Can Firebrand Make Commercials Hot?


On paper, it sounds like the dumbest idea ever: build an entire channel around commercials. No shows, just commercials. You know, the things you skip with TiVo or curse online. But startup Firebrand, which launches tonight, believes there’s big business to be had in an ads-as-content model. And while I’m still skeptical of its long-term prospects — as a quick, entertaining distraction, it’s actually pretty fun.


Saying that it’s dedicated to “commercial culture,” Firebrand curates the site to include only what it considers to be the best video advertisements from around the world. You can peruse a host of ads from big-brand names like Nike, Apple and Volkswagen. Or you can watch Firebrand Live, which is a lot like MTV circa 1983. A window pops up to give you the commercial credits, and “commercial jockeys” or “CJs” walk you through the programming. This being the web, the host is, of course, a hot woman wearing a cleavage-revealing top.

Firebrand isn’t the first to put brands center stage. Honeyshed created a series of tarted-up infomercials for brands like Reebok. The big difference is that Firebrand isn’t trying to create original content, it’s showing actual commercials we’re already familiar with, created by top-level directors and production houses.


Firebrand is privately funded by NBC Universal (GE), Microsoft (MSFT) and GE’s Peacock Equity Fund. It makes money by charging advertisers to be on the site. But the company is quick to point out that it does not just accept any ad offered. Firebrand maintains that it wants only the best commercials. In addition to the web, Firebrand is available on mobile phones and will have an hour block of time on traditional TV on the ION Network from 11PM ET to midnight, Monday through Friday. This block is owned by Firebrand, so they’ll also sell ads (ironically, or is that more meta?) during that time. Additionally, there is a shopping cart icon that wasn’t yet activated — presumably this would let you shop on a brands site, and Firebrand would take some kind of finder’s fee or cut.

Technically, the site works fine. There were some glitches with Firebrand Live as it moved in between commercials, but the site is in beta, so that’s forgivable. The media player contains the standard playlists, favorites, sharing and embedding features. You can move from a smaller window to a larger one where you are prompted to watch more ads from that brand. Or you can browse the site by brand or genre.

I was all set to hate Firebrand, but then I watched one commercial. Then another. Then another. And then realized my deadline was fast approaching. But that’s why commercials have always been viral: they’re short, entertaining and oftentimes funny. Perfect for snacking (like this one for Xbox 360).

The problem is, what happens next? Good commercials are fun to watch, but they’re easier to find on YouTube, and I can’t imagine people making this a destination when we are already bombarded by advertisements throughout the day. And while the CJs are cute and all, they don’t add enough value to keep me tuned in.

Unfortunately for Firebrand, the only mark it’s going to leave on the world of entertainment is merely a footnote.

UPDATE: A lot of Google searchers are reaching this “Firebrand” story, but there’s a more current one detailing how the site is shutting down.


Robert Salender

At least Firebrand lets you DOWNLOAD the commercials DRM-free! Let’s see YouTube do such action. You may have the features of YouTube (embedding, share, add to favs, etc.) on Firebrand… but, really… commercials aren’t allowed to be uploaded to YouTube for the copyright. I’m guessing Firebrand doesn’t even care. Just as saying something submitted to America’s Funniest Home Videos gets uploaded to YouTube…

Firebrand is located on Wall Street (yes, THAT Wall Street in NYC) and the money… well, let’s see where it’ll go. All this money for “ad-tertainment”… right into people’s hard drives. Imagine that! And then gets uploaded via P2P… yeah. Soon commercials wouldn’t be downloaded anymore!

I can just imagine an ad on social sies like Facebook and Myspace… the same way (Think of the incident…).

But Firebrand can stay… as long as it stays on “TV, web, and mobile”, I’ll be content… until SOMETHING just bounds to go wrong.

Chris Arndt

There has not been hundreds of this. This is on television. On television I can find television commercialis from Japan and listen to Shannon with the accent.
So you know what, screw off haters!

Ha! I gotta stop using that phrase. Seriously this is a good deal, because it is on television.


There’s also where members have been rating and bookmarking their favorite ads since forever. Shit, way back in the nineties adcritic and the commercial archive where the shit. Firebrand are going the same way as – another commercials as entertainment site that burned through all of their VC funding in a year. There’s been hundreds of them.


I’ve also experienced the addictive nature of Firebrand and I think its a great outlet for some really creative work. Since its a curated site I’d like to see the company offer some sort of support for best director or writer. Its early on in the game but I think the quality of work is very high and I’d like to see individuals get some individual recognition. Firebrand will be around for a while and I think it has the potential to impact many industries, not just commercial.


Hello- this isnt for entertainment its a new resource for creatives to get inspired— you tube is a bunch of junk collected, this let you navigate thru top brands– its the BEST of commericals– great!


I enjoy an unusual, well crafted and creative commercial and look forward to seeing the ones I like frequently. The good ones are art.

Most ads do not fall into this category. Unfortunately the commercials the stations tend to play back or multiple times an hour are usually the most unpleasant.

I caught a broadcast of Firebrand the other day and thoroughly enjoyed it.


firebrand is ready for the fire extinguisher….dumber than DUMB. What a waste of $$!


You’re right! I had the same experience: strangely addictive but how to make it work.

My idea:

When I was a child every mother collected S&H Greenstamps, and spent an inordinate amount of time sticking those stamps in books! I imagine a digital variation. The more commercials we watch the more digital stamps we collect.

The kind and number of “stamps” offered are targeted by age, geography and a host of other demographic data. Instead of sticking them in books we have an ad-infested webquest game.

Ads as fun; ads we want; winners all around.

Mark Schoneveld

So this is like the Hulu for ads? Hmmm…

There might be some use, though, for a repository of ads. Some place to watch funny and innovative works from around the world. Oh, wait. It’s called YouTube.

Chris Albrecht

K Kumar,l

It’s my understanding that advertisers pay Firebrand to be included. And since it is curated, there is no UGC element.

K Kumar

What about the legal issues here – are these commercials legal to show online? I’m guessing the ones they’ve got right now are obtained through direct contact, but are they going to allow people to upload their favourites too?

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