GABE DELIVERS THE GOODS
Byline: Sharon Edelson
NEW YORK — Gabe Doppelt is sitting in her office at MTV Networks, wearing a pink T-shirt inscribed with the legend “Paranoid.”
When asked if the T-shirt reflects her current state of mind, Doppelt says, “No. Kids seem to like messages with attitude.”
As head of non-music merchandising for “The Goods”, MTV’s ongoing home shopping test, Doppelt’s job is to know what kids like.
These days, she’s looking for more “stuff” like Beavis and Butthead rubber stamps and Hammer dolls dressed in sparkly purple balloon pants, rather than actual fashion.
“We’re not going to stop doing fashion,” she clarified, “but we’re focusing mainly on entertainment and entertainment-related products.”
Last fall, Doppelt, 34, engineered something of a fashion coup, when she enlisted some of New York’s trendiest designers — Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui, Todd Oldham and Isaac Mizrahi — to create outfits especially for “The Goods”.
The designer programs aired on the company’s three networks, MTV, Nick-at-Nite and VH-1. But, according to industry experts, the shows were not as successful as other efforts, like the Woodstock program that sold over $1 million worth of products.
“I think everybody made a huge effort to make it work,” said Jacobs, who sold a variation on one of the staples of his collection, a rhinestone-studded T-shirt dress, on MTV. “But apparently it didn’t work out very well. One of my reservations was that young girls really enjoy the process of shopping. It’s such a social activity. They want to meet with their friends on the weekend and try on 50 T-shirt dresses before buying one. For a woman who’s home ironing, home shopping is another story. But I don’t think that’s the kind of customer MTV hoped to attract.”
Doppelt declined to reveal sales figures but maintained the programs did well.
“We learned what we wanted to learn from Marc, Anna, Todd and Isaac,” she said. “Todd did incredibly well on VH-1. We’ll hopefully work with those designers again.”
One reason for Oldham’s success on VH-1 may have been the age of the audience. The channel’s targeted viewer is older than MTV’s — and equipped with a credit card.
“A lot of those young girls [that watch MTV] don’t have credit cards,” Jacobs said. “For them to go out and get a certified check really kills the impulse to purchase.”
Doppelt is currently working on a show about the first edition of 7th on Sale. The show is part documentary, part home shopping, with Tommy Hilfiger designing apparel that will be sold during commercial breaks. All proceeds will go to the next 7th on Sale effort for AIDS relief in May.
Doppelt said The Goods will tie into more big music events, such as the MTV Music Awards and a Bob Marley event later this year. She is also interested in selling merchandise related to Paramount film releases. Viacom Inc., MTV Network’s parent, also owns Paramount Communications.
“‘The Brady Bunch Movie’ would have been great, but we couldn’t do it in time,” Doppelt said of the current Paramount release. “A T-shirt with the face of 1,000 Jans would have been ideal.
“What I’m interested in right now is their big summer movie, ‘Congo,’ based on Michael Crichton’s book,” she said. “One hopes it will be as big as ‘Jurassic Park,’ only with monkeys.”
While nearly every ambitious shopping network that started up last year was either scaled back or canceled, Doppelt said MTV’s enthusiasm for a freestanding shopping channel hasn’t dampened.
Is she the last true believer in home shopping? No. Observers say the payoff could be big for a stand-alone shopping channel combining the MTV properties. Analysts said such a venture could, in several years, reach the volume of the industry’s two dominant players, QVC and Home Shopping Network, which do over $1 billion in sales each.
“It will be next year if we decide to do it,” Doppelt said. “We’re also looking into going on line with “The Goods”+.”
When Doppelt was editor-in-chief of Mademoiselle, prior to joining MTV, she was criticized by some for giving the magazine too much of an edge. Her sensibility may have been too extreme for Conde Nast, but at MTV she fits right in.
“If I didn’t get this job, I wouldn’t have known that hockey shirts are so popular,” Doppelt said. “Music spearheaded the trend to wear hockey jerseys and the trend to wear clothes that are too baggy or too tight. I’m much more interested in street style because of the nature of this job.”
Now that she’s a bona fide member of the rock ‘n’ roll scene, Doppelt is in position to field cosmic questions like, “Why do rock stars date models?” Answer: “There’s something very sexy about the music industry. Fashion and music have always been interrelated. One fashion editor called me and said, ‘I don’t know why I bother going to the collections. I should just watch MTV.”‘
“I’d be a fool to say I don’t miss magazines,” Doppelt added. “But the thing that appeals to me about MTV is that if you make a mistake, it’s almost a good thing, because you learn from your mistakes. That kind of encourages madness and creativity, and that’s very refreshing. If you make the same mistake twice, that’s not so good.”