Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Comedians In Cars Writing Commercials

Have you had the chance to catch any of the episodes of "Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee"?

Its a TV series produced by and starring Jerry Seinfeld. The basic format of the show opens with Seinfeld out for a seemingly casual drive making a seemingly spontaneous call to one of his comedian buddies. "Hey, its Jerry. Wanna go for a coffee?" followed by an off-screen voice "Sure. I'll meet you downstairs". The subsequent car ride and coffee is only an excuse for unscripted banter between the host and his guest about comedy and life. Its like "My Dinner With Andre" but with Jerry, and its only for coffee. And its funny, mostly. The show will begin its third season in January on Crackle.

Have you had the chance to try Crackle?

Crackle is the fourth horse in what is turning out to be a one-horse video streaming race. Its somewhere near Amazon Instant Video, way behind Hulu, and way, way behind Netflix. Like the other three, Crackle has gotten into the business of producing its own original series, one of which is "Comedians In Cars".

And while its service is free, like Hulu, in-show advertising is part of the Crackle experience. "Comedians" is sponsored by Acura, and each 15 minute episode begins and ends with a 30 to 40 second ad for the car brand.

For the upcoming season, all the spots have been written by Seinfeld himself. The concept of each spot is to show a beautiful Acura car wrapped in a clumsy ad created by what we imagine to be a third-rate ad agency. In one spot, the camera slowly savors the car in close ups while Seinfeld's voice-over romances the features: "all metal exterior", "easy grip door handles" and "real nylon carpeting".

The show has gotten some mixed reviews, with lots of raves and a good number head scratches. Even when its funny, its not very funny. But I don't think that's the point. To me its like eaves dropping on a conversation between two clever people. Sometimes the stories are interesting, sometimes its just interesting to observe their minds at work. David Letterman, Alec Baldwin and Michael Richards were great. Chris Rock and Don Rickles made even 15 minutes seem too long.

I expect the Seinfeld-penned commercials will not please everyone either. But again, that's not the point.

Every Hallmark-sponsored holiday special also featured Hallmark advertising produced for that special. Every ad on the Super Bowl is either produced only for that game or breaks during the game. Advertising developed specifically for a show is not unusual. What makes these Acura spots different is that I can't remember an example of the concept of the spots being tied so closely to the concept of the TV show. If someone likes a TV show "from the mind of Jerry Seinfeld" they may the love ads "from the mind of Jerry Seinfeld" and be more likely stick around and watch them. It will be interesting to see how these new spots perform in comparison to the previous spots.

Not too long ago my colleagues in the industry proclaimed the impending death of TV advertising. But as the way we consume TV content has changed, so have the opportunities for advertising, with the next episode coming to you over the internet, not over the air. And this episode is available only on Crackle.


John Rausch said...

It's an interesting idea, and the Acura "Potato Salad" spot was fun to watch. But will this approach build the Acura brand or drive showroom traffic--even for Seinfeld devotees? I kind of doubt it.

Making atrocious advertising is easy. Making atrocious advertising that's intentionally funny is a bit less so. I'm not sure that Seinfeld's effort to convey his cool on the Acura brand through this approach will spur many to make the $45,000 follow through.

Anonymous said...

It just tries a bit too hard and does not convey anything to me about Acura, other than it's jumping on the bandwagon of intentionally bad/funny commercials that are starting to be ubiquitous.

Dennis O'Connell said...

I’m fascinated with branded entertainment, maybe because I’m culturally indolent. The concept has taken on much momentum lately--perhaps too much. My academic curiosity calls into question if branded entertainment does much of anything to build brands. For example, Droid’s 90 second spot featuring Edward Norton is well done for sure. It abundantly highlights Droid’s quality of holding a charge. I suspect that’s important to mobile device users. I just wonder if the production cost of the spot (probably a couple of million $) and what appears to be a huge media buy placed behind battery life is an efficient spend to build the Droid brand?
Back to Seinfeld and Acura. The latest pool is a departure from classic branded entertainment that characterized the earlier "comedian/coffee" spots, but I'm not sensing enduring branding. Oh well, who am I to argue with 100 million streams?