Cents of Humor.

Subway WebisodeIn the last few years, writers, producers, and comedians have been gravitating to the relatively unrestricted environment of the web to create and produce new comedy series. The formats of these shows vary, as do the locations where they can be viewed. But, it turns out that there are quite a few ‘webcoms’ out there. In addition to their experimentation with comic content, these shows seem to be offering a testing ground for new concepts in how future webcasting will be sponsored, or not.

Some of the shows are unbranded, but are subject to whatever webcast ads the site they are on is running, a bit like current advertising on broadcast TV that simply shares space with the content.

Some shows have single, brave sponsors who have attached their brand name to the shows, more like the early days of broadcasting when shows like The Alcoa Hour or General Electric Theater were setting the tone for sponsorship. So, for instance, sandwich-maker Subway is sponsoring competitions under the brand name Subway Fresh Artists and the winning series in the “Featured Filmmaker” category can be viewed on IFC.com , My Damn Channel, and on You Tube.

Up a level in terms of brand synchronicity with content are shows produced by sponsors about their brand markets. So, the comedy Back on Topps [i.e., Topps sports collectible cards] is sponsored by Dick’s Sporting Goods and appears on My Damn Channel and You Tube and Spherion Staffing Services offers a “jobseeker comedy series” named The Temp Life on blip.tv, My Damn Channel, and You Tube.

But, among the boldest and bravest of webcom sponsors may be the Swedish superstore Ikea, which sponsors a webcom series, titled Easy to Assemble, that is a satire about working at Ikea!! From a branding standpoint, the series is all Ikea. Episodes take place in an Ikea store, surrounded by Ikea goods, and populated by actress Illeana Douglas and a host of fictional Ikea employees. On the other hand, the humorous content of the series is also all Ikea and includes jokes about blonds, about Swedish meatballs, about trips to Stockholm, and about the psycho-social implications of super brands in general, as well as the day-to-day business operations of Ikea specifically. Easy to Assemble can be seen on its own website, easytoassemble.com, on My Damn Channel, and on You Tube.

Will leave it to you to watch these show and make your own decisions about the quality of their comedic content. But for branding, I have to give them all kudos for courage and a blue [and yellow] ribbon to Ikea, accompanied by a Swedish cheer — Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah! — for innovation at the expense of ego!

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