38 | FOUNDER, CEO, TRANSLATION CONSULTATION AND BRAND IMAGING

Next time you stumble across the Chia Pet on TV at 3 A.M., take notes. That's the time of night when Steve Stoute finds inspiration in what he calls infomercials' "pure art of selling." Stoute has been perfecting his own brand of salesmanship since he left his post as head of urban music at Interscope Records in 2000 and persuaded Jay-Z to name-check a Motorola pager in "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)"—causing sales of the product to skyrocket. "I'd seen a lot of companies embrace 'branded entertainment,' and yet it was all done wrong—it wasn't authentic," explains Stoute. "It was just 'Let's just put a celebrity pitchman in.'" Stoute has pioneered collaborations between Fortune 500 brands and urban talent—unexpected win-win pairings like Justin Timberlake and McDonald's, Mary J. Blige and Chevy, and LeBron James and State Farm Insurance. His cultural-commercial fusion peaked with the jingle-to-single arc of Chris Brown's Double Mint–gum–pimping song "Forever," which hit No. 2 on the pop charts last summer (Wrigley recently dropped Brown). "The stuff we do speaks to the next generation of purchasers," Stoute says. "You kind of hope that the chief marketing officer has a teenager in the house to get our ideas."

NEXT: Demetri Martin, Comedian
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