Sunday, July 15, 2007

How The Web Will Topple Television, Raketu takes the first step

Many of you know how I have been pitching this whole direct sponsorship thing as far back as 1990 in The Ren and Stimpy Show and then on the web in 1997 with the first online cartoon series, The Goddamn George Liquor Show.

It's an idea that should have clicked long ago, but the business world has been slow to embrace this idea, even though the technology has been here for at least 8 years to completely change the way entertainment and advertising works.

It looks like the time may have come for it to finally happen.

The whole advertising business is trying to figure out what to do now that no one is watching ads on TV anymore. Sponsors know that the web is where they need to go, but no one yet has figured out how to best take advantage of it...even though I've been telling everyone for so long!
In 1997 till about 2000 I marketed the whole concept by calling every magazine I could think of and pitching the idea to Wired, Yahoo, Millimeter and tons of others.

Unfortunately, I was too early. The Internet boom crashed around 2,000.

So I shook my head, went back to TV and waited until the business caught up with the idea.

When I discovered the blog model last year, I thought, "Hmmm.... maybe I should just write up all my ideas and put them online myself and see if anyone notices." I figured it would be a good way to do some underground marketing.

When the blog caught on, Mark Frauenfelder from Boing Boing called me to interview me, and he told me about Federated Media who was buying him ads. FM, founded by John Batelle (who also was a founder of Wired Magazine) met with me and I pitched him my idea of online direct sponsorship and he got it and said he would get his team to help pitch the idea to his sponsors.

You know all those Google Ads on the sides of websites? I've never understood those. Why is there so much money being spent on them? No one reads them. We automatically just tune them out when we visit websites. We don't even see them.

It seems like a huge waste of money to me. I also don't understand popups. Popup ads just piss everyone off! Like TV and movies. Modern corporate thinking has a strange habit of doing things to make the audience mad:

Commercials in movie theaters.
Network bugs crawling all over the TV screen when you are trying to watch your favorite shows.
Commercials that are obnoxious.

It used to be that big companies would compete with each other by making their products more appealing and attractive.
Movie theatres ran short cartoons before the movies.
TV Networks tried making shows better than other TV networks.

I pitched my idea to John and the FM shows. It's so simple:

Make an attractive animated banner ad that the sponsor places on various websites.
If it is fun and attractive, people will notice it and click on it.

The banner then takes you to another site where there is full blown animated content.

The content can be pure entertainment, or entertainment coupled with ads.
BUT!!! The ad has to be entertaining too, or no one will want to watch it!

Joe Kressaty at FM called me last November or so and told me he found a sponsor who was interested in the idea. They wanted to do some more adventurous type of internet ad that matched their adventurous internet product: Raketu.

I began working with Raketu's iconoclastic Irish marketing director Oliver McIntyre. I pitched him my general concept of making advertising entertaining online and he was already thinking along the same lines, so it was a perfect match.

Here are his own words:

Hollywood and the Cartoonist that changed my life:

Four months ago we embarked on the task of reinventing the Raketu world. We needed to differentiate the brand and transform it from one that merely offered a great service to one that had a personality. It had to entertain, be engaging and communicate the raft of different services to the very broad 15-75 year old target group. The brand had to be truly global.

In the ad agency world where I had spent all my life we always started by defining a brand’s USPS before drafting a strategy/positioning. However, Raketu had multiple usp’s and all appealed to different elements of the target audience. Every member of the family has different communication needs and I had to figure out how to show which aspects of Raketu would appeal to each.

My want was to create a Simpsons type cartoon family online, a family that could show off different elements of the brand/product.
The brief from my peers was to establish the Raketu family and drive downloads and users ASAP.

Then in mid November 2006 I talked on the phone to this cool guy called John K. The guy didn’t really say a lot during our initial telephone conversations but he was funny, talented and most importantly, he got it. I knew he was “the one” that would help me to develop the Raketu family.

Just before Christmas John came to NYC. Meeting in a café on the corner of 38&8th we started to discuss/develop the family. I didn’t give him a break all day and I remember the guy must have had 20 Diet Cokes throughout the day.

John suggested creating a mascot, along the lines of Tony The Tiger for Raketu. He came up with Raketeena the space imp. Raketeena lives in the far future and she visits our time to show today’s primitive humans about how this great brand called Raketu can make their lives better. She would explain to each member of the family in a funny way which aspects of Raketu could work for them.

Raketu does so many things that it would take a lot of patience to read through pages of text, so having animated cartoons do the explanations in an entertaining way was the perfect solution for us. Who likes reading manuals? But everyone loves cartoons!

The role of the blog campaign was two fold, first to get some brand understanding and awareness here in the US and secondly to test the Raketeena concept. When we first put up the banner, the click through rate went through the roof and so we knew we were on to something hot and we decided to then redesign our website and use John's characters to pitch our products and services.

The past two months have been awesome and have had the late night calls, the occasional drama, the constant explanations but I have to say I have really enjoyed working with John and his team. He’s a true pro, and I want to thank him and his team as I think they have done an amazing job.


Oliver McIntyre,
VP Marketing, Raketu

I thought it might be a good idea to do a post about all this history just for press purposes.
Oh and here are some more of my predictions about the web from way back in 1997!

If you wanna know more about the history of direct sponsorship and how all this stuff works, here are some links to previous posts:


Max Ward said...

So after 10 year it is finally starting to take off. Are you very optimisitc?

Anonymous said...


You are just like Francis Ford Coppola back in the early 80's when he talked about combining film making and video/digital, what is being done today. You are way ahead of your time.

More control for artists/creators is the best!

Jennifer said...

Hi John,

What you say re: Internet sponsorship is true. One of the causes of the dot-com bust is people didn't know how to apply the business model properly.

One of the main reasons why Internet cartoons did not "catch on" until now because the (transport) technology wasn't there to support it when the ideas were pitched in the 90s. Even though high-speed Internet (DSL and Cable) existed in the late 90s, most people still used dial-up because high-speed Internet access was out of many people's price range. Now that we have the transport technology, this idea will work.

Anonymous said...

What I wouldn't give to see you act out the scene where Ren goes psycho while they're in the Army.

"It's all so clear to me now... I'm the keeper of the cheese!"

I have yet to laugh harder at any other cartoon.


Shad said...


We're starting to do shorts sponsored by lunch meat (which still have brand messaging in them) BUT are working on a pitch/proposal SPECIFICALLY for a major retail chain that uses a direct sponsorship model. The budget for banner ads from many of these companies are more than networks pay for pilots. All of our pitches these days are about brands sponsoring content. Just like the old days...."Ovaltine presents: The Little Orphan Annie Show..." type stuff.

It seems to be working, clients are responsive. There is more than one advertising agency out there with cartoonist VPs.

There are a lot of boutique interactive firms doing this type of work with video and playthings but very few with cartoons. However, it's going your way and we're right there with ya.

I'll let you know how how the retailer thing works out. Most of the stuff they're doing has big names attached or they have to do content under the guise of ecards. There is a sense that interactive has to be "active" content. Which is dumb given the popularity of any number of lean-back passive video sites.

Anonymous said...
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Peggy said...

Hey, cool. Glad to see the cartoon/ad model finally working! I'd kinda given up hope for it after all the early 00's stuff around Spümcø went nowhere.

Is the next step, then, the Goddamn George Liquor Program - brought to you by [corporate client]? Or something else from your idea trunk? Good luck!

applepwnz said...

Hmm, I hope that Raketu gets HUGE, because I'd love to see more of this in advertising, I mean, those Raketu ads are how it should be done, not hanging devices in cities and hoping that a city will overreact and cause a sensation like some cartoons which will remain nameless have tried...

Ben said...

Now that's the kind of work I want to do!

Anonymous said...

The dot com bust of the late 90's early 2000 is equal to the cable TV bust of the early 80's. But cable TV came back and it came back strong. Now it's time for the dot coms to come back strong. I think this is the vision of the future.
You are right about advertisers. I have a friend in the advertising industry and he says it's really bad for televsion and never bounced back since 9/11.

Anibator said...

I realize this is off-topic, but that image of George Liquor snipping off 'skin tags' is one of the most grotesque things I've ever seen.

Well done.

Gabriel said...

I realize this is off-topic, but that image of George Liquor snipping off 'skin tags' is one of the most grotesque things I've ever seen.

When this blog had just started, i saw that picture and asked what were those things called, because I had some on the same place! I had never heard of skin tags before, so i didn't know how to diagnose them. Someone answered me in the comments and made it possible for me to research them. I'll be thankful to George Liquor forever.

Tim said...

These are the types of posts I love! I sure hope Raketu's got you primed to pioneer the web again, because I can't wait for any future cartoons!
Speaking of advertizing, any thoughts on the new 'Get a Mac' ads? Of course I don't want to turn this into an OS debate, but as a commercial I fail to see how they're effective. At this point it's less about "Get a Mac" and more about "If you don't have a Mac, I guess everyone is better than you and you obviously enjoy the pain and suffering and living every day without a Mac," which hardly interests me in converting. There are so many points they could sell me on instead of telling me what a trog I am!
Maybe they fall under the 'obnoxious' category, but I think the they have the capability to be entertaining if you actually own a Mac already, in which case it's useless as an ad.
Of course, this all may be why I'm not in advertizing.

Shawn said...

Makes sense to me, and I'm not very smart. It's about time everyone else catches on.

I'm also glad I have no "skin tags".

Anibator said...

They're nothing other than bunched-up skin.
I had one once and remedied it the same way George is.
(again, sorry to derail the conversation)

Hryma said...

I waste enough time on the internet already and it's killing me! I hate the damn thing, give me fresh air anyday!

Now I'm gona be a dick, sorry but this blog is a great outlet to let other like minded artists see each others work and say that my cartoon Sound Scrap is now on my blog catoons music etc. sorry again.

Mr. Semaj said...

I hear ya all the way on how corproate advertising today pisses people off.

Just recently, I've been wondering why we don't see as many cereal ads as before (You did a Quisp commercial once, if I recall correctly). Why would companies let keel over ads for the very products that people have known and loved for decades?

When comes your first major interview about Net advertising, show no mercy.

Jhhl said...

As I recall, the original Goddamned George Liquor Web Cartoon program was sponsored by Tower Records of blessed memory.
Do you have any stories about how that happened?

PCUnfunny said...

"Commercials in movie theaters."

It's fuckin' stupid. I have to wait for ads to end,then the trailers for movie I don't wanna see,and then twenty minutes later the film. Why do coporations hate us John ? Why do they want to toture us ? We spend 7.50 to 10.00 for a ticket and possibly more for stale popcorn and have to wait a half hour to be entertained, and that is if the film is any good.

"Network bugs crawling all over the TV screen when you are trying to watch your favorite shows."

Don't even get me started on that shit.I was watching a movie one time and then I started hearing horses trampling. I discovered it was a network bug for some western show and I couldn't hear the movie I watching in the first place.

Dante Rivas said...

John, I admire you so much, since I am like 8 years old. I'm from México, and I remember how pissed I got when the local network that aired Ren & Stimpy canceled it. I knew the rest of the show in some cable channels, and thanks to that I learned to speak english... (not so well, as you can see :p) I dreamed by so many years about being an animator, but here in my country that can hardly be more than just a dream. Anyway, I don't want to bore you with the story of my life, I just wanted to thank you for the amazing joy your work brings me.

Anonymous said...


I like the new 'Get A Mac' ads! Of course I am a smug-ass Mac user. I'm not sure how well they work on getting switchers... but it sure is fun to taunt your friends and family who are having Windows issues with: "You are coming to sad realization, cancel or allow?"


I like your angle of making cartoons entertaining and informative. The Sody and George pieces in particular are fun to watch and really deliver the message/features of the product. There are quite a few ads that have entertained me but later I can't remember what the hell the product even was! The 'Messin' with Sasquatch' campaign comes to mind... but I'm a sucker for Sasaquatch humor.

Cayen said...

it's only a dying breed cause hollywood has become inbred.

while we wallow in crap, the Japanese contiue to create movies and shows that push the bounderies forward. when can we do this?

Gesh said...

bill hicks on marketing

Sandra Khoo said...

Amazing how everything came together through the means of the internet. I'm sure we're gonna see more and more awesome stuff coming from both you and your creatively driven team. I guess the word is 'patience'. It takes a LONG time for people to catch on,but they do eventually. Just don't give up.

Raff said...

The web toppling television?

Once web video reaches a point where it's at a good resolution, 60 fields per second, displayable on a big screen where friends can sit on the couch and watch it with popcorn, and - most importantly - it takes up the FULL screen with no borders or distractions....then it'll really kick ass. Can't wait.

But even treating the audience with respect would be an improvement.

>> Popup ads just piss everyone off! Commercials in movie theaters.
Network bugs crawling all over the TV screen. Commercials that are obnoxious. <<

No kidding. It's all horrible. You're looking at the results of a jargon-and-numbers game. "High visibility". "Brand reinforcement".

I leave my TV off because I'm sick of being badgered and manipulated. And I don't like to come home from work to watch courtrooms, hospitals and losers getting "voted off".

Trevour said...

John, you should add this link to your Quisp cartoon into this post, and here's a large scan of the comic off the back of a Quisp cereal box (if you recall me posting it a few months back).

Your Quisp cartoon is yet another fine example of appealing advertising done on the web - AND THIS WAS FROM OVER SIX YEARS AGO!

Mad Taylor said...

I think the web has made a has just been very quiet so far. I'm working now as a Flash animator on stuff just for the web. I thought these jobs died 10 years ago and here it's one of my first jobs out of school with an O.K. pay to boot.

Why in the hell is there never a cartoon before movies anymore? Instead of some fuzzy haired girl going la-de-da down a street because she sipped Pepsi Spazz I'd rather they take the few $100 thousand and make me a nice cartoon. The cartoon doesn't even need to have Pepsi or Coke or whatever in it. In fact that just makes me think the company got selfish with the idea. Slap your logo at the end and I might think you care about other things than yourselves...then I'll care.

If I could I would shoot a film with a Panavision camera...but never in a film do they stop and make me aware the film was made using fine Panavision product. I just see their logo at the end of the credits...all the they must be ok. I'd use them!

Jeff Read said...

I remember that image of George Liquor tending to his skin tags all too vividly. And as for Raketu, every time I hear that name I think of this little guy; come to think of it, a John K.-directed Super Mario cartoon would have been perfect -- oodles better than the kind of shite us videogame fans were spoonfed back in the early nineties.

David Germain said...

You know all those Google Ads on the sides of websites? I've never understood those. Why is there so much money being spent on them? No one reads them. We automatically just tune them out when we visit websites. We don't even see them.

On that note, I'm guessing you haven't received any gratuity from Google yet regarding "the money adding up whenever people click on the banner ads". Yeah, I have those google ads on my blog too. Some friends say they've clicked on those ads to help me out but I not sure how much help that is. If only we knew how much money was generated every time someone clicks we'd have a better idea as to how long it will take for those ads to see any profit.

So, yeah, I definitely hope your idea works out. It's got to be better than what we're doing now.

Rich said...

If you want a great model for integrating entertainment and advertising, I recommend listening to the old Jack Benny radio programs. Those writers tried to outdo themselves in how cleverly they slipped the ad into the script. You'd be following the story and suddenly out of nowhere BAM! you're listening to the ad and it was so surprising and funny that you didn't mind it at all.

And they did the ad differently every time. Maybe the band would be playing a popular song and before you knew it, the lyrics had changed to extol the virtues of the product. Sometimes it would be a brief mention of the product in the context of a conversation, "Jack's about as strong as a Jello...". The possibilities are virtually endless.

Of course, they also did the "proper" ad time at the beginning and end of every half-hour episode but the clever inserts are more enjoyable and more memorable.

smackmonkey said...

Wow, John! It's like you've got HUGE crystal balls!

I hope (with all my tiny little heart) that this advertising angle works for all involved. Anything that beats back the tyranny of the majors is unquestionably a good thing. Plus, it looks like you actually had fun doing it.

the plummer said...

John...I just hope you will at least be the death of pop-up ads and the like. I must say that the Raketu ads were wonderful eye candy, and really fun to watch over and over. Please keep inspiring more bad-ad killers out there!

Suco de Cérebro said...

great stuff
can´t wait to see your new stuff on the web
so glad i found your blog

akira said...

i love how you use some of your characters to do some of the ads, the way that an actor might endorse a product, AND create a new character just for the product. i think that raketeena should be more prevalent though.. maybe doing a little animation before or after every commercial the way tinkerbell would do her little thing before disney shows... and i'd like to see her image on all of the raketu pages to let you know that this is the place she brought you too.. like you're visiting her domain and she's being a good hostess... anyways, it's great news that making great ads actually does increase business... maybe, just MAYBE making good cartoons on tv would also increase their audiences??

can't wait to see what's coming next!

Ryan G. said...

Pop ups and ads in the movie theater.. they have the reverse effect on me.. Ill refuse to buy the product if it pisses me off enough.

NateBear said...

You know all those Google Ads on the sides of websites? I've never understood those. Why is there so much money being spent on them? No one reads them. We automatically just tune them out when we visit websites. We don't even see them.

It seems like a huge waste of money to me. I also don't understand popups. Popup ads just piss everyone off! Like TV and movies.

Not to mention most of them are butt ugly!

Gene Fowler said...

These raketu ads aren't the first, it's been done for years.

we've been doing webisodes to promote " I can't believe it's not Butter, Spray!"

3rd season - Unilever's market share has gone up 2% worldwide.

YAY for artificial, semi digestible butter spray!

bloatedsackofprotoplasm said...

Just kind of a side comment: That picture of George Liquor clipping skin tags out of his armpit with a nail clipper is the most disgusting thing I've ever seen in my life. Hands-down. He does appear to be really enjoying himself, though.