Brands as publishers: An idea as old as George Burns

PR-ProfWhen Publicis Groupe and Omnicon Group announced in late July that they were merging, they also publicized the launch of a division that turns brands into publishers.

“‘We will be looking to help brands produce content to put on their own channels,’ like a Web site or social media,” division chief Mark Himmelsbach told the New York Times. “‘Instagram, Vine, Twitter, Facebook, each channel requires something different that must resonate with consumers.’”

The idea is hardly new. A PBS blog post from Jan. 25, 2012, labeled the phrase “We’re all publishers now” a cliché.

Let’s turn the clock back further to Jan. 6, 1963, when “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” first aired. “Wild Kingdom viewers witnessed exciting stories and learned about wildlife and conservation,” according to the show’s website. The show aired until 1987, first on NBC and then in syndication.

Marlin Perkins, the best-known host, was a zoologist, not an insurance salesman. Mutual of Omaha also created interactive — another cliché — elements such as a kids summit, an adventure tour, and personal appearances by hosts.

Other brand-publishing successes include “Maxwell House Coffee Time,” a comedy-entertainment radio show from 1937 and 1949, and “Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre,” a variety TV show in the 1960s.

Today’s most successful publisher is probably Red Bull, which has social media, an action-driven magazine and an adrenaline-driven TV channel. And that’s not much different from producing a TV show about wild animals or a radio show with George Burns and Gracie Allen.

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