Radical revisited

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The partners of @radical.media, chairman/CEO Jon Kamen and president Frank Scherma would like to make one thing clear. Despite the inroads they've made with content branded and mainstream, and having stretched the boundaries of what a commercials production company can be expected to do further perhaps than any shop in this arena, they insist they haven't turned their backs on their roots. In fact, at this point, they'd like to reassert that they're still at the top of their game. "I think we've been very sort of out in front there, talking about, and actually doing, all this branded entertainment stuff," notes L.A. based Scherma. "The reality is everybody's looking for that new thing, so everybody's always writing about it, but we don't want anybody to forget that all this is part of the solution just as commercials are part of the solution. We're not out of that business, we're in that business big time."

Indeed, it's hard to ignore the company's overachievements. The Nike-sponsored MTV show Battlegrounds is going into its third season with the NBA's latest heartthrob LeBron James. In the past few years the company has earned an astonishing assortment of media accolades: a Grammy for its documentary Concert for George, an Oscar for The Fog of War, its second IFC Independent Spirit Award for Metallica-Some Kind of Monster, and a trip to the Whitehouse to receive a prestigious design honor from the Cooper-Hewitt. But strip that hardware away and what remains is an impressive body of commercials work that would keep any company in the highest ranks. While @radical parted ways last December with commercials headliner and The Fog of War director Errol Morris, the creative output of its six global offices hardly suffers. For one, Tarsem re-emerged with a stream of stunning work, including Nike's "Masks," and a Pepsi soccer and surf spectacular, out of Brazil. The company in recent years has brought on a fresh string of global talents like Les Elvis, Daniel Askill, Sebastian Strasser and The Glue Society, many of whom earned accolades at Cannes this year. Meanwhile, U.S.-based helmers like Steve Miller, Jeff Labbe and Dave Meyers have shown steady career growth. As a solo artist, Miller remains in peak comedic form, most recently with fishy laughs for ESPN. Meanwhile, former Wieden creative Labbe has demonstrated the richness and maturity of a more seasoned director on new spots for Powerade. Music video maven Dave Meyers, who signed to the company in 2000. has developed an impressive spots oeuvre with iPod and Sony. Prior to his arrival, the shop had never touched clip, but since he helped to launch @radical's music division, the company has enjoyed a formidable presence in the music world, earning 12 nominations at the MTV Video Music Awards and 17 from the MVPA, thanks not just to Meyers but also innovators like Chris Milk and hip hop impresario Kanye West. On the managerial side, @radical has shored up the commercials front with the addition of executive producer Maya Brewster, former frontwoman at Partizan. Scherma says, "In all honesty I think this is our busiest year in commercials ever, the biggest we've ever had since we started @radical.media-in commercials, and branded entertainment. Because they really work together."

There's no denying that as advertising and entertainment boundaries have become increasingly blurred, @radical's all-terrain efforts bear a palpable significance in today's media landscape. Recent examples include Mercury's Meet the Lucky Ones, directed by Battlegrounds helmer Derek Cianfrance for Kirt Gunn & Associates, with whom @radical is again teaming this year on a follow-up campaign. Another standout accomplishment includes the wide-reaching "One" campaign, directed by Marcus Tomlinson, who earned an Emmy nomination for his spot work and also shot the print component of the effort. "That was a pro-Bono effort," quips Kamen. The multi-platform campaign, produced and conceived out of @radical aided in collecting two million signatures in support of the U2 frontman's social service organization DATA.org and helped fuel the Live 8 concert extravaganza. Elsewhere the company's relatively new print division has led to more cross-platform and crossover opportunities for agencies and @radical directors and photographers: print shooter Andrew Zuckerman moved to directing broadcast for Puma; while Dave Meyers shot Apple iPod spots, photographer Matthew Welsh contributed to the print components of the campaign. In the meantime, longform efforts are still in full swing, with upcoming projects like The Iconoclasts, a Sundance series it's co-producing for Conde Nast and Grey Goose Entertainment. The shop's also preparing to launch an advertiser-related VOD channel later this year.

"It's probably the most exciting and challenging time in my 30 years in the advertising business," says Kamen. "There are so many ways in which a brand can reach a consumer. This is like the earliest days of television in which great agencies pioneered what has been known as the standard of modern advertising. I feel as if we are getting an opportunity today to pioneer that whole new universe. That's what gets you up in the morning-you say 'Where are we going to go today, what are we going to accomplish. And that's really exciting." Adds Scherma, "The exciting thing is, we kind of know where it's going to go, but we don't know where it's going to go. It's reinvigorated every part of the business. What's fun about it is, we're at the forefront and it's exciting for us."

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