Dynamic Duo Goes Solo
Alex Josef and John Foster are known throughout the industry as two guys who know how to get the job done. Whether that job is putting journalists into a boxing ring for real fighting to promote a Mike Tyson boxing game or setting up meetings at the Tokyo Games Show, they have done it.
And although they loved their jobs at Bender/helper Impact, both men thought it was time for a change. Sooner or later, talented people decide it's time go it alone.
They have formed Zeitgeist Communications, a marketing firm where they plan to use all the knowledge and skills to promote their clients products in both traditional and creative ways.
Chief Editor John Breeden talked with Alex Josef about forming a new firm, the advantages of a soft economy and his plans for the future.
GiN: Alex, you and John Foster have worked in this industry for other people for a long time. Can you talk a bit about some of the firms you have worked with and what you have done?
Josef: John and I most recently headed up the interactive group at Bender/helper Impact as vice president and manager respectively. John was there for five years and I was there for three, during which time we led the highly successful launches of many triple-a titles, including Diablo II, Metal Gear Solid 2, Operation Flashpoint and Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon.
GiN: The current economy is not the best in the world, and the game industry, while not completely affected, is not riding high either. Why did you think now was the time to start your own firm?
Josef: For that exact reason now was the perfect time for us to launch this firm. Companies need effective marketing and pr more than ever in order to penetrate the market and stand out from their competitors. In a "soft economy," marketing dollars must be spent wisely and efficiently – and they must be quantified and qualified. Our main objective is to remove the bureaucracy and ambiguity of our profession and replace it with results oriented direct action.
GiN: How did you come up with the name Zeitgeist Communications?
Josef: The word zeitgeist essentially means "the trend of thought and feeling in a period" or in other words – the trend of the times. The name embodies our progressive approach, which is to look at what is in the here and now – then tailor our strategies and tactics to work within that dynamic. Using outdated or cookie-cutter tactics is simply ineffective.
GiN: A lot of times when two people form a company, their skills compliment one another. What would you say are your strengths and what are John's?
Josef: That question seems tailor made for us, because John and I have always been aware of how well we work together and how well our skill sets compliment each other. I have often described us as John being like the Robert Plant and I being more of the Jimmy Page – both of us playing incredibly important roles but creating a whole that far exceeds what either of us could do on our own.
Though we both are well rounded, John tends to excel in the creative process and I tend to excel in the tactical implementation. We rely on each other and trust each other – which are really the two most important aspects of a partnership.
GiN: In your game industry career, you have been to a lot of places from E3 in Las Angeles, to Tokyo for the games show there, to countless other shows and launches. Care to let us know one of the more interesting things that happened on your travels?
Josef: Well, I can give you the edited version. (smiles)
I would have to say that one of our most successful and to this day one of the most talked about launch events for a game was our media event for Mike Tyson heavyweight boxing from Codemasters. Basically, we assembled a crew of key journalists and flew them out to Las Vegas. They were shuttled by limousine to a famous boxing gym downtown and spent about two hours learning all the basics – from hitting the heavy bag, to the speed bag, to skipping rope, to working on combinations in the ring.
This was all well and fun, but next came the competition. We matched the journalists by weight class and they competed in several full-contact elimination fights until we found a champion. Needless to say the journalists had never before experienced the rigor nor the glitz and glamour of being a professional prize fighter-but that night in Las Vegas we put them through all the paces.
GiN: Within the game industry, who do you admire?
Josef: From a gaming perspective, I have always admired innovators such as Peter Molyneux, Louis Castle and Gabe Newell. Those are the guys that have made some of my most enjoyable gaming experiences possible. As for the industry in general, John and I both have huge admiration for people behind organizations, such as the game developers conference, that are about empowering the people that make the games so that they may continue to raise the bar and propel this industry forward.
GiN: What kind of skills do you believe that Zeitgeist Communications can offer to game companies that will put you above the other PR firms currently serving the market?
Josef: Our solid understanding of the fundamentals combined with our progressive approach is key to our success. Not only do we know what works, but we're constantly devising new tactics and techniques to deliver the results our clients expect and deserve. We're proactive, we're aggressive and our objective is not just to meet our clients' expectations, but to exceed them.
GiN: According to your first press release, Zeitgeist is part of a larger company called Double Barrel. Does this mean that you plan to offer other services within the entertainment arena? Can you let us know your overall plan for Double Barrel?
Josef: We have exciting plans for Double Barrel and we will be issuing forthcoming announcements soon.
GiN: So stay tuned for info about Double Barrel? I am sure if it revolves around you and John, it will be exciting. Let’s just hope we don't end up in a boxing ring.