“We’re calling them ‘firestarters,’” said Steve Rotterdam, former Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing for TimeWarner’s DC Comics and co-founder of Bonfire Agency. “These are hyper-networked consumers that film studios strive to connect with through events like the San Diego Comic-Con because their endorsement of a project, especially in its early stages, can generate serious heat that can propel a film to box office success or green light a second season for a TV series on the bubble.”
“They’re evangelists for everything ‘awesome,’” said co-founder Ed Catto, former Senior Vice President at Reed Exhibitions and a specialist in uniting brands with pop culture icons. “They’re the first in line and the first to pass judgment as to whether something is authentic or not – and because of their intense, passionate engagement, they’ll go to incredible extremes to let others know exactly what they think.”
“These are the guys that, in 2009, made ‘Paranormal Activity’ a surprise hit and sank ‘Brüno,’” added Rotterdam.
Industry figures indicate that this core group spends $400 million annually on comics, graphic novels, toys and other pop culture collectibles. “But the degree to which they influence movies, television, gaming, music, fashion, even food, is immeasurable,” noted Rotterdam.
Citing the lack of success many brands and companies have had in the past trying to engage with this critical demographic – often resulting in negative reaction from the very consumers they were seeking to connect with – Catto stated “Bonfire Agency will provide strategic and executional marketing services, helping brands and companies engage with this audience in relevant ways and in an authentic voice. Not only does Bonfire Agency intimately understand this demographic, but we also have a track record of success beyond its borders, having developed marketing strategies and initiatives for classic brands ranging from Oreo to Miller Lite.”
Named for the burning passion shared by members of this demo, Bonfire Agency is also developing an integrated ad network among independent comics publishers, a network of comic shops and pop culture specialty stores in key markets that will participate in brand sponsored promotions and events, and a core consumer research panel to serve the interests of brands, publishers, organizers and advocates.
Rotterdam and Catto, fellow alumni of Cornell University, have crossed paths before, most recently at Eastwest Marketing Group, where Rotterdam was Chief Creative Officer and Catto was VP-Account Director. Eastwest has taken an equity stake in the new agency, furnishing offices and administrative support, as well as a deep bench of award-winning creative, account, production, web development and social media specialists.
Rotterdam is known as a creative brand strategist. During his tenure at DC Comics, Rotterdam led the development and execution of marketing strategies for one of the crown jewels of pop culture, helping to implement the company’s first digital communications strategy, securing DC’s position as the number one publisher of graphic novels and overhauling DC’s advertising sales and custom solutions department. Prior to his partnership in Eastwest, he founded and led Griffin Bacal Promotions, where he created the first iteration of Hasbro’s Family Game Night, an initiative that continues to this day to bring families together. Early in his career, he established the West Coast office and entertainment marketing practice for The Guild Group and served as vice president and creative director at the promotional division of Saatchi & Saatchi. He resides in New York City with his wife and two children. His toy and comic book collection resides in a storage facility in New Jersey.
Catto calls himself a self-styled “retropreneur” and is always on the hunt to resurrect once forgotten brands and introduce them to contemporary audiences. Most recently, Catto and a partner engineered the rebirth of the first superhero action figure, Caption Action, via comics, collectibles and a national toy line launching in the fall of 2011 at major retailers including Toys R Us. At Reed Exhibition, Catto was also instrumental in developing and marketing the New York Comic Con. In addition to Eastwest, Catto has worked at advertising and promotion firms such as Ogilvy’s 141 Worldwide, CSC Weston Group and Do Good Marketing, as well as in brand management at classic companies such as Unilever and Nabisco. He also served as a vice president of marketing at Bigstar Entertainment. Catto resides in Ridgewood, N.J. with his wife and four children.
The new agency will launch with several clients, including Bonomo Turkish Taffy, a classic candy brand being resurrected and relaunched after 25 years; the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; Reed Exhibition’s ReedPop group; and several projects for Diamond Comic Distributors. Bonfire will work with clients in the automotive, snack, beverage, HBA, fashion, entertainment and technology sectors.
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