Black-ish’s Season-Long Microsoft Partnership Culminates in Branded Content Spot During Tonight’s Episode

Anthony Anderson and castmates appear in a 60-second ad

Anthony Anderson and his Black-ish castmates shot three digital spots for Microsoft in addition to the linear ad that will air during tonight's episode.
ABC

Black-ish’s ad agency workplace setting has made the ABC comedy a natural fit for brand partnerships, but the network is taking the series’ integrations to a whole new level with tonight’s episode. The show’s season-long integration with Microsoft culminates in a 60-second branded content spot featuring star Anthony Anderson in character as Dre that will air during one of the show’s ad pods and continue the storyline from the episode.

In the spot, Dre and his co-workers at the Stevens & Lido ad agency, Charlie (Deon Cole), Josh (Jeff Meacham) and Mr. Stevens (Peter Mckenzie), are trying to come up with ideas for a new Microsoft Surface commercial. Cole’s character, the dim-witted Charlie, creates a campaign inspired by his co-workers.

The Microsoft spot airs immediately after a break in the episode called “One Angry Man,” in which Dre is serving on jury duty, and his fellow jurors agree to stop deliberating for the night. As the Microsoft spot begins, Dre is back at work wearing the same clothes as in the previous scene, and his boss (Mackenzie) thanks him for coming in after jury duty to work on the campaign. Following the branded spot, the rest of the ad pod will include spots from other advertisers.

Anderson and the other actors also filmed three digital spots, which focus on their efforts to brainstorm other ideas for the Microsoft brainstorm. Those spots began rolling out Monday on ABC’s digital and social media platforms. Here is one of them, a spot called “Ideas”:

Tonight’s spot and the season-long partnership, which focuses on Stevens & Lido landing the Microsoft account, came out of meetings last May between ABC Integrated Marketing, the Microsoft team and their agencies to talk about ideas for partnership opportunities with Black-ish for Season 3.

“In-show integrations was absolutely one of them, and then we always want to pitch certain ideas that extend the storyline and enhance the storytelling, and that’s where this came from,” said Jeffrey Weinstock, vp and creative director at ABC Integrated Marketing. “At that meeting, I remember pitching several different ideas, one of which was the genesis for what I affectionately call an ‘out-egration,’ an in-show integration, but it’s just outside of the show.”

Weinstock also said: “We have wanted to do something like this for a while but needed to find the right partner. It can’t just be a one-way thing. Microsoft was the perfect partner in this, understanding the storytelling, the entertaining aspect of what we do, has to come first. We approached this as what’s best for the viewers at home is going to be the most entertaining.”

All four branded content spots were shot on a weekend with the show’s cast and crew. (The director, Kevin Bray, has directed several Black-ish episodes.)

“We are thrilled to partner with of one of the best shows on television in a first-of-its-kind integration,” said Erin Bevington, gm of global media and agency management at Microsoft. “Black-ish and ABC share Microsoft’s fan-centric approach to media innovation, giving the audience what it wants by weaving the product authentically and seamlessly into the storylines.”

ABC, Microsoft and Black-ish worked together on the season-long partnership, which included placement of Microsoft products within the show, and the storyline integration as Stevens & Lido lands Microsoft as a client. The partnership was developed with ABC Sales, Microsoft Media and Advertising and its agencies including Dentsu Aegis’ Empower Media, branded content agency The Story Lab and McCann’s m:united. Creative was developed and produced by ABC Integrated Marketing in conjunction with the show.

Black-ish executive producer Jonathan Groff told Adweek last fall that the show’s creator, Kenya Barris, decided to have Dre work at an ad agency in part to give the show a more organic way to incorporate brand partnerships. “That’s the kind of cool thing about our show, from the integration perspective, that we can use Dre’s work at Stevens & Lido,” Groff said.

The show has previously featured integrations with Buick in Seasons 1 and 2, while State Farm Insurance was also integrated into an episode last season. The Microsoft integration kicked off during the Season 3 premiere, which also featured a trip to Disney World, although that partnership was not an integration.

Weinstock’s team relied on Black-ish’s writers to craft the four spots. “We defer to the show on the characters. It’s their baby, and we don’t want to ever think that we can write for them. We pitched the idea to them first and said, ‘Do you like this concept?’ And they’ll say, ‘Yes, and how about this?’ And we hone in on exactly what it’s going to be,” said Weinstock. “Kenya, Jonathan and their entire team are very open to this and collaborative.”