Bernard seeks synergy

Ex-Hypnotic head forms promo firm

HOLLYWOOD — Jeremy Bernard is making a second attempt to capitalize on convergence.

The founder of Hypnotic has formed Bernard Media Group, a New York-based advertainment venture looking to help brands develop entertainment programming as alternatives to traditional advertising campaigns, product placement and sponsorships.

Joining Bernard as exec veep of sales and marketing is Pete Callaro, a vet of ad agency TBWA Chiat Day, where he spent 10 years working on Absolut Vodka’s marketing campaign, launching online advertainment projects such as Absolut Director and Absolut DJ.

In addition, Jeremiah Newton serves as the company’s film industry liaison. He is also the film, TV and video industry liaison for NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Advertisers are increasingly looking for ways to emerge from the clutter of traditional advertising and capture the attention of media-savvy consumers.

“Branded content goes where traditional advertising does not,” Bernard said. “It is not simply a branded message, but an engaging conversation with a discerning audience capable of seeing through the hype. Brands have only scratched the surface of this.”

Advertainment is becoming the latest arena for media entrepreneurs, mirroring the frenzy that formed around online entertainment. A slew of branded entertainment companies, formed by figures ranging from former Madison Avenue execs to Hollywood producers, have sprouted up over the past year.

“It’s sexy to say you’re doing branded content,” Bernard said. “But a lot of people don’t have the experience of working in that area. They’re either coming from a strong film or marketing background. One of the challenges is straddling both worlds and speaking both languages successfully.”

Bernard also said one of the mistakes companies make is pitching eight-figure programs or plugging a brand into TV shows or films.

“That doesn’t work,” Bernard said. “While many agencies are promoting branded content as a complement to traditional marketing, most are delivering product placement and sponsorship opportunities, masked as branded content. We are offering cost-effective branded content solutions that are driven by a brand’s marketing goals.”

Advertainment isn’t a new arena for Bernard.

At Hypnotic, Bernard created the Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival and the popular Terry Tate, Officer Linebacker Web series for Reebok, whose latest ad will appear during the Super Bowl.

Bernard founded short film Web site ReelShort.com in 1999, later turning it into Hypnotic in 2000 after inking a strategic partnership with Universal Pictures.

Before that, Bernard was a TV producer on shows including “Central Park West” and managed entertainment and media projects for accounting firm Arthur Andersen.

Hypnotic ended up merging with director Doug Liman and Dave Bartis’ Internet venture Nibblebox.com in 2001. New company took on the Hypnotic name and Bernard left soon after.

He has since been consulting for Madison Avenue’s ad agencies. Bernard Media Group will announce several branded entertainment projects shortly.

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