John Michaeli, publicist and marketing executive who worked for more than 20 years in senior positions at companies including Disney, Warner Bros. Studios, Fox Entertainment Group, Hanna-Barbera Prods., PAX TV and Open TV, died on Sept. 23 in Los Angeles after a long illness. He was 73.
Most recently, Michaeli served as VP of the Barrett Co. public relations firm in Los Angeles.
Michaeli developed, implemented and directed strategic marketing campaigns for theatrical and television movies as well as TV series. He had been responsible for travel-related promotions for Disney World and Disneyland. While director of publicity and advertising for Disney’s Buena Vista Television, Michaeli coordinated celebrity appearances at Disney parks to promote the debut of new park attractions.
As a VP with Taft Entertainment, he acted as an advisor to the marketing and publicity departments of the Kings Park Division.
He began his career at Hanna-Barbera Prods., where he rose from publicist to chief marketing officer. He held a similar title at DIC Entertainment. He also served as chief global communications officer for Open TV.
While at PAX TV he was responsible for the marketing launch of the 1998 startup television network.
The original Family Channel (IFE) recruited him in 1995 to build brand visibility within the cable television and financial industries with a series of high-profile films. Following the channel’s purchase by News Corp., Michaeli continued with the rebranded Fox Family Channel and developed its 1998 fall launch publicity campaign.
At Disney, he was head of publicity, advertising and promotion for Buena Vista Television. He designed and implemented campaigns supporting BVT’s off-network and firstrun series, including animated fare, “Live With Regis and Kathy Lee” and “Siskel and Ebert.” His key achievement with Disney was the media campaign for the off-net launch of “Home Improvement,” which generated $4.5 million per episode during its first year in syndication. He also acted as spokesman for BVT and press adviser to its executives.
He began his tour at Warner Bros. in 1992. There he launched “Batman: The Animated Series” in the wake of WB’s popular “Batman” movie. He also worked on the repositioning of “Jenny Jones” and campaigns for “Babylon 5,” “Looney Tunes” and “The Prime Time Entertainment Network.”
In 1998, Michael created a marketing department for DIC Entertainment and built the global positioning of DIC, leading to high visibility for its product, including the motion picture “Inspector Gadget.”
At one time Michaeli operated his own public affairs/cause-related marketing agency, Michaeli & Associates. Among his clients were the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the AAA Office of Traffic Safety, ABC Network, Shriners Hospitals and U.S. Dept. of Transportation. Shortly after college, Michaeli was hired by animation moguls Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera. When Hanna-Barbera became a division of Taft Entertainment, Michaeli became chief marketing officer for Taft’s theatrical motion pictures, released through Paramount and Warner Bros.
Michaeli graduated from Cal State U. Northridge with a B.A. in journalism and an M.A. in mass communication research.
He was a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the Publicist Guild and the Television Publicity Executives Committee.
He is survived by a daughter and a sister.