Turner announced at last year's upfront presentation that it would take a stake in Web comedy portal Funny or Die, handling the company's ad sales. Now, with the deal done and about six months of full partnership under their belts, FoD is producing short-form branded content for Turner to roll out across all of its platforms—linear, Web and mobile—as well as theatrically, thanks to a previously existing deal with National CineMedia. (The latter produces the half-hour newsmag show you see before the main feature.)
Suddenly, Funny or Die has the same level of distribution penetration as, say, Conan O'Brien.
Turner loves putting its comedy talent to work on its brands—the Adult Swim crew frequently do offbeat integrations for its clients, and quite a bit of the mini-network's talent goes back and forth between the cable and ad worlds (there's overlap between the FoD folks and the Adult Swim menagerie, too). The short FoD, Turner and NCM are rolling out is an ad for HTC—it's 2:45 long and features James Van Der Beek (of the late, lamented Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23), and will air in a cut-down version on linear cable as well. The spot lands on the Web at (deep breath) TBS, Team CoCo, AdultSwim.com, and on the air on TruTV, TBS and Adult Swim, and then in theaters through NCM. It hits FoD tomorrow, cable on Monday and theaters on April 26.
The ad is a riff on The Bachelorette, with the eligible girl in question choosing between guys in foam phone costumes and HTC's new HTC One, for which the company has embarked on a ubiquitous promotional campaign, involving more than one cable group, tons of out of home and a healthy smattering of online ads. The omnipresent FoD spot represents a sizable chunk of the promo bonanza.
"We've been doing branded entertainment for a long time but we didn't have the Turner portfolio," said Ed Wise. Wise is formerly vp of ad sales for FoD; now, he heads Turner Branded Entertainment. "From the Turner side it's a great way to enhance what they're already doing," he said. His counterpart at FoD, Chris Bruss, agrees: "They said, 'Yes, we're going to take over your sales practice and that kind of stuff, but we're also going to be able to put a megaphone on the content that you're creating. This is the first time it's the fully blown-out version of what this relationship with Turner can be."
Bruss takes issue with the commonly held assumption that creative types hate the idea of working with brand partners. "Nobody hates branded content or ads," Bruss said. "They just don't like bad ones."
NCM's Cliff Marks is glad his company gets to benefit from the expanded partnership, which is perhaps the deal's oddest wrinkle: NCM has no formal relationship with Turner, but it is benefiting from the HTC deal. "Since Funny or Die has been [staked] by Turner, that made the platform even grander," said Marks. "We've never had a collaborative selling relationship with them; through the NCM Funny or Die relationship, we're now working together to pitch these to brands."