Celebrating 16 Years of Hollywood Branded


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A Journey Behind the Glamour 

Hollywood Branded recently celebrated our 16th year in business. Many people share they think it is cool I work daily with celebrities and hot Hollywood productions. I meet and know incredible people. I have endless relationships that I can leverage and access to pretty much anyone I want to engage a brand partner with. There is no one I don't know a way to get to, through some level of 6 degrees, or less, of separation. 

Yes, this does sound really cool, but it was not always easy. It took a lot of learning along the way. In this blog, Hollywood Branded takes you behind the scenes of our agency sharing our triumphs, challenges, and everything in between. 

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The Beginning 

In this process, I've created an agency with an excellent reputation that is known for doing great work, far and wide, around the world, and protects its brand clients. My calls get answered, meetings get booked, and I'm interviewed by media around the world for being an expert in this industry.  

But it hasn't all been easy and there have been a lot of learning lessons along the way. Check out our brand new video below that gives you a glimpse behind the scenes of our agency world at Hollywood Branded - and then... be sure to read on to see where it's sometimes gone absolutely off the rails, where it has at times, made me wonder if I'm actually cut out for this sometime cut-throat world after all. From one of the largest blockbuster movie directors out there telling me "You'll never work in this town again" to learning the lessons of not one but three times Hollywood has completely shut down, I have dealt with the mess, and we have continued to prosper.

Team Indy Racing

How It All Started

Owning an agency in Hollywood wasn't a plan I had in my youth, but more one that shaped itself from each choice I made. First with a set design class in high school as I had an elective to fill, leading to a BFA in Theater Production Set Design at the University of Arizona. I then moved to LA where I told William Morris I didn't want a job in their literary department, instead taking a position at an agency owned by the wife of a major TV star.  I soon learned that bosses were not always so nice and I cried every day during my lunch break and while driving home. However, I was spending my days buying cast and crew gifts for Jerry Seinfeld (a cool red bike with the Seinfeld logo on it for Christmas), and making sure Tom Cruise got his favorite Tag Heuer watches while juggling the desks of 4 executives who had their own issues, as my coworkers kept fleeing. So it was a balance of "wow work so sucks" to "Oooohhh coool!"

From there, just a short 8 months later, I landed at an agency where I spent a decade learning both the art of product placement and building relationships. I traveled the world working with global brands and was very lucky to be exposed to different cultures in every corner of the globe. Back home I dealt with the "me too" industry moments that were in vogue for my generation of the 1990s. Like most women in the workplace, I have stories that make younger eyes turn wide and upset my husband. I still have shin dents 25 years later in my left leg where one of the owners of the agency kicked me three times during a meeting at Intel. Seemingly he didn't like what I was saying, and his (male) business partners laughed later when I told them - saying I must have needed to be shut up.

There's not much I haven't seen or learned to navigate, from client late-night post-dinner propositions with the promise of new business to follow, and still needing to manage the account or deal on the daily with the agency owner who was so proud of his hardcore porn collection he actively shared by email and VHS, laughing at my blush while I tried to look like I was cool with it all. 

I have seen a lot and have plenty of horror stories I could have sued for - but why? Those "me too" moments were just part of the job, and pretty much found everywhere. Today they sound horrid - back then, it was a sign of the times.  I've dealt, learned and worked through it all, and in those years I began to make a name for myself.  

Team Comicon-1

And then...

I hit the proverbial glass ceiling, and tired of the nonsense, decided to start my own agency, founding Hollywood Branded in 2007. I didn't really give it a lot of thought. I knew I had stopped growing, and there wasn't an opportunity to do so if I stayed at the job I'd spent a decade at.  I wanted to do and learn more - and so I left and opened a door I have never, not for one moment, wished I hadn't. Even in the absolute worst of times - of which there have been many.

Today I have created an agency with a team that is empowered to focus on and build anything we can brainstorm in this vibrant world of pop culture branded partnerships. Nothing's off limits, and the only goal is to build mutually beneficial partnerships that are cool, resonate, and drive sales. 

And we have had so much success!

In the past 16 years, Hollywood Branded has:

  • Specialized in brand integration, product placement, celebrity endorsements, influencer marketing, event activations, and celebrity seeding - along with overall strategic planning
  • Produced commercials, documentaries and digital series
  • Built 10,000+ brand partnerships.
  • Worked with 250+ brands.
  • Reached 100+ billion People
  • Created (from scratch) 100+ million dollars in partnerships
  • Partnered with 5,000+ productions
  • Produced 700+ national and local talk or news segments
  • Delivered over 1+ trillion dollars in media value
  • Designed 600+ licensing, PR, and promotional partnerships
  • Mastered 500+ gaming and digital content partnerships
  • Built robust multi-year partnerships with linear, digital, PR, and retail extensions
  • Crafted music partnerships are seen in every country around the world
  • Worked with 2,000+ celebrities and influencers
  • Built event activations managing dozens of influencers and press at a time
  • Gifted 1,000 of stars with brands at events and on-set
  • Hosted our own celebrity events
  • Won awards - including best product placements for film and series, and best workplace for women, diversity, and millennials
  • Recognized globally with 8+ billion agency press impressions
  • Published 1,700 industry insight articles
  • Hosted 350 podcast episodes on Marketing Mistakes (+ How To Avoid Them)

And best of all - we've made brand sales soar.

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16 Years of Hollywood Branded 

I would be remiss not to express my gratitude to our team, a group of passionate individuals dedicated to pop culture marketing. Our accomplishments are a testament to their dedication, continuous learning, and commitment to forging partnerships that benefit both sides as we launch campaigns globally.

A heartfelt shoutout to Chelsea Collins, our VP of Brand Partnerships. She's been pivotal in cultivating partnerships and steering our team to success. As she approaches her 9th year with Hollywood Branded, her efforts deserve special recognition.

Here's that video I was talking about that gives you a glimpse behind the scenes of our agency world at Hollywood Branded.  Then read on to see where it's sometimes gone absolutely off the rails.

Despite those, well... learning experiences, we've rocked it!


It's not always easy being an agency owner in Hollywood 

While I do get to hobnob with A-listers and industry trendsetters, there's also a lot that is pretty tough to deal with not only in Hollywood but in the advertising agency ownership world too. I have a license plate reading "DvrGrl," inspired by my passion for scuba diving. For the last two and a half decades, not only have I dived with thousands of sharks in the ocean, but I've also navigated the sharks of Hollywood and Corporate America. And there are many.

I've had quite the loopy-loop rollercoaster ride as an agency owner in Hollywood. There's not been much that hasn't been thrown at me over the years. I've kept the agency thriving despite:

  • The storms of not one but three industry strikes, with the first occurring just days after I hired my first two employees and lasting 100 days. And the current two now.
    • Lesson takeaway:  Don't focus just on TV and Feature film - diversify with influencers and introduce clients to other pop culture partnership opportunities. 
  • Cyber fraud that took our entire operating capital and all profit from years of work due to an employee falling for a scam that the FBI was not able to stop, and that the bank failed us on. 
    • Lesson takeaway: Set up processes to ensure no employee falls for another scam. Stay vigilant and overly communicate with the team on what scams are out there from scratch-off gift cards to wire fraud. Share with every agency and business owner you meet lessons on better protecting themselves. 
  • Filmmakers who renege on multi-million dollar deals, after the client has built their marketing plans for the year around their production. 
    • Lesson takeaway: Until the partnership is over, nothing is ironclad. People can suck and "Creatives" don't get business or sometimes even care. You must keep good relationships to protect your clients and agency and ensure everyone knows the risks. 
  • Litigation with non-stellar employees and a few clients who didn't follow through on their contracts,
    • Lesson takeaway:  Some nasty people don't mind cheating the system or breaking their contract. Protect yourself with recorded video communication and a written electronic paper trail and you will come out fine. 
  • Going toe to toe with one of Hollywood's biggest blockbuster directors that had a pissing match with our global giant of a brand, where each thought they were more powerful than the other. Unfortunately, ego clashes prevented a fruitful collaboration. I had to clean up the mess despite our team having made no mistakes, as the studio and director threatened to take legal action against the brand. I was told by the director on a call with over a dozen studio execs that "you'll never work in this town again".  The director's fury led him to say he was hiring a publicist to destroy my agency's reputation, stemming from his resentment towards our brand client. Ironically, he was the primary reason the partnership went awry in the first place.
    • Lesson takeaway: Turns out - I know how to leverage PR after all these years of building PR campaigns and being a spokesperson for our industry, and was able to share that the story in the media would not be about me, but about him. I'm no one to the public eye after all.  Stand tall and call bullies out when you know they are wrong. Reminding people of the real world, and that there are results of actions taken, can actually work when you are an independent agency with no fear of a director refusing to work with you again. There are plenty of other partners out there for our brand clients - missing one movie partnership deal isn't the end of the day as there is always another around the corner. But that's not the stance of the studio system which doesn't manage its Creatives for fear of losing out on future movie deals and having to answer to a Board. I'm still in business, and despite it all, in the years since, that director has been happy to still work with us and take partnership dollars from other brands represented by my team. We now forewarn clients that he can be a hothead. Business is business and you have to move on.
  • Being screwed over by a giant global brand that said they wanted to support small, women-owned businesses. They promised a massive book of business that drove us to invest and double our staff - and who overnight changed their plan due to a side deal made by an ex-big brand marketer on the board of directors who railroaded the two female pregnant marketing executives at the company. I can't make this up. It's literally a scene from a movie where the boys club won.
    • Lesson takeaway: So many learning lessons here. That's an article in itself I'll save for later. But a biggie lesson learned - don't staff up until the contract is inked. We kept the new hires employed - and had a lot of painful learning lessons that took over two years to unwind.  
  • The rise - and unfortunate fall - of BlackBerry in 2013 when the brand made up over 75% of our billings in our early days. There were years of awesomeness, and overnight - it ended when our agency was laid off along with 10,000 employees.  We were hired back twice in the ensuing years as the brand found new ownership, but it was never the same as those early days.
    • Lesson takeaway: Diversify clients and ensure none have more than 10% of your agency income. Also the lesson is that you should sometimes lay employees off. I didn't, and that wasn't the right solution for our agency in the long run, with that specific team.  You learn quickly as a business owner who is worth the investment when everything falls apart. There are those who step up - and those who never will. 
  • A pandemic that shut Hollywood - and the rest of the world - down.
    • Lesson takeaway: Diversify services broader than product placement in TV and film.  Keep the team in motion to make sure energy is still moving through the agency, which we did by creating a 108-person free marketing conference to help small and midsize businesses and provide extra education to college students who didn't get to have stellar learning opportunities or internships.  We were out of work for six months, yet kept everyone employed.  The result? We had our biggest year ever when Hollywood reopened, and a staff trained to service the new clients. On the negative? We had several team members who like so many in the workforce, left to find new careers after spending months getting a paycheck for not doing anything.
  • And the topper to all?  A fintech client tried to stiff us for over $1.1 million in media deals already completed because they mismanaged their money. It took over a year to get the court system to get us paid, and in the process, we set up a payment plan with every production or studio vendor to keep our reputation and relationships intact, and didn't lay off one person!
    • Learning takeaway:  Fight bullies and as mentioned above - keep excellent paper and video meeting trails. Contracts do stand up in court, and when someone lies but there is supporting evidence, it tends to go your way. But boy was that the hardest year of my life as an agency owner as we had just bought a multi-million commercial property to move Hollywood Branded to on top of it all.  It was a year that I developed a lot of faith, fat, and grey hair. 

It was worth it

Along the way, I managed to develop a lot of stories to be able to share with others to help them on their own learning journey, and an opportunity to avoid the mistakes I made along the way. I've made plenty, and I'll make plenty more. But I can say - I know I'm tougher and more capable due to the stressors that hit us and made me grow. My clients know we stand up to protect them, and the bullies know we will not bend over backward.

That is in fact why I launched our podcast "Marketing Mistakes (+ How To Avoid Them) that I host each week. For the last eight years, I've gotten other agency owners and brand marketers to share their own lessons in f*ck ups too - because it helps others learn in a less hard way.

Team Axe Throwing

Eager To Learn More?

Despite what in hindsight was a tremendous amount of odds, we are now celebrating our sixteenth year of success! And ready for what I am sure will be a continuation of the rollercoaster of a ride of new lessons we'll learn along the way. If you are interested in learning more about what Hollywood Branded does, read these additional blogs. 

Want to stay in the know with all things pop culture? Look no further than our Hot in Hollywood newsletter! Each week, we compile a list of the most talked-about moments in the entertainment industry, all for you to enjoy!

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