The way Jamie Kennedy sees it, entertainers and brands want the same thing: audiences. Entertainment that doesn’t reach an audience is nothing more than a hobby. Everyone has to get paid, after all. The comedian and actor - best known for his work in film and the stand-up comedy sketch series “The Jamie Kennedy Experiment” - recently partnered with engage:BDR to develop a campaign for Ask.com that features the brand in humorous pre-roll spots seen during a hidden-camera web series on HAHAJK.com and elsewhere online. Now, the agency wants to get more brands involved.
True to form, comedy ensues in each ad, ending with the tagline, “Don’t ask Jamie, get real answers at Ask.com.” The creative team also incorporated a unique question-and-answer functionality that rotated questions throughout the ad unit and enabled users to click through to Ask.com to display the answers.
Hal Burg, VP of branded entertainment at Platinum Rye, the agency that did the media buy for the Ask.com campaign, said the economics of running premium content and traditional creative is virtually the same. “That presents an interesting opportunity for us,” he said, adding that the campaign took different forms because the teams involved wanted the content to fit the brand organically.
Ask.com wanted a “more organic-feeling program where the branded entertainment is not going to be integrated into the content,” Burg added. “They didn’t want to smother it with integration…. We didn’t want to do what everyone else is doing and I think a lot of other brands are starting to think the same way.”
The web has opened up an entirely new channel with few rules or limits on brands. For Kennedy, branded entertainment online is becoming just as important to the business of creating content and reaching the right audiences as his TV and film work, he said. “I don’t think it’s bad,” said Kennedy. “Because if you can find your audience and your demographic and find something they appreciate, it works.”
As engage:BDR kicked off its first major project in branded entertainment development with Kennedy, the agency focused on the return on investment and engagement performance. “We came into the business understanding that there had to be more than just delivering views,” said Ted Dhanik, president and co-founder of engage:BDR.
The campaign objectives called for a sponsored piece of comedic content that presented Ask.com in a new light, content that the brand could continue to use outside of the campaign and a minimum of 2 million views. The month-long campaign garnered 2.5 million views in three weeks and eventually ended up closer to 3 million views when the campaign ended, said Dhanik. The average viewing time was over 2 minutes and 15 seconds, and the average click-through rate for the question-and-answer ads was north of 2.2 percent, according to the firm.
In addition to running the ads on HAHAJK.com, the U.S.-focused campaign was also targeted to adults on the top 500 sites. One of the pre-roll ads eventually went viral, generating more than 115,000 views, according to Dhanik. “This type of content really lives on the web and it works really well on the web.”
With the initial Ask.com campaign now in the rear-view mirror, engage:BDR wants to build a bigger program with Kennedy and get more brands involved. “Advertisers are a lot more receptive than they were a year ago,” said Dhanik. “I think it could be really popular.” For his part, Kennedy is just as committed and he is particularly excited about the more relaxed approach brands take to the web – opening up a level of creative freedom that he craves. While a brand like Rockstar Energy Drink will probably take more chances than Coca-Cola for the foreseeable future, more brands will eventually warm to the idea of edgier, darker, laugh-out-loud funny content, said Kennedy.
“Eventually they’re going to see that counter culture is just as big as straight-laced culture,” he added. “I just think the Internet is going to be everything and there’s going to be no rules. Branded campaigns are only going to get better.”
When asked why brands might want to associate their brand with more comedians and actors like him, he said: “Why do people want to see a movie about an R-rated bear? Because it’s hilarious.”