Brett Ratner Launches Branding Consultancy

Hollywood Director's 'Guitar Hero' Campaign Already Under Way

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YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- He's worked with divas, mutants and mismatched cops. Now TV, music-video and movie director Brett Ratner is wrangling marketers.

The Hollywood heavyweight behind the "Rush Hour" trilogy and "X-Men: The Last Stand" is launching Brett Ratner Brands, a consultancy to help brands infuse entertainment and culturally relevant ideas into their marketing strategies.

His first client is Activision's mega-brand "Guitar Hero." The first of what is planned as many-to-come creative executions aired as two 30-second spots during last night's "American Idol" finale on Fox. The dueling Davids -- Cook and Archuleta -- each starred in similar takeoffs of the dance sequence from "Risky Business" (think button-down shirts and underwear). Each singer performed in his own style of jamming on a "Guitar Hero" axe while lip-synching to Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock 'N Roll" a la Tom Cruise. The ads were produced by Omnicom Group's DDB, Los Angeles, and His Productions.

Celebrity appeal
"The goal is to create a 'Got Milk' kind of ad. The ad that everybody wants to be in ... like the [Hewlett-Packard] hands or the iTunes celebrity playlist," Mr. Ratner said. He and Activision Chairman-CEO Bobby Kotick are already talking to other entertainers for upcoming spots. Mr. Ratner said that after the first airing, "We got calls all night from people we're talking to, saying, 'We're in. We want to do it.'"

Mr. Ratner calls the "Guitar Hero" ad a "four-quadrant idea," which he described as a movie term that means a concept that crosses all demographics. And those broad-appeal ideas will also be important in his brand-consultancy work.

"Here's what the Brett Ratner Brands concept is: You get to tap into Brett's brain, and not just for the obvious creative ideas or directing an ad," Mr. Kotick said. "His unusual skill is not only that his tentacles go deep into the creative community, but he genetically gets and understands how to make money," he added. "Take the "X-Men" -- he understood how to create a box-office blockbuster. The Mariah Carey video ["Touch My Body"] is the same thing. ... He can build brands, sell brands and sell the art form."

The idea for the consultancy began during the writers strike when Mr. Kotick and a writer friend were first discussing the idea of marketing "Guitar Hero" with a "Risky Business" takeoff ad. When Mr. Kotick started chatting with Mr. Ratner about the ideas, it struck him that Mr. Ratner should create a business around helping brands incorporate entertainment and culture. Mr. Ratner said it made sense because he's enjoyed collaborating with big brands in entertainment for years.

Mr. Ratner will be working on other brands at Activision, which is in the final stages of a merger with Vivendi Games to create Activision Blizzard, although Mr. Kotick declined to discuss specifics. He called the deal with Ratner Brands a "long-term commitment."

Choosing carefully
However, just because Mr. Ratner is opening a brand shop, don't expect him to start taking on client after client. He is intent on staying focused on brands he is a fan of -- and also not interfering with the work of the ad agencies he enjoys working with.

"I don't feel this model replaces what ad agencies are doing," he said, adding that it is "storytellers that are hot right now. I think that's what the consumer is looking for now."

And he's not giving up his day job, either. Coming off the hit music video with Ms. Carey, Mr. Ratner is set to soon begin shooting Miley Cyrus' first non-Hannah Montana video. He also mentioned that he might be working on a movie adaptation of the video game "God of War."

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