A web series takes the traditional television show format and breaks it down into consumable online bites, known as webisodes, consisting of 3 to 5 minutes of pure entertainment. While shows on YouTube and other online web series networks have seen tremendous success, the web series medium is still in somewhat of an exploratory stage, with an anything-goes attitude and wide range of subject matter. This creativity and short format leads to some fantastic content and, with mobile added to the mix, an instantly-accessible, user-friendly medium that is primed for social sharing.
Brands experimenting web series have seen mixed reviews. While some brands might miss the mark, producing an incoherent story line that fails to hold viewers’ attention spans from episode to episode, most are finding web series an effective vehicle for community building and reaching new audiences through a shared medium.
IKEA, for example, continues to invest in its successful web show Easy to Assemble, which follows indie actress Illeana Douglass as she picks up some extra hours at the local Ikea, joined by several other Hollywood personalities. Distributed through MyDamnChannel.com, IkeaFans.com, Koldcast, YouTube, Hulu and social networks, the third season alone averaged over 10 million views making it one of the most successful web series of all time. Now having completed its fourth season, the show continues to prove that when brands are willing to take the risk and invest ad dollars in creative new ways, the benefits pay off yielding significant results.
Here are six other recent branded web series getting it right:
Denny’s Always Open
In an effort to move past blue-haired, early bird specials image and reach the 18-34 demographic, Denny’s Always Open enlists comedian Dave Koechner (SNL, Anchorman) to chat up other big name stars (think Sarah Silverman, Jason Bateman) while digging into some of Denny’s specialty dishes in an iconic Denny’s booth. The unscripted videos, released on CollegeHumor.com and on Denny’s Facebook page, opt for irreverent (and at times NSFW) humor rather than overt branding to effectively connect with the new demographic. The message? Denny’s is “Always Open” no matter the hour, your age, or conversation topic. And it seems to be working: Denny’s has seen its impression score rise from 6.2 to 25.4 among those 18-34 year olds, surpassing the 50+ demographic.
Adidas Basketball The Return of D Rose
Emotional, personal, relatable – this is what high quality content is all about. Adidas Basketball invites us all to celebrate The Return of D Rose to the Chicago Bulls after suffering a torn ACL. In the behind-the-scenes format, the audience experiences the highs and lows of Derrick Rose’s road to recovery, with an intimate inside peek as the all-star athlete overcomes common everyday challenges. This campaign also integrates a supportive Twitter community under the hashtag #TheReturn in order for fans to actively participate in the campaign and create a personal relationship with Derrick Rose. It isn’t until episode four that Adidas actually introduces a product – D Rose’s new line of Adidas basketball shoes – leaving sports fans inspired to overcome their own personal obstacles, with the help of Adidas, of course.
Hiscox Leap Year
Never heard of Hiscox? That is something the UK Insurance provider is hoping to change with a web series coinciding with their US expansion. Launched in 2011, Leap Year is a comedy that follows the trials and tribulations of five recently fired co-workers – turned entrepreneurs – competing for start up capital from a mystery investor. Hiscox says they have seen great value from the series in aiding awareness of Hiscox in the US market from 0 to 10% in less than a year and increasing social media presence to over 40,000 active followers.
Target Falling For You
Target’s new web series uses the shoppable video to bring together the worlds of social, viral video and e-commerce. Falling For You follows Kristen Bell and her coworkers as they plan a Fall style event at, you guessed it, Target. Amazingly, everything in the video is available for purchase right there in the video, with a Pinterest-like component aiming to further engage audiences and drive purchasing. The video helps show us how Target’s fresh and youthful clothing line and homegoods look and feel in reality. And even if you don’t aim to purchase anything, the content is entertaining as a short series.
Spherion The Temp Life
When Spherion entered the branded entertainment market back in 2006, YouTube was just one year old and relatively unpredictable for brands. As the job market began to worsen, The Temp Life became even more of a reality for the thousands of college grads entering a barren job market. Now in its fifth season and with a new home at MyDamnChannel.com, the comedy is a veteran branded web series, and has significantly increased awareness among its 18-25 year old, entry-level target market. The series reflects this demographic all too well, using humor and avoiding obvious branding, and in return garnering an average of 85% more viewers with each season, according to Tubefilter.
Ford & Schick Quattro Dating Rules from My Future Self
Alloy Digital and Hulu partnered up with the creators of Gossip Girl for the original seriesDating Rules from My Future Self, chronicling the escapades of single twenty-something Chloe Cunningham who receives text message advice from her future self. The show features both Schick’s Quattro for Women shaving line and the 2013 Ford Escape throughout the series. In this case, the branding is more of a traditional product placement targeting the young female audience, but works because Dating Rules itself has created a strong social community based around the series. The online show’s first season ran in January 2012 and, according to Alloy, garnered 14 million views on Hulu, YouTube and Alloy’s video properties.
While the future of TV and online video entertainment may not be crystal clear, the infectious and accessible nature of a web series is a joy to take part in and something brands should think about when engaging customers. What do you think will be the fate of TV? Do you have a favorite brand that you would like to see in a web series format?