Positioning Icebox as a Creative Haven
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Holmes Report

Positioning Icebox as a Creative Haven

G/H positioned Icebox as a writer’s haven, a place where the creators had ultimate creative freedom, without the restraints enforced by studios and networks, to create wild, irreverent content.

Paul Holmes


With Icebox building its business within a relatively new yet quickly developing space, Golin/Harris’ primary objective was to develop expertise on Icebox’s competitors, what had already been accomplished in the online content arena, and how Icebox could differentiate itself as an online studio.  Since each of Icebox’s competitors was highlighting their celebrities, G/H recommended that Icebox focus on its content, creators, and its connection to television. In addition to media lists covering features, business and technology editors/reporters, G/H identified television writers and critics and media who covered the “convergence issues” between the Internet and television.  Using this unique approach, G/H positioned Icebox as a writer’s haven, a place where the creators had ultimate creative freedom, without the restraints enforced by studios and networks, to create wild, irreverent content.   In the wake of several content deals, increased visibility and the widespread coverage that followed launch, Icebox became a key example of a Golin/Harris success story.  


Many Hollywood start-ups raced to establish footholds on the Internet during 1999-2000.  Our research found that there was a finite number of media covering the Hollywood web race, virtually all whom had tabbed Digital Entertainment Network (DEN) and Atomfilms.com as the ones to beat.  Ron Howard’s Z.com and Steven Spielberg’s Pop.com were being acclaimed as next in line.   While other companies, such as Shockwave.com, were paying unheard-of sums of money to celebrities for new, exclusive Internet programs, G/H encouraged Icebox.com to take a different approach.  Founded by a trio of Hollywood television writers and a former Hollywood agent, G/H believed that Icebox’s A-list group of writers would build an audience for their new online programming network through great shows.  The challenge for Golin/Harris: Telling a story about an entertainment site where the writers, not the celebrities, are the entertainers.


Golin/Harris worked closely with Icebox’s founders to develop and finalize key corporate messaging for the company.  Contrary to other entertainment sites, which featured “star value” as its publicity foundation for all outreach, Icebox’s premise was that its site was a haven for “creative freedom,” a place where writers could get their programs produced and “aired” without interference from television network executives.  Its business strategy, as outlined by CEO Steve Stanford, was to sell Icebox’s successful series to television networks, essentially developing “pilot” programming for television at a fraction of the cost. 

Four key audiences were identified: other writers to develop new content, studio executives to view and purchase the content, investors and industry analysts to fund content development, and consumers who would view Icebox’s daily programming.  A comprehensive media-training day with the four co-founders and the entire G/H pitch team served to prepare both the spokespeople and the PR people.  Stanford, a veteran of the talent agency ICM, was selected as the spokesperson as he could deliver both the financial and creative messages.


Operating within a $25,000/month budget, our initial strategies for Icebox were to:

  • Give Icebox a “face” by identifying and promoting one lead storyteller/spokesperson/visionary
  • Establish reputation as an industry pacesetter among target media through strategically-timed announcements of company news
  • Reinforce branding as a Hollywood company through focused outreach efforts to industry trades and other LA-based media
  • Take advantage of fanatical loyalties to Icebox producers’ existing TV series to build awareness of new Icebox programming
  • Utilize iconic Icebox characters as focus of consumer outreach initiatives
  • Reach beyond the Internet entertainment media by leveraging Icebox founders’ TV heritages to generate coverage from media who cover television


To kick off the site, Golin/Harris outreached to media who cover Web entertainment.  The agency booked a series of in-person previews between Stanford and key reporters in New York and Los Angeles, including the New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, People Magazine, USA Today and CNN.  The meetings served to position Icebox against its Hollywood competitors and pave the way for future coverage 

Relationships with key correspondents and editors at Daily Variety and Hollywood Reporter were immediately cemented through in-person meetings with CEO Stanford and other Icebox personalities.  These meetings helped establish favorable editorial positioning in the two most influential entertainment trade publications and provided the appropriate framework and context for pitching future Icebox “news” 

A hip and edgy press kit was created to highlight the ingenuity of Icebox as a company and their unique business plan.  Contents included: overview release, company fact sheet, principal bios, list of writers with their credits, subsequent announcements and show fact sheets, as well as key news clips

In preparation for and in response to criticism for Icebox’s decision to air the controversial series “Mr. Wong,” G/H authored a crisis communications document and multiple response statements on the client’s behalf.   The statements were crafted to defend Icebox’s “creative freedom” stance, while proactively communicating more in-depth messages about Icebox’s programming to media with whom relationships had already been formed.  As a result, positive or balanced reviews of “Mr. Wong” appeared in a wide variety of media, including Entertainment Weekly, Time, The Los Angeles Times, WNBC-TV, and Newsweek.  The positive media tone was especially critical for the company as Icebox executives were meeting with potential investors during this time period

The development of turnkey PR programs to launch new programming ensured ongoing coverage for Icebox.  G/H successfully launched the Icebox series “Zombie College,” “Queer Duck,” “Hard Drinkin’ Lincoln,” “Superhero Roommate,” and others that served to generate a wide and varied range of coverage and reviews in print, broadcast and online media.  Highlights included multiple stories in Entertainment Weekly, Hollywood Reporter, Variety, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal

The strategy of pitching stories to media who cover television (angle: cover new content developed for the Web by television veterans) ultimately proved to be another success.  Using ties to shows like The Simpsons, X-Files and Seinfeld, G/H made established connections between the Icebox creators and their previous work. Crafting new pitches for each outlet was time-consuming, but delivered key placements, some of which were syndicated, that included Associated Press, CNET, Los Angeles Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, Oregonian, Arizona Republic, Hollywood Reporter, and Variety

The agency helped facilitate the announcement of Showtime Networks’ purchase of the Icebox show “Starship Troopers,” positioning Icebox as the first online entity to sell an animated program for television production.   This “first-ever” positioning continued to resonate throughout all follow-up and round-up stories on Web entertainment content, virtually ensuring that Icebox would be mentioned in future, similar announcements by its competitors

A PR campaign promoting Icebox CEO Stanford as an Internet visionary was pitched to top-tier media.  Stanford’s willingness to freely share the business model (selling programming to network television) helped secure further opportunities with key media, such as The New York Times, Newsweek, Red Herring, Industry Standard, Bloomberg News, The Zone and ecompany Now.  The net result: Stanford was named by Time Magazine as an “Innovator in a Hot Medium”


By October 2000, several other high-profile competitors to Icebox had declared bankruptcy, including DEN and Steven Spielberg’s highly publicized Pop.com venture.  Icebox, its viewership increasing weekly, continued to dominate the share of press stories covering the space, with Stanford being sought after for comments as one of the key visionaries in online entertainment 

Since Golin/Harris was hired on, Icebox’s show viewings had increased from a mere 26,000 per month to more than 1 million viewings per month

Total tracked media impressions as of October 2000 for the program: 60,022,325 (not including online clips)
Some key media that covered Icebox.com to date have included: Associated Press, CNN, Business Week, Entertainment Weekly, Forbes, Fortune, Fox News Channel, Hollywood Reporter, Industry Standard, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Magazine, Newsweek, New York Times, Red Herring, The Wall Street Journal, TIME and USA Today

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