If you watch TV, Stun Creative Inc. has probably tried to convince you to tune in for the premieres of “Conan,” “Countdown With Keith Olbermann” and many other shows.
The Miracle Mile company – a blend of ad agency and production company – creates on-air and digital campaigns for TV premieres and season openers.
When Stun opened in 2000, those on-air TV spots were by far its main business. Now, a growing digital division, a new print division and a venture in scripted TV are changing the makeup of the company.
The added work is in response to demand from TV networks for promotions that span a variety of media. Brad Roth and Mark Feldstein, principals at Stun, said TV spots still comprise about half of the agency’s work, but the digital campaigns are gaining quickly.
“The emphasis is still on TV spots when we launch a show,” Feldstein said. “But more and more the networks are looking for the viral pieces.”
In addition to last year’s “Conan” and this year’s “Olbermann” campaigns, Stun promoted some of this summer’s other high-profile cable launches, including series premieres of TNT legal comedy “Franklin & Bash” and FX offbeat comedy “Wilfred” in June.
The “Wilfred” debut drew 2.6 million viewers, the network’s highest ratings for a comedy premiere. “Franklin & Bash” drew 2.7 million. Both shows have been renewed for a second season.
For both launches, the agency created a series of promo web videos, which were housed on sites run by the networks. Feldstein said online promos are an increasingly important part of the buzz cycle.
“Our goal is getting viewers there for the first time,” Roth said. “Hopefully we clap our hands after we see the premiere numbers.”
Networks are also looking for branded content – ads that combine a network and a brand in one spot. Branded content has grown to about one-third of Stun’s business. An example is a promo clip for the USA Network drama “White Collar,” featuring the show’s star in front of a Ford Taurus logo.
Digital campaigns for both TV promos and branded content have helped fuel Stun’s growth. Last year, the 77-employee agency knocked down a wall and expanded into a vacant office space next door, now occupying 11,000 square feet. Executives said revenue has increased 20 percent this year over last.
The expanded space is used for almost all of what Stun offers, which includes writing, producing, shooting, editing and visual effects. The office atmosphere is often hectic: There could be a casting call in an editing room or a wardrobe of costumes in the middle of the designers’ bullpen. It’s an atmosphere that attracts creative people, Feldstein said.
In addition to TV promos and branded content, the agency also does work in traditional TV ads for consumer goods products, such as Dove soap.
In June, Stun launched a print ads division, Buster Ink, which placed ads for Olbermann’s show in the New York Times Magazine. Roth and Feldstein are working on a scripted comedy pilot that it will sell to a broadcaster.
Russel Wohlwerth, principal at Playa del Rey advertising consultancy Ark Advisors, said Stun’s one-stop-shop approach might be very attractive to clients.
“‘It’s become, ‘Do I need a digital agency, an ad agency or a promotional agency?’” Wohlwerth said. “It’s easier to buy from one provider than try to manage multiple agencies.”
Feldstein said business comes by way of name recognition, which the ad men have helped create through self-promotional videos online.
Last fall, the company created an iPhone app advertised to deliver a Taser-like shock, called the Stun Fone. The product was reported by major media – and some didn’t get the joke.
When the product was revealed as a prank, the company allowed the Internet to continue buzzing for a few days before stepping forward.
“We did eventually want to take credit for it,” Roth said. “Awareness and buzz is what we’re hired to create.”
Another example of Stun’s work: Unilever’s “Dove Men and Care” campaign featuring Magic Johnson, which ran during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament this year. Stun produced the spot, while West L.A. marketing company Davie Brown Entertainment took the helm on the creative side.
Roth and Feldstein met in New York in the late ’90s, when both were working in cable TV. Feldstein was developing on-air promotions for the launch of “The Daily Show With John Stewart,” and also worked in the promotions department at Maury Povich’s production company, MoPo Entertainment Inc. Roth was working on the launch of the Classic Sports Network, which would later become ESPN Classic.
They shared an editing space in a New York office building. Both saw an opportunity to launch a company that combined the services of a production company, ad agency and postproduction house.
“We knew there was a need for agency-level thinking and high production value at a budget networks can afford,” Roth said. “There’s an insatiable appetite on the network side.”
To get the project running, they secured seed funding from Povich, who is still a silent partner in Stun. The company is a division of MoPo.
When Roth and Feldstein arrived in Los Angeles in 2000, they based the venture at a small postproduction facility in east Hollywood, where they had one assistant. The office had a cold, industrial feel – it was rented out at night as a morgue for “Arrest & Trial” tapings. When they came to work in the morning, they would sometimes find a dummy cadaver on the table or fake blood on the phone.
But after landing campaigns for Showtime and the Syfy channel that year, the agency outgrew the postproduction facility and moved to its current building on Miracle Mile. It has since expanded three times at the new location.
The office has views of the Santa Monica Mountains and a windowsill lined with Emmy and Webby awards. But Feldstein said the company tries to maintain the atmosphere of the early days.
“Those were fun times,” he said. “We took that spirit and got into this business to make cool stuff that will stand out.”
Stun Creative Inc.
Year Founded: 2000
Headquarters: Miracle Mile
Core Business: On-air promotions for TV
Employees: 77 (up from 65 in 2009)
Goals: Growing print ads division, developing a scripted TV pilot.
The Numbers: Revenue up 20 percent year to date compared with 2010.
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