The Columns

Marketing Renegade John Zamoiski

— by on July 26th, 2012

When John Zamoiski, of the Class of 1974, spoke at Washington and Lee’s first AdLib Conference (Liberal Arts in Advertising) in March, he dubbed himself a marketing renegade.

Visitors to Comic-Con 2012 in San Diego earlier this month got a little taste of what John meant. His company, Bottlerocket Marketing Group, of New York City, was the guiding force behind one of the most-discussed exhibitions at the event — a 15,000-square-foot, “fully immersive” experience to promote A&E’s upcoming made-for-TV movie, “Coma.”

According to various reports from Comic-Con, the installation allowed visitors to “feel first-hand what it’s like to go up against the all-knowing, all-powerful, and heavily financed Jefferson Institute.” If you remember the 1977 novel by Robin Cook and the 1978 movie by Michael Crichton, the Jefferson Institute is where unwitting patients are kept in comas in order to have their organs harvested. Ridley Scott and Tony Scott’s remake of that movie airs on A&E Sept. 3 and 4, and the marketing that John’s company has created for it is getting a lot of buzz.

The W&L students who heard John talk about his marketing exploits, starting with his job as an advance man for Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, would hardly be surprised at the scope of the Comic-Con installation, let alone the various other ways in which Bottlerocket is working to bring attention to its clients.

One of the case studies on Bottlerocket’s website is The Great Summer Zoofari for the Wildlife Conservation Society, which featured life-size Lego sculptures of animals around the Bronx Zoo. Another award-winning campaign that John’s company produced was the “VH1 Divas Salute the Troops” mosaic.

In his presentation to the AdLib conference on campus, John paid tribute to his liberal arts background as the key to his success in the world of marketing. He also cited several W&L faculty members who played a role.

“Being a successful business professional comes from mixing up a witch’s brew of learning — learning you get at W&L,” he told the students. “In my case, it’s what I learned in my marketing courses from L.K. Johnson (I still have notes from his classes to this day). It’s combined with my editorial writing courses from Pax Davis in the journalism school, served with a strong dose of history courses from Charlie Turner, adding the spice of film courses from John Jennings, with a dollop of sociology from Ken White, with English classes from Huntley, art classes from Dr. Ju, with economics from John Gunn, with accounting from Jay Cook. You put it all together, and that makes sense of the world you live in.”

John describes Bottlerocket’s work on the Coma project and others in the interview below, conducted at Comic-Con 2012: