Yep, that's Andrew Steinthal above, from a recent
You're probably wondering how a music fanatic ended up in the spot?
It’s not a short story, but it’s a smart one that anybody with an idea and passion should pay attention to.
Andrew’s story begins in 2000 on the set of MTV's "Total Request Live". Yes. TRL, that amazing, iconic slice of pop culture that every '90s and early-2000s kid religiously tuned into every day. There, during a CMJ College Radio Convention, he met his future partner in crime, Chris Stang.
Apparently Andrew and Chris weren’t "enthusiastic" enough about the first song performed live that morning and were yanked off the air. Instead, the pair sat off camera and plotted out how to take over the music world. They returned to their respective colleges but stayed in touch. After leaving school, they began making their way into the music business, working at major record labels, attending concerts and festivals, and seeing all sides of the business.
But it soon became apparent that they'd entered the industry at exactly the wrong time.
“We were living the dream, but we were kind of a decade too late," Andrew recalls. "The music business was in complete disarray when we got into it.” This was the early 2000’s right after a file-sharing service called Napster caused complete chaos in the music industry.
“It was very unsettling in a way," he continues. "The music business got in their own way for 15 years by fighting technology and streaming, instead of embracing it. They could have handled it differently, but they made their own bed. That decade or so that Chris and I worked on the label side, the business of music was generally in a free fall.”
Andrew and Chris were working at different labels in PR and marketing, respectively. Their days were spent in offices, their nights spent at bars and restaurants with artist clients. They quickly became go-to experts in their social circles for NYC recommendations. Need a fun place to take a date? Call Andrew or Chris. Parents coming into town? Call Andrew or Chris. Want to take the whole office out to celebrate? Call Andrew or Chris.
Light-bulb moment and The Infatuation was born. For five years, while keeping their day jobs, Andrew and Chris ran The Infatuation as a side job with the goal of providing accessible restaurant reviews from a trustworthy voice to New Yorkers.
They posted situational dining recommendations revolving around real-world experiences – not pretentious, industry insider "think pieces" on restaurants. “Most traditional food media is a bit pretentious, and targeted at the niche of humans who take food and cooking and celebrity chefs very seriously," Andrew explains. "But the average person who goes out to eat doesn’t care about most of that stuff. They just want to know, 'Does this place have a great burger?'."
They’d pay for their meals out of pocket so there would never be any question of bias. They’d write the reviews in their own voices to resonate with regular people. Reviews covered the city's best hamburgers, pizza and hot dogs, but also lobster and hot new restaurants everyone's talking about.
Another big piece of The Infatuation puzzle: social media. The Infatuation was born right around the time Twitter became a big deal, and from the moment Instagram launched, the team has fully embraced the platform, from the 24 handles it owns (everything from local handles like @infatuation and @infatuation_nyc to food handles like @burger and @pasta) to the total dominance of its #EEEEEATS hashtag, which currently boasts nearly 8 million posts.
“We have our own fleet of accounts we can use to push content out that supports our Web content, but also allows us to market our brand locally and serve as an amazing amplification and marketing tool for our brand partners,” Andrew explains. He and Chris continue to expland The Infatuation network, launching in several additional cities in the U.S. and abroad. They also launched TextRex, a texting service that connects users to a live person who can help them decide what restaurant they're in the mood for.
So back to the beginning.
How did this music guru-turned-food media entrepreneur end up in a Coke commercial? It goes back to his childhood and a love for
“If I’m having a really good day or something really great is happening, I’m drinking a Coke," he explains. "It’s celebratory as far as I’m concerned. There’s not much better reward in this world for me personally than a Coke.”