Branded entertainment is a perennial hit-or-miss affair, so it is always a joy to come across one that works. The problem with the genre is that it became the de facto recourse for brands wanting to produce Web video in pursuit of that big viral hit (apart from juvenile acts of violence or daring apparently caught on a camera phone, of course). The problem is that many brands do not lend themselves to inclusion in short- or long-form video without an act of extreme creative genius to get them in there. Such genius is not commonplace. The end result is often clunky and not in the least compelling. Not everyone can produce a collection of BMW Films and a fashion-related soap opera that features a cast wearing retailer X’s clothing somehow just doesn’t hit the high mark.
Not so for Denny’s. In an extension of Gotham’s “America’s Diner Is Always Open” campaign, Will Arnett and Jason Bateman’s digital content and production studio, DumbDumb, and Ben Silverman's multimedia studio, Electus, have produced a series of three-minute videos called “Always Open.” The spots are available at IAC’s College Humor. The first Webisode is available now and there are more to come over the next three weeks. In the opener, the show’s host, comedian and actor David Koechner, talks to Bateman, another comedic actor, while eating in a booth at a typical (and real) Denny’s. The conversation meanders pointlessly and perfectly, as would be expected by anyone familiar with the pair and their work. The two blather on about virtually nothing, without pausing for breath and, in the process, unveil a litany of trivia and neuroses—but with intelligence and in what looks to be completely an unscripted exchange.
Whether or not it is unscripted, these two are a perfect pairing. Let’s hope the later guests, slated to include Sarah Silverman, Arnett and Amy Poehler, do just as well. In the meantime, the conversation and its setting succeed in making this reviewer wish he was there. Right now. Branded entertainment that works. Who knew? —Mike Chapman