Issue: July 1, 2009


Last month, the Promax|BDA show took place in New York City, giving broadcast designers an opportunity to network and take in presentations from many notables in the field. One of the program's high points came in the form of a sit-down discussion with film legend Robert Redford, who was interviewed about his career and own brand by advertising executive Donny Deutsch — he is the chairman of Deutsch, Inc., and also hosted his own cable talk show, The Big Idea With Donny Deutsch, which often featured stars discussing their achievements.

For an hour, Redford reflected on his film career, his friendship with Paul Newman, and his love for filmmaking. Deutsch asked the actor to describe "the Robert Redford brand," and while he was initially humble to acknowledge the existence of one, Redford eventually conceded, saying "his value system is built around the belief of independence."

His success with films, such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, allowed him to give back to the film industry, first with the establishment of the Sundance Institute (1981), a lab set up in Utah for the creation of independent films, and later with the Sundance Film Festival, which would serve as an outlet for the screening of independent films. "It was a big risk, and people advised me against it," Redford said of the ventures. But it was the early 1980s and the actor could see that the video and cable industries "were going to explode." Once the festival took off, he entertained the thought of bringing in foreign films, and later launched Sundance Cinemas and the Sundance Channel.

"Success is almost more dangerous than failure," he notes, adding that his public persona and advocacy created resentment and criticism over the years. "The idea" was always more important than financial gain. "If money transcends the idea, you're dead."

Looking forward, Redford says "there is always a story to be told," and today's challenges, particularly for the BDA audience, involve overcoming the "bad rap" that marketing currently has. Successful brands, he feels, will come from those who have the ability to apply creativity and risk.