Producers Wheel and Deal Soviet TV Ad Time out of Remote Farmhouse
COLRAIN, Mass. (AP) _ If you want to run a commercial on Soviet television, follow a dirt road in this town to a 200-year-old farmhouse.
There you will find the agents who made the deal that will bring singer Michael Jackson to 150 million Soviet TV viewers via Pepsi Cola ads, the first paid American commercials in Russian history.
″We’re a very small outfit,″ said David Nussbaum of Global American Television Inc., a big name for the little television production company housed in the hills of western Massachusetts.
Global American’s founders and principals, Pam Roberts and Ed Wierzbowski, seem to have found an unlikely spot for big-time wheeling and dealing in their 1780 house with its half-finished addition and two young children and a cat underfoot.
But they had the inside edge: a long and trusting relationship with the Soviet Union’s primary TV network, said Nussbaum, their only full-time employee, who is helping build the addition, watch the kids, write scripts and negotiate other commercial deals.
″This does raise questions for us,″ Nussbaum said about the commercializati on of Soviet TV. ″But we would rather be helping share ads for sweet drinks than bombs.″
The company has worked with the government-controlled Soviet broadcast agency Gosteleradio since 1982 on such projects as ″Citizens Summit,″ a televised satellite talk show featuring Phil Donahue and his Soviet counterpart Vladimir Pozner in two studios across the world, one in Seattle and the other in Leningrad.
Nussbaum said Wierzbowski landed in Moscow on Friday and went immediately to Soviet studios to begin editing two Pepsi Cola ads featuring Michael Jackson singing ″Bad″ and four other commercials. Among other tasks, he must put the company logo and slogan ″Choice of a New Generation″ into Cyrillic script and add a Soviet voice-over narration.
The ads are to appear on five 1-hour broadcasts of ″Pozner in America,″ in which the Soviet commentator talks with Americans on such topics as U.S. family life and attitudes toward Soviets, May 17-21.
Roberts and Wierzbowski began their business with amateur videotapes of early anti-nuclear protests at the Seabrook power plant in New Hampshire and moved on to documentaries, including one on a uranium plant strike in Tennessee.
In 1982 they began traveling to Russia for ″Dialogue,″ a documentary on the visit of 40 Americans to Siberia. That film gave them the idea for a live conversation between Soviets and Americans that became ″Citizen Summit.″
When Gosteleradio decided to air ″Pozner in America,″ a production the Soviet network made with the Seattle station that taped the two-country talk show, it turned to Roberts and Wierzbowski for help in choosing an advertiser to defray the costs.
″They know us,″ Nussbaum said simply.
He wouldn’t reveal financial details of the deal, but the going rate was reported to be $10,000 for a 30-second ad.
″The amounts of money we’ve gotten ... are not large amounts by the standards of American markets,″ Nussbaum said. ″But the Soviets will be receiving currency and that’s what they want, interest-generating currency with which to expand their programs.″
Several U.S. companies that sell products in the Soviet Union were approached, but Pepsi-Cola International was the natural choice, since the company pioneered in marketing there, Nussbaum said.
Pepsi claims to be the first with an American consumer product in Russia and the first to run ads on Moscow buses. Nussbaum said the soft drink has been sold in the Soviet Union since 1974 and the company has 20 bottling plants there that can’t keep up with demand.
A company spokesman said a Pepsi ad ran on Soviet television during telecasts of the 1986 Goodwill Games, but that commercial aired free of charge.