Doner Touts Cranium Humor

Doner tries to infuse its first TV campaign for Cranium with the offbeat humor that is a key part of the board game.

Three 15-second spots from the Southfield, Mich.-based agency break on Nov. 4, with slightly tweaked versions scheduled to debut a month later in the U.K.

Each spot opens by showing people in bizarre predicaments before an announcer warns viewers of the “risks” of playing the game. The commercials end with the featured character playing Cranium with friends and howling with laughter at the scene shown earlier in the specific spot.

For example, one ad shows a man on an operating table being stitched up by a doctor. The doctor asks, “So, you say you did this playing a board game?” The warning: “May result in side-splitting laughter.”

“They’re quick hits,” said John Parlato, Doner executive creative director. “We had to strip away everything that’s nonessential.”

Using comedy in a 15-second spot proved challenging since the timing had to be just right for the joke to work, Parlato said. “We wanted the ads to deliver the same type of laugh to people that had never played Cranium before,” he said. “It’s a contemporary kind of humor.”

The campaign for the Seattle-based company’s game will run through the holiday season in the U.S. on national cable networks that include ABC Fam ily, Comedy Central, A&E, HGTV, TLC, Nick at Nite, TBS and VH1.

Spending on the TV effort was undis closed. Until now, the company has backed the game with radio ads, also from Doner.

The board game first appeared in Starbucks locations in 1998, but has since expanded its distribution to major retail outlets. In the game, teams of two move around a board and perform tasks, which include elements of charades, Pictionary and Trivial Pursuit.