By Mike Shields
Facebook has its first hit series—courtesy of Ashton Kutcher.
The short video series KatalystHQ has been viewed by 9 million unique users since its February debut. The first original series produced specifically for Facebook is the result of a partnership between Kutcher's production firm Katalyst Media and the app developer Slide. Speaking during a keynote interview on Tuesday at the MIXX conference in New York, part of Advertising Week, Kutcher compared the show's early success to that of a cable hit. "That's like Jon & Kate Plus 8, plus one."
Besides garnering a sizable audience, KatalystHQ's impact can be gauged from the volume of sharing it brought to Facebook. According to Kutcher, the average person forwarded clips of the mockumentary-style show to 62 friends. "That's just a voluminous distribution strategy," he said.
KatalystHQ is supposed to take place in the offices of Katalyst Media—not unlike NBC's The Office. The show, now in its second season, has featured product integration from brands such as Cheetos and Hot Pockets. Kutcher said that when brands are able to be showcased within Web video content in funny, nonintrusive ways, "people are happy to consume it."
Meanwhile, in what had to be one of the more surreal sessions of Advertising Week thus far, Kutcher, who is perhaps best known for playing dim teen Kelso on the Fox hit That 70's Show, sat with Interactive Advertising Bureau president Randall Rothenberg and discussed topics such as social-media metrics and the rapidly changing digital landscape. In today's environment, claims Kutcher—who famously challenged and beat CNN in a race to land the most Twitter followers—a brand can and should be its own broadcaster.
When asked about Katalyst Media's role in the media-and-marketing landscape, Kutcher was careful to emphasize to the ad-executive-heavy MIXX crowd that he was not out to replace the traditional ad agency. Rather, the goal is to specialize in marketing on the social Web. "I think we're additive," he said. "We're in a really unique position because we get to see a lot of things first."