NEW YORK NBC Universal has rolled out its latest stab at branded entertainment with a series that revolves around an understanding American Family Insurance agent.
The brand, along with Mindshare Entertainment, worked with NBCU Digital Studio to develop the series, "In Gayle We Trust." The short-form vehicle marks American Family's first stab at branded entertainment.
The idea, according to Telisa Yancy, American Family's advertising director, is to drive home the brand positioning that its agents are trusted advisors woven into the fabric of the community.
"We built a wish list based on telling key stories," she said. "We believe that our agents help provide trusted advice to the public."
NBCU and Mindshare enlisted top-flight talent. Brent Forrester, a writer from The Office, penned "In Gayle We Trust." The series stars Elisa Donovan -- who appeared in Clueless and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch -- as Gayle Evans, an insurance agent who serves as the de facto life coach for a town of quirky characters.
NBCU produced 10 episodes, which will be shown on a dedicated Web site, NBC Web properties, Hulu, iTunes and video-on-demand services. The show debuted this week and new episodes, running three to four minutes each, will appear weekly.
The vignettes are often set in Gayle's American Family office and touch on insurance topics. In "Gayle and the Plumber," for example, she rebuffs the awkward advances of a plumber while pointing out that American Family provides identity-theft insurance.
American Family is supporting the series with other brand integrations. Microsoft has created a microsite, Building a Better Future, with tools and tips from personal finance advisor Liz Weston. CBS Radio and Katz Advantage crafted a radio promo called "Family You Choose," which airs on 140 stations. It asks listeners to nominate family members who improve their lives.
"We were able to link what would be in the past three separate campaigns together," said David Lang, North America president of Mindshare Entertainment. "It's a very complicated process and we're very proud of getting major media partners to drive traffic to each other."
American Family is running a TV, print and online campaign with "The family you choose" tagline.
For NBCU, the series is the second branded entertainment effort out of its digital studio this year. It released "Control," sponsored by Nestea, in June. Last year, it got several brands aboard for "Gemini Division" starring Rosario Dawson.
Cameron Death, vice president, NBCU Digital Studio, said two more projects are slated for release over the next several months. The studio does not produce projects without brand integrations in place, he said, a process that typically takes six to nine months.
"We're not putting digital content out and praying we can monetize it," he said.