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19 Oct, 2001 By: Bruce Apar

To journalists in this field, the name Bender/Helper Impact signifies a highly focused, reliable brand of video publicity, from news releases to inside information and access.

But I?m biased. Dean Bender,his co-founding partner Lee Helper and irrepressible senior VP Shawna Lynch have always been very, very good to me (and the publications that tolerate my presence) for the 15 years their agency has been at it.

This very article is a testament to the power of the publicist. It would not have been probable without a nudge from one of Bender?s linchpins. That?s how the process works. They offer information, pressing the press as firmly as necessary to service the client (in this case, the agency itself). Few are as expert at it as the Bender folk.

A media outlet, in turn, weighs the value to its audience of said information, and of other intangibles ? such as giving good ?play? to a lesser story to store up goodwill for that prized exclusive interview with Lucas or Soderbergh (did I mention that on the phone, Shawna?). That?s how the game works, and everyone in the media plays it.

Bender Helper has made a notable impact on the industry it serves, helping virtually every major studio get ink. At its best, it?s a win-win-win-win situation ? agency, client (video supplier), publication and readers all gain something, so who?s to complain?

Dean Bender got his start in the mid '80s repping industry pioneer Stuart Karl, who took a Jane Fonda book on exercise and spawned the profit-fat genre of fitness videos.

Dean and I reminisced last week about the 1985 Washington, D.C., VSDA Convention, where Jane jousted with Joan Collins for booth traffic (Jane won by a KO). Those were the days.He?s ?terribly saddened by what?s become of the annual convention. We need to do what makes sense from a modern business perspective.? We presume he means parties and posters are not the answer.

Bender also notes studio chiefs pay more attention to their video numbers now than ever before, especially with DVD ?reinventing the business.?

He traces that attention to two watershed events: 1) the success of the PR effort for Karl?s Fonda tapes, after which studios ramped up consumer publicity for their video release slates; and 2) annual video revenues to the studios surpassing their box office take, in the mid '90s.

While Bender has grown from its original staff of nine to 60 strong in four cities with $6.5 million in billings from digital, interactive and consumer product accounts ? and seen its star alums go on to manage PR at DreamWorks, Fox and MGM ? Bender vows home video ?will always be our highest priority.?

Comments? Contact Bruce directly at:BApar@Advanstar.com

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