Bill Burnett, co-proprietor of Stretch Media with Debrah Lemattre, and cartoon creator extraordinaire, was the creative director of Fred/Alan back in the day.* A few months ago he sent along these three radio spots for TV Heaven, which ran as paid advertising during the years we had repositioned them as the first oldies TV station in America.
We’ve already posted the fantastic animated VH-1 campaign Bill conceived with Mad Magazine wacked genius Don Martin, and we’ll get some more of his stuff up soon, including his strategy that ended up with his naming Comedy Central.
Bill Burnett writes about the spot on his company’s website, Stretch Media:
“This series of radio spots for TV Heaven 41 in Minnesota are fun.
“We started with an idea inspired by that scene in “The Right Stuff” where John Glenn sees something freaky outside his space ship’s window. From Astronauts we went to Ancient Astronauts….ancient TV Watching Astronauts that is. Explaining through television the many reports of crop circles, mysterious drawings in the valleys of South America, and deciphering ancient ruins like the Sphinx. I wish I could remember the names of the actors who did such a wonderful subtle job with the voices. They were (and I’m sure still are) masters. Play them all and have a heavenly time.”
* Bill was also the creative director at Hanna-Barbera Cartoons during my tenure as the last president of that world famous studio (before Ted Turner sold the company to TIme-Warner). He wrote a phenomenal series of essays about the studio where he positioned the company’s innovative philosophy better than any other time in its history.0 comments Tagged: TV Heaven, radio, advertising, branding, Bill Burnett,.
After Tom Pomposello introduced us to Fred Mogubgub’s pop-art style for the TV Heaven/Channel 41 station IDs, our creative department researched a series of ‘heaven’ quotations which would be read by actors for the animation soundtracks.
In another life Fred/Alan Managing Director Ed Levine (now a famous food writer) had co-produced two amazing records by New Orleans stylist Dr. John (real name Mac Rebennack) and had convinced him to play our annual holiday parties. Ed reminded us Mac was singing commercials (for their big payday) and thought he might do us a favor and put one of the appropriate quotes to music to give the campaign a little flavor.
Session arrangements were made and Ed and our production team went over to the studio for what we thought we be a normal three hour session with Mac singing and playing solo piano. A little over an hour later they were back in the office doors. We were shocked and concerned they were back so fast; what had gone wrong?!
As often happens with magic talent at the right moment, nothing had gone wrong and everything had gone amazingly right. Mac had taken a look at the lyrics we’d prepared, with the syllables’ rhythm worked out perfectly, and come up with a melody that fit 10 seconds in about…10 seconds! He’d asked for other lyrics and we put everything we had in front of him whether they “worked” or not. One by one, with over a dozen set of lyrics, Mac ran them down in real time, and before our team knew it, he’d sung every word we had. All of a sudden we’d almost doubled our ID output, and with a N’awlins joie de vivre at that.
We eventually used visuals from all of our contributors — Fred Mogubgub, International Rocketship, Mark Karzen, Mark Beyer, and others from our agency creative team— with the unique soundtracks Dr. John provided us.0 comments Tagged: Dr. John, Network IDs, TV Heaven, TV Heaven IDs, TV spots, UHF, animation, branding, broadcast, television, Tom Pomposello,.
In 1988, a friend of ours bought a couple of failing UHF TV stations in the upper suburbs of Minnesota. He asked Fred/Alan to work our branding and programming philosphies on the station (linked together with common programming). We made them the first broadcaster* to use an “oldies television” approach and creative director Noel Frankel, dubbed it “TV Heaven.”
For the animated IDs we felt were so integral to branding TV in the 1980s, our producer Tom Pomposello convinced us that the pioneering work of animator Fred Mogubgub would be just the original ticket. Fred’s style had a kind of staccato, pop-art feel, and he’d made an animated film completely out of still images illustrating the text. We hired Fred, Marv Newland’s International Rocketship (Vancouver), and various illustrators and photographers. For text we researched enormous amounts of quotations with the word ‘heaven’ in them. Like “Heaven is on Earth when I look at you, but when I see you in a mirror it’s reversed.” We chose a few dozen and had them read or sung by actors like Fran Rizzo or Dr. John**, put the results together, and had a campaign that was one of our proudest accomplishments.
* Note our post title says “station” not “network.” Alan and I had created the first oldies TV approach for an ABC development deal we had in 1983. After they passed we held onto the idea and reworked in 1985 it when Nickelodeon needed to fill their non-kid hours from 8pm-6am. Immediately, ‘Nick-at-Nite’ became #1 in cable prime with the highly coveted (among programmers and advertisers) group of adults from 18 to 34 years old.
By 1988, the geniuses in the MTV Networks sales department decided that oldies programming (Bewitched, My Three Sons, The Donna Reed Show, and the rest) in black & white couldn’t be sold to advertisers, and the publicity folks insisted the TV writers didn’t want to write about “old shows”. At the time, no one there understood it was the format that innovative and it was the format the audience was in love with. They demanded Nick-at-Nite “reposition” itself. We suggested an all comedy network, since the most successful shows on the network were old sitcoms, and for nine months we preceeded HA!, Comedy Channel, and Comedy Central.
The Nickelodeon folks gave us permission to bring the format to the tiny, tiny TV stations in Minnesota; how much trouble would that cause a big, ole cable network?
Within three weeks of launch TV Heaven had generated more publicity than Nick-at-Nite had in three years. Our marketing client told us we would not only be fired from Nick-at-Nite but from all Nick related channels, maybe even MTV. We resigned TV Heaven and they never paid their bills to Fred/Alan.0 comments Tagged: Network IDs, TV Heaven, TV Heaven IDs, TV spots, animation, branding, Tom Pomposello,.
From the very first minute I went to work for Bob Pittman (he was 25, I was 27) at the Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment Company in May of 1980, he told me about the company’s plan for a television channel that would be exclusively rock videos and how he envisioned the TV equivalent of radio jingles: network identifications (‘IDs’) short, wacked out pieces of animation that would reveal the network logo. Not like the staid CBS Eye (“You’re watching CBS.”) but rock’n’roll wrapped up into a little picture explosion.
As soon as we started working on what would become MTV: Music Television a month later I started thinking about these IDs and realized they could be the album covers of the new generation of music fans. For baby boomers the album cover came of age with the first American Beatles album representing every phase of their cultural development. I had bemoaned my lateness to that party, but my self-importance hoped the MTV network IDs could serve the same purpose.
Little did I know they’d achieve an almost equal prominence, and more. For me and Alan Goodman, my first partner in the enterprise (and countless more), they led the way for how we would become the first people to ‘brand’ American cable television networks throughout the 1980s. First as employees at MTV, then for our clients at Fred/Alan, we made over 1000 more of these 10-second visual operas for networks ranging from Nickelodeon and Comedy Central to TMTV in Japan and Lifetime. We worked with some of the greatest indie animators the world had to offer (some we’re still doing projects with today) and started a lot of companies on their way. These IDs might have been the most fun I had during the years we were doing television branding. (And for me, inadvertendly, they began what was to become a late life career change into producing cartoons.)
-Fred Seibert, 20060 comments Tagged: Comedy Central, Lifetime, MTV, MTV Networks, Network IDs, Nickelodeon, TV Heaven, TV promotion, VH-1, branding, Nick-at-Nite,.