Rich Rosenthal, whom Havas Worldwide hired today as head of content for North America, brings a broad range of experience to the role, having worked at the Time Warner Global Media Group, Warner Bros. Television and creative shops like Young & Rubicam and Saatchi & Saatchi. In his new job, Rosenthal will steer production across 19 offices in North America with a focus on integrating the function across creative, digital and media efforts. The new leader, who starts March 31 and will report to global chief content officer Vin Farrell, explains why he's a fan of Chipotle's branded content work and how his brother, Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal, has influenced him.
How much of your role will relate to branded content?
I’m hoping there’s going to be a lot. ... They want me to work with the media agency and try to get some collaboration going or more collaboration going. [Also], seeing if there are ways to bring content and perhaps some of the creative juice from the agency into Havas Media. And then also, work with [New York chief creative officer] Darren Moran to be like a producer partner and just be a production sounding board for him.
What did you learn at Warner Bros. or Time Warner Global Media that will help you now?
Especially at Global Media, it was all about scale and it was all about multi-platforms. So, everything we did had a connection to social, digital video.
Why did you choose Havas?
It’s because I’ve known Vin, I knew Darren at Y&R and then when I met [global CEO] Andrew [Benett], I just got a great sense that he really wanted to work in more longer form content. They were all about content and how many outlets there are for content now.
Anything in particular you missed about the creative agency world?
I kind of always loved just producing TV spots, I have to say. I think my happiest time was probably when I was an executive producer at Y&R and just producing stuff.
Where are creative agencies in the race to own branded content versus media agencies and media owners?
I definitely think there’s some room for improvement with regard to [creative] agencies. I do think media has had an upper hand in that.
Why is that?
They’ve been closer to the distribution pipeline. There has been more willingness for the advertiser [to work with them]. I just felt that TV ads were so expensive that there was such a preciousness. Some advertiser would do three or four TV spots and they’d be so micro-managed. When media came back in a more prominent role with social and more video, everything became less precious, everything became less expensive. So, you could try a lot of things.
What brands are ahead of the pack in branded content?
What Chipotle is doing is so great because it’s almost their philosophy that’s on the screen. There’s no hardcore sell to it. It’s almost pure entertainment but with a very specific mindset and what their philosophy is. So, I have a lot of respect for what they did and also the Scarecrow and animation.
Who has had the most influence on your career?
Early on, there were a couple of producers like Dane Johnson. When I started at Saatchi, he was mentoring me. He was the executive producer and I was the assistant producer. I saw how exacting he was. He really was kind of a perfectionist. He really cared about the work.
I learned a lot from my brother in that you always speak your mind. Production can be like a moving train. You just keep going with it and you don’t take a step back and really think about [the big picture]. And it starts when you get a storyboard. Like, “Is this all making sense? Is this really going to do something for the brand?” And then as you get more and more into production, you don’t let things steamroller over you. You have to think about every step.
What does your brother do?
He’s a writer. He created Everybody Loves Raymond—Phil Rosenthal. We worked a couple of times together and we have very similar taste. We talk about everything, we talk about every movie, every TV show and dissect everything to death. So, just from an entertainment aesthetic, he’s probably the most influential to me.
What’s he working on these days?
Well, we’re actually working on a food show together, which we are working with PBS on. It’s a food and travel show. The he’s also working on a new show for ABC—The Henry Winkler Show—with Henry Winkler’s son, Ben Winkler, and his son-in-law—Henry Winkler's son-in-law. The three of them are working on a pilot now.