The MadMen of TCM: A Greatest Hits Mix-Tape

Classic film fans have, over the past several years, embraced an emerging, and vibrant, niche community.  This is highly evident right here in the blogosphere where, if I do say so myself, the very finest blogs on the interwebs are those manned by classic film fans (Shameless plug for Hollywood Revue, Backyard Fence, Out of the Past, True Classics, MovieStar MakeoverSales on Film, Filmoria, and so many many many more amaaaaazing blogs  — all of these and many more will rock your black and white world.) But the unsurpassed leader  of this long-surpressed niche, is the cable network Turner Classic Movies.

Of course,TCM was far from the first. I personally grew up with American Movie Classics (back when AMC really was American Movie Classics) and then there were the classic film showcases on local networks on Friday and Saturday nights. But Turner has, over the years, emerged as the leader in dynamic, compelling classic film programming and is the pied-piper to which countless classic movie lovers rally behind. The network makes what may have been previously thought of as ‘old’ and ‘archaic’ seem, not only accessible and entertaining, but… well … just plain sexy.

TCM has built a most extraordinary bridge between satisfying its hardcore niche community and the mainstream which, of course, they are earnestly striving to reach. (And yes, by the way, our community is every bit as demanding and has just as many unflinching purists as any of our fellow niche communities. Comic book fans? HA. You ain’t seen nothin’ till you’ve met a hardcore classic film fanatic. We can totally take you.)

How does TCM do it?

With style.

Turner has in its arsenal what can rightly be viewed as one of the most unabashedly creative team of branders and marketers in the industry. Each month, there are new promotional short films and teasers which, in their essence are publicity campaigns for the network’s programming, but in reality have become so much more than mere advertisements. The promos have become (and I do not exaggerate in saying this) unparalleled in their fearlessly creative prowess. Avid followers of the network look forward to them just as much as we do the actual films. Which is saying a HELL of a lot. Whether it’s a sharp, sexy teaser advertising the network’s featured star for the month, or a poignant In Memoriam short film in honor of those who the entertainment industry lost over the past year, the MadMen of TCM succeed at producing promos that make their fans proud yet are still effectively tantalizing teasers to as-of-yet untapped markets.

The network’s approach to educating the masses is audacious. These promos are mixed media canvases; any number of classic images, stills, cutting-edge graphics, indie music all find themselves swirling together like fine brandy in a snifter. The result, always delicious. An intense blend of glamor, sex, grit and drama, the promos remain reverent of the original source material while managing to ‘sell’ it to even the most skeptic naysayers. Even product that is 90 years old is tightly packaged as branded as being strikingly modern, fresh and exciting.

Of course, classic film fans have always know that these ‘old’ films are, in spirit, anything but old. But thanks to Turner, this fact can now be expressed in often powerful, always excellent, visual terms.

And so, for no particular reason at all, in no particular order, I’ve culled together my own personal ‘greatest hits’ of these much loved promos. A TCM mix-tape, if you will. (If I had a cassette and sharpie marker, it would be labeled something like ‘TCM’S HOTTEST JAMZ”. Sigh. Oh how I miss analog.)

The following 10 promos are lessons in creative branding that, in my opinion, prove exactly what heights can be achieved when a marketing team has the guts and gusto to, very literally, think outside of the box.

These guys are, simply, without peer.



In a word: Sexy.

Music: Oh-La-La by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals



In a word: Angsty

Music: Time Is Running Out by Muse


IN MEMORIAM 2010 (Embedding not allowed for this video, so do yourself a favor and take the extra nanosecond of effort and click the link. It’s a work of art.)

In a word: Heartbreaking

Music: Headlights by Sophie Hunger



TCM FEATURE – OCTOBER 2011 (Again with the embedding not allowed. Please click the link. Perfectly brilliant.)

In a word: Brilliant

Music: Saw You First by Givers




In a word: Fun

Music: Watching the Detectives by Elvis Costello



In a word: Poignant

Music: Before You Go by OK Sweetheart



In a word: Adorable

Music: I’d Like You For Christmas by Julie London (Ursula 1000 remix)



In a word: Clever



In a word: Creative



In a word: Classic

  1. Joel Williams says:

    Wow! You’re reading my mind here. I *adore* the work that Turner Classic Movies does with the special production clips. They’re done so artistically and with such love towards the subject matter. They’re simply beautiful to watch.

    I do love when they have new special clips between films…but I also love seeing the ones I’ve seen dozens of times again. (The ‘letterbox’ feature…I’ve seen it at least 12 times, but will watch it all the way through intently when it comes on. The people in that short are passionate about film, just like me!)

    They have a new series of ‘shadow-box’ a paper cut-out. So uniquely done…they are about 15 seconds long, but just incredibly cool.

    Thanks for lifting up these under-represented pieces of creativity.

    • kittypackard says:

      Joel, thank YOU for the thoughtful comment! I agree completely! I believe we all know the “word of mouths” and “tcm spotlights” verbatim by now, but they are still, somehow, relevant and REAL! YES, the paper cutout sequences are super fantastic! I couldn’t find it on Youtube (unless i’m the idiot i’ve always known myself to be) or it would have been included! Keep Tweeting!

  2. Tonya says:

    This a great list! I loved the “100 Years at the Movies” short that TCM ran during the 90s. Loved that!

    • kittypackard says:

      Oh wasn’t that just the absolute BEST? The 100 Years at the movies short film is, by far, their best work. I make a point of showing it to ANYONE and EVERYONE who thinks ‘old’ film is boring. (Ashamed I didn’t list it here, but was keeping it to specific TCM programming.)

      • Tonya says:

        Oh, the others you chose are perfect. I’d forgotten about the detectives one; it was fun to see it again! [I just watched "100 years" on youtube and got teary-eyed! I knew it was special, but didn't realize how much until then! It is the best to prove a point. :)] Thanks for the chance to revisit all of these.

  3. Angela says:

    LOVE this! I’ve always adored TCM’s promos, they always perfectly capture the essence of the star or the theme they’re celebrating. My favorite part of watching stuff I recorded off TCM years ago is when I end up finding some old promos on my recording. I’d say the Silent Sunday Night and Jean Harlow Star of the Month promos are my two all-time favorites. The other day, I heard that song by Grace Potter and the Nocturnal and all I could do was think of the Harlow promo and how perfect that song was for it.

    And I know I can always count on TCM to create the classiest and most inclusive memorial tribute around.

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