When you hear the name Anthony Sullivan, there’s probably a very specific image that comes to mind: The OxiClean guy.
In business as one of television’s most known pitchmen, if not the most known, Sullivan, or “Sully” as many refer to him, has a long, laundry list of commercials on his resume, but that OxiClean one, it’s a culture fabric woven into the memories of an entire generation of TV consumers—all puns intended.
But as with everything else, with changing trends, technology and consumer habits, businesses must also change or risk failing.
The king of pitches isn’t about to let that happen. Enter the next phase of Sullivan Productions, sugar•AI.
“I remember reading a quote from Bono that said, ‘The worst type of music you can make is music that is ignored,’ ” Sullivan says. “When I started Sullivan Productions, I was a pitch person that came from live shopping. I had a reputation for being able to move the needle on live TV and I saw an opportunity, at that time, to transition what I had learned from live TV to other media, which was strictly television.”
After finding extreme success in that market, and growing that success consistently, the model that once was second nature to Sullivan has greatly changed.
Sullivan admits, a pretty savvy high school student could shoot a useable 1990s-era TV commercial spot, these days, using a device he or she has in their pocket.
“What has happened is that the model of using television as our medium has changed. The internet just got bigger, and bigger, and now it’s basically 80 percent digital and 20 percent television,” Sullivan says.
Advertising budgets, year over year, are on the decline and 2023 is not predicted to see a bounce back. According to a report by Forbes, growth in advertising spending is projected to be lower than 2022.
Meanwhile, digital ad spending is expected to grow 10.5 percent in 2023, according to Inside Intelligence, an online source of independent analysis based on sourced data.
The medium has changed and the consumer, and their attention span, has changed.
“We have pieces of content that are, potentially, as short as six seconds, maybe even less,” Sullivan says. “It’s not just television, it’s Facebook, it’s Instagram, it’s Tik Tok, it’s Snapchat, it’s streaming … there are so many new places to advertise content and the lifespan is shorter than ever.”
What does this mean to Sully’s business? Time for a change.
Sullivan Productions has rebranded as sugar•AI, with the new name representing the future of the company and Sully, to a degree.
In October, Noelle Ray Stoops Crovo was named president of sugar•AI. She previously was the director of strategy since 2016.
“I have known Mr. Sullivan since, gosh, I don’t even remember,” says Crovo, with a laugh.
Crovo’s mother, Bobby Ray Carter, is one of the longest-running show hosts at HSN and has worked with Sullivan for years.
“I went to college and, once a year, I would send him an email like, ‘Hey, I don’t know what you’re doing, but I want to be involved,’” she says. “And one day, I got a call out of nowhere from Anthony. He asked if I was ready to jump ship and I was like, ‘Absolutely!’”
The persistence paid off and she’s been on team Sully ever since.
“She’s always had an incredible personality. She’s one of those people that will just figure it out. That is one of her talents. I think any leader, or entrepreneur, is required to do that, even if you don’t know what you want to do,” Sullivan says.
Having the sharp brain of Crovo has benefited the company. She had a pivotal role in the recent rebrand as sugar•AI, with a dot between the two words.
“Our decision to rebrand the company has been a few years in the making. It boils down to the nature of what we do and it has changed. How we consume media has changed,” Crovo says. “Our new name speaks to the future capabilities that we’re working on.”