Napster’s Return Flashes Forward on Web, TV

NEW YORK If the new Napster spot seems more like an online ad than a television commercial, that’s because it was made solely with Flash technology, and premiered online and on TV simultaneously last week.

The ad, heralding the relaunch of the online music file-sharing service, features a cat partying with a variety of musical artists from different genres and eventually jumping into a pool via colorful Flash graphics.

“A lot of people take their TV commercial and they have to put it on the Web in some sort of Flash and maybe there’s some quality issues that you encounter,” said Paul Venables, founder and co-creative director of Venables, Bell & Partners, which created the spot. “We did the reverse. We engineered for the Web and adjusted for broadcast.”

The spot, which broke on network and cable stations to coincide with the Oct. 29 relaunch of Napster, grew from a series of animations created by Venables in San Francisco that began running in early summer on the Web at

Each of nine 30- and 60-second animated shorts tells the story of the Napster cat character escaping from prison, acquiring a contract with the music industry and then performing hip-hop, indie and metal music, among other styles. The work was created with help from online production company Mekanism in San Francisco.

Flash technology was used because it felt right to convey the alternative feel of the Napster brand, Venables said.

“We stood for digital music that existed on the Web and the audience is there and it was a natural place to rekindle the fire and get the vibe out,” Venables said. “We knew that we would time this such that these things would live online, and the day of the launch the final one would debut on air.”

Along with the debut spot, two of the animations that premiered on the Web, “Hip-Hop” and “Metal,” are now running on TV as well. The former shows the cat dancing as in a hip-hop video with scantily clad women and people driving souped-up cars. “Metal” features the cat getting ready to perform with a heavy metal group as they apply eyeliner, tease their hair and even bite the heads off rats.

A new spot made in the same style but created solely for TV is in the works, according to Venables.

Creatives on the campaign include co-creative directors Venables and Greg Bell, art director Crystal English, copywriter Quentin Shuldiner and producer Craig Allen. Animation director/illustration was Ian Kovalik, and Geoff McFetridge also worked on design and illustration. Elias Arts and Stimmung, both in Santa Monica, Calif., and San Francisco-based Late Night Sneaky created music.

Venables won the account in June after software company Roxio in Santa Clara, Calif., acquired the name of the defunct file-swapping site and began working on a relaunch. Print ads, wild postings and banner ads are also part of the relaunch campaign, estimated at $20 million.