At the intersection of content and commerce, the rules of the road are still being written and it seems brands, ad agencies and now even PR shops are in major beta mode and learning as they go (which is great btw). Still, there are more questions than answers. Many analysts have wondered if any of this stuff is sufficiently changing brand opinion and consideration? Or, by contrast, is it enough, as some brands and their agencies suggest, to just improve some likeability? Maybe it is. Although a hard-ass adman like David Ogilvy would certainly argue that point. But if likeability is where it’s at nowadays, here’s an execution we like and why we like it….
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
Here’s the Brooklyn version of this successful web-series concept….
Jerry Seinfeld has been producing and starring in this show, sponsored exclusively by Acura, since July 2012 and distributed on Sony’s Crackle.com video hub with episodes also easily found on YouTube.
The schtick is that Seinfeld picks up comedians in vintage cars that match the guests’ personality and a humorous ride and drive interview takes place where they chat about life and their best comedic moments. Guess what? It’s been pretty successful, being streamed over 40 million times and nominated for a Primetime Emmy and winning Webby Awards and Telly Awards for making branded content funny and engaging. Acura, meanwhile, has recently signed on for 24 additional episodes that will take the series through to season nine through the Creative Artists Agency.
The execution is pretty brilliant and brilliantly simple. A few observations on why it works:
The Value Exchange: Seinfeld is clearly doing something he wants to do and it shows. Acura, ostensibly, is getting the likeability rub-off for sponsoring some cool content and presenting their brand in a fun, lighthearted way. Consumers are spending time with a cool concept versus a tedious brand advertorial. Win, win, win.
Genuineness & Quality: Acura should get serious kudos for giving Seinfeld some latitude with the show and “letting go” of the classic urge to control the content. Seinfeld actually makes product placement part of the concept by putting “product placement” stickers on integrated vehicles and making jokes about the marketing tactics. In fact, Seinfeld told Ad Age his “product placement philosophy is to make it as intrusive as possible” so the audience is in on the joke.
What’s more, Acura even let Seinfeld write the deliberately hokey Acura ads which run on the show. If you’ve ever watched a brand sponsored car show with heavy handed sponsor involvement and in your face product placement you’ll notice the difference straight-away. This approach is strategic, contextual and appreciated.
• Maybe what we’re seeing here is just a return to the old days of television with exclusive sponsorship but now placed on the web versus a television network. It’s still about a brand that makes great content possible for consumers without being exceedingly intrusive. So, really, its providing a service. Indeed, this play isn’t much different than Mutual of Omaha’s sponsorship of great Wild Kingdom content, right? Perhaps everything old is new again. And what’s wrong with that?
• Maybe the way forward is to resist the marketers urge to “control” and honor a balance that favors say 80% great content and 20% brand integration/placement but delicately executed; otherwise, you risk tuning out viewers. Let other channels work harder on the lower funnel areas to drive purchase but keep the branded content play pure.
• Find hard-working concepts and connections. In this case, the content has meaning to car lovers, Seinfeld fans and fans of other A-list Hollywood comics. There’s also a gold mine of value in their social media followers.
• Be different. Seinfeld’s hybrid show is hard to describe but stands out from the pack.
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