Amex Takes Seinfeld Online

Webisodes, film project on tap

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%%STORYIMAGE_RIGHT%% American Express, a brand whose advertising has historically leveraged entertainment, is now stepping up its commitment to creating alternative, "custom-entertainment" marketing solutions.

In his keynote address at the second annual Madison+Vine conference in Beverly Hills this morning, Amex Chief Marketing Officer John Hayes, revealed new projects that will be rolled out starting this year. For starters, Hayes is bringing longtime collaborator Jerry Seinfeld to the Internet in the "Seinfeld Webisodes", a long-form series featuring Jerry and "one of his favorite superheroes." Hayes did not elaborate on the identity of the superhero. The Webisodes will be aired exclusively on this year.

Hayes also announced a film project being funded by American Express that is being produced with Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter and being directed by Wes Anderson("The Royal Tennenbaums"), featuring a look at American culture through the eyes of humorist and author Fran Lebowitz. A 2005 release is planned.

These alternative branding efforts are fueled—as they are for many other marketers—by the changing media landscape, which has become more fragmented and cluttered, resulting in more consumer control of programming.

"I don't care about dayparts.I care about mind parts," said Hayes. "How much consumer attention are we getting? And where?" Amex is no stranger to these programs, going back to as early as 1999 when it brought Sheryl Crow to New York’s Central Park for a live concert.

%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% Amex has historically had an affinity to leveraging entertainment and celebrity in its branding. Seinfeld, of course, has been the centerpiece of Amex's TV advertising since the early 90's. The campaign from Ogilvy & Mather was successful in communicating to the consumer that the Amex card was also useful for everyday situations as well as for business use. Some memorable executions have featured Seinfeld humorously using the card at places like the grocery store and the gas station.

Amex and Ogilvy also made its mark with its iconic, award-winning "Portraits" print advertising campaign from the 80's, shot by Annie Leibovitz, which featured famous American Express cardholders like Wilt Chamberlain, jockey Willie Shoemaker, Ella Fitzgerald, and former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.

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