July 2009

Tastemakers 2009 Ryan Kavanaugh

by Samantha Dunn / produced by Mayer Rus / portrait by Scott Council

Ryan Kavanaugh Leave it to a rock guitarist to see a chance to riff. If his dad hadn’t talked him out of a recording contract when he was 17, Kavanaugh might not have launched Relativity Media, the company that has financed or produced and distributed more than 100 films—and racked up more than $7.4 billion in the process. When he bought the horror-genre Rogue Pictures, the idea was to make movies, not launch a lifestyle brand. “We started to hear: ‘We love Rogue T-shirts, shoes, videogames.’ Well, these didn’t exist,” says Kavanaugh. “Say it takes $30 million to promote a movie...Why can’t I take that same dollar and also be promoting a brand?”

Developing your own brand based on what the audience wants and placing the products in the film is the logical step beyond placement of other brands. It’s taking Marshall McLuhan one step further: The medium is the message—and both are making money.