Hot List: Cameron Death
VP of digital content, NBC Digital Entertainment
As a young guy who’s been running a studio for eight months, Cameron Death hasn’t gone Hollywood yet.
So says his boss, Vivi Zigler, president of NBC Digital Entertainment.
The digital studio is gearing up to produce Web-based branded entertainment. Coming soon is a 50-episode series called “Gemini Division” starring Rosario Dawson, sponsored by Intel, Cisco, Acura, UPS and Microsoft.
Mr. Death, VP of digital content for NBC Digital Entertainment, joined NBC from Microsoft. “He hasn’t been here long enough to go Hollywood,” Ms. Zigler said. “However, I think he loves entertainment, and I think that’s very much why he wanted to come to L.A. and why he wanted to be inside an entertainment company.”
Certainly Mr. Death has some big Hollywood names on his speed dial, among them Ben Silverman. When Mr. Death was at Microsoft creating branded entertainment, Mr. Silverman and his company Reveille were his producing partners. When Mr. Silverman moved to NBC, he brought in Mr. Death to meet his co-chairman, Marc Graboff, and Ms. Zigler.
Since Mr. Death was hired in November, Ms. Zigler said, he has proved he is “very, very skilled at his craft but he’s also a very good people person. He is good with creative people and good with technical people. And he’s good with clients.”
Mr. Death said his job is to work with top-tier advertising clients to create original digital programming and distribute it across all of the platforms at NBC Universal.
“It takes a couple of different forms. The first form is we sit with [the advertiser’s chief marketing officer] and get deeply inside their brand, and then create programming that’s really born of the essence of that brand,” he said. “It’s still high-quality, great entertaining content, stuff that we feel proud of from a network standpoint, but it wouldn’t have existed if it weren’t for the brand insight that we have.”
A second way the studio operates is by optioning projects with great talent attached. Mr. Death and his team then take the project to an appropriate brand to see whether the key players want to participate.
“The key pivot piece within that is that the brands are at the table in all scenarios from the outset. It’s a slightly different way of looking at digital content,” he said. “We’re really putting the advertiser first, and the advertising community is responding to it exceptionally well.”
At NBC, projects have to clear a high bar in terms of quality.
In the case of “Gemini Division,” “It’s an A-list actress with some of the most stunning special effects that anyone’s ever seen digitally,” he said. “It’s not the two guys in a garage with a camera. That has a place, but that’s not what my division is psyched about.”
Being at NBC gives Mr. Death access to a big studio’s infrastructure, which can help ideas get realized. It also provides entrée to talent and potential clients.
In addition to “Gemini Division,” Mr. Death expects to finalize a slate of original programming this month. The projects will be presented first to ad agencies owned by Omnicom, with which the studio formed a strategic alliance.
Mr. Death’s having a full slate to present in the short time he’s been with NBC impresses Ms. Zigler. “He has the sensibility to do it quickly but not to lose quality,” she said.
Originally from New Zealand, Mr. Death came to the U.S. as a boy when his father’s company transferred him. He lived in San Diego, Kansas City and Minneapolis before attending journalism school at the University of Kansas, where he jumped from the writing and editing division to the dark side of advertising and marketing.
He shifted to the dot.com world after a stint as director of a new business venture for a publisher.
Ms. Zigler said Mr. Death has a wicked sense of humor, but that if he has a flaw, it’s that he’s overly polite.
“He’s polite to a fault,” said Ms. Zigler. “Sometimes we tell him to knock it off. He’s like, ‘I’ll try. Thank you for the feedback.’”