promo told the kids that Nickelodeon was fun. It wasn’t. We thought it was better to be “fun” than say “fun.”
• Redesign the logo. Famous television designer, a moonlighting Lou Dorfsman, had designed the logo in 1981, and our brilliant friend Bob Klein had added a silver ball that zoomed around the screen in and out of everything a kid might find exciting.
Alan and I didn’t find it exciting. We’d been working a lot with a new friend, Tom Corey, who owned Corey & Co. (tragically, Tom’s passed away, his companies are now called Corey McPherson Nash & Big Blue Dot) in Boston. He came down to the Fred/Alan office in New York with his partner Scott Nash and heard our pitch for the network. we told them about our decisions I talked about above, and told them while we didn’t know anything about kids’ programming we knew that the offices of Nickelodeon were as quiet as a chapel (as one of the internal wags put it) and that in order to spice the place up we hoped that when our jobs were done they’d all be shooting spitballs at each other. Tom and Scott dug in eagerly.
I wish I had their presentation. It was pretty informal —a bunch of logos sketched on a page— and none any of us were all that crazy about. Eventually, we settled on one that was 3D in nature that revolved around itself, and kind of a standard designer treatment of a trademark. We were about to settle when Alan spoke up and said he didn’t think it was in keeping with our reputation as moving image thinkers about logos.
The MTV logo had been sold in with two thoughts. 1) Rock’N’Roll was a dynamic constantly changing medium and a logo should have a built in updating mechanism. And 2) More importantly, television was moving pictures. Logos were generally designed by print designers who wanted a perfect image, then handed off to moving image designers who had to figure out how to make the damn thing move. Often, it ended up with a big hunk of metal hurtling through space, cause what else were they going to do? We’d argued that in the 1980s that was a dumb thing to do. Why not just design a logo with movement baked into the conceptual frame right from the beginning? TV was the most important place to see the logo, and print designers could just *STOP* the motion and pick an image for an ad; it would be more dynamic even in the print that way.
Alan pointed out that’s how we’d made our bones, and besides were right, darn it. Movement was the way to go, constant change made for a energetic network, and kids were the most vital force in the world. Give them something they relate to: change. He was looking at the orange splat on their page. Tom and Scott argued that orange generally clashed with everything and that would make the logo stand out (as long as we didn’t let designers try and make it work “correctly.”) The splat could morph into any image we liked. And it wasn’t the MTV version of change. I came along for the ride that Tom, Scott, and Alan were proposing, and we trucked over to Bob Pittman’s and Gerry Laybourne’s office to make the pitch.
Bob and Gerry didn’t buy it. No one else there did either. “It doesn’t match anything.” “It’s flat.” “It’s not as cool as the MTV logo, what happened to you guys?”
Ultimately, we prevailed. I’m not really sure how, since all their objections were right on. But we were the “logo guys,” so they eventually bought our action. I’m thrilled they did, since our work with Nickelodeon is some of my favorite stuff in our careers. Tom and Scott went on to be among the premiere designers in television and kids (Scott’s now one of the leading children’s book authors and illustrators), Alan’s a successful producer and brand strategist (still consulting Nickelodeon), and they all deserved the accolades the world could throw at them.
(By the way, the book Nickelodeon Logo Logic was put together in 1998 by Sheri Dorr and Laurie Kelliher at their in-house creative services department after Alan and I had stopped full time consulting to the company six years before. The company had expanded so dramatically and so many people had trademark needs that without us —the “logo police”— around Nick’s Worldwide Creative Director Scott Webb needed some objective rules set down for designers and marketers to follow. I’m not so sure we’d agree with all their points but a trademark is a dynamic thing. Different people interpret it different ways, kind of like a musical composition, and it’s natural it’ll be looked at in new ways over the years.)
• Nickelodeon discontinued use of this logo after 26 years. They call it a “rebranding.” We would probably beg to differ.
• On his website, advertising executive George Lois claims to have designed the Nickelodeon logo. Since Fred/Alan developed the logo directly with Tom Corey and Scott Nash, his assertion is clearly false.
—Fred Seibert, 20090 comments Tagged: MTV Networks, Network IDs, Nickelodeon, branding, cable, logo, television, Tom Corey, Scott Nash, Corey McPherson Nash,.