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,.
It was a critical time for Nick-at-Nite in the early 1990s. Fred/Alan’s innovation had already defied all odds by running just “reruns” and become one of the top rated cable networks. Better yet the channel was “branded,” which meant that advertisers would pay more for their commercials. But there were only so many ways to re-package and re-present old shows, and we’d pretty much used them all.
We tossed around a lot of stuff, mainly variations of what we were already doing. But more marathons (“See all the black & white “Bewitched” episodes in order!”) or stunts (“The Nick-at-Nite String-a-thon!”) weren’t going to cut it; NAN was already the best in the business at that. Nick-at-Nite needed to do something bigger!
I’d always loved The Dick Van Dyke Show, and we were about to debut it, bringing one of the great classics back to TV for the first time in a long while. It was funny (and 12 year old me had a crush on the young Mary Tyler Moore).
For a long while, I felt like an oldies channel needed a personality. We’d accomplished a lot with packaging and promotion, and over at HA! I tried like crazy to get then to make a deal to use Lucille Ball as “the patron saint of TV comedy,” but no go.
Now, I had a bright idea. Why don’t we actually hire Dick Van Dyke as the Chairman of Nick-at-Nite? He certainly looked the part, with a executive mane of gray hair and an authoritative mustache.
Programming head Herb Scannell (soon to be CEO) upped the ante. He did a little back of a napkin math and realized the idea could be even bigger. “We’ll announce it as a million dollar deal.” Back in the day, there were no big deals being done with name talent, just little hosting gigs here and there. ”Salary, promotion, and programming production commitments, we can swing it.”
Sure enough, the announcement made headlines across the business, and then further, in newspapers across the country. Nick-at-Nite (and cable) was starting to come into its own.
By the way, those people in full dress with Dick up above. A rare clean-up day for the Fred/Alan staff at the industry event announcing Dick’s “promotion” to executive status.
Left to right: Robert Hunter (accounting), Alan Goodman (founder), Bill Burnett (creative director), Dick Van Dyke, Fred Seibert (founder), Bill Horvath (art director), Tom Barreca (account supervisor), Dave Landesburg (account executive), Lou Bauer (media director).
—Fred0 comments Tagged: Dick Van Dyke, NAN, Nick-at-Nite, branding, Bill Burnett,.
A Day in the Life from fredseibert on Vimeo.
Bill Burnett started at Fred/Alan in 1987 as a hilarious freelance copywriter, eventually becoming our creative director (and he went on to write and create cartoons for Fred in Hollywood). From his blog (check it out to see both spots, and more), here’s Bill’s take on a great campaign he created for us and our client VH-1:
One of the high points of my career was in 1988, when Don Martin, “Mad Magazine’s Maddest Artist”, agreed to make a series of ads with me at Fred/Alan Inc.You have to understand, I idolized Don Martin. I was that kid who snuck Mad Magazine into class and covered it with a Moby Dick book cover. And Don Martin was one of my favorites. With his geeky characters whose feet folded over the curb and his uncanny sense of absurdist slapstick, he cracked me up over and over.
So, there I was, charged with creating a campaign for VH-1 that would position the network as an MTV for baby boomers. What better way to accomplish that than to invoke the boomer’s bible–Mad Magazine? To the best of my knowledge we are the only people who have ever made an animated film of Don Martin’s cartoons, either for commercials or pure entertainment value. That makes these spots pretty special.
I just took a spin around the web and found that there IS a guy in Brazil who has been doing some decent Don Martin animations . You can find them by Googling “Don Martin Animation”. It’s not clear to me that he did them with Don’s blessing, but they’re kind of fun. (We did our spots with Don’s complete participation.) And apparently there was an unaired Mad Magazine special that contains an animated Don Martin cartoon.
Still, I think our ads are unique in that they remained true to the spirit of the master and also delivered a strong marketing message. These ads spoke to the prevailing thirty-something sense of living with stress and anxiety and troubled times, and the corresponding feeling of entitlement. “After all you’ve been through, you deserve your own channel.” Don’t we all feel that way? We’ve all been through a lot. We DO deserve our own channels. And with the Internet exploding into niches the way it is, we’ll each have our own channel before too long.
…..0 comments Tagged: 1988, Bill Burnett, MTV Networks, VH-1, advertising, animation, comics, commercials, television, VH1,.