For Its New Series About a Detroit Ad Agency, Comedy Central Partnered With Motor City Brands Like Chrysler

Detroiters offers big integration opportunities

The show stars Detroit natives Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson.

Comedy Central’s new comedy about a Detroit-based ad agency has lined up a trio of partnerships with Motor City brands for its first season.

Premiering on Tuesday, Feb. 7, Detroiters features a seasonlong integration with Chrysler, while Little Caesars Pizza and Quicken Loans both appear in the season finale.

Sam Richardson and Tim Robinson, both from Detroit, co-created and star in the series, about a pair of struggling ad men. In the pilot, they pursue a Chrysler brand executive (played by Jason Sudeikis, who is an executive producer) and try to land his company as a client.

When Comedy Central ordered the pilot, producers approached Viacom execs about a possible integration—one that, like the show itself, would be Detroit-specific.

"We were instantly drawn to the humor of the show, but also how Detroit was so prominently featured."
Randy Ortiz, head of Chrysler and Dodge brand advertising

“They knew they wanted Jason Sudeikis’ character to be a brand executive for an auto. There’s nothing more synonymous with Detroit than automotive, so they felt that was the right fit creatively,” said Michelle Zoni, svp of integrated marketing at Viacom Velocity.

Her team quickly set its sights on Chrysler, given her company’s long partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA).

Once the pilot was shot—featuring Sudeikis as a Chrysler exec, but with no Chrysler products or logos featured—and Comedy Central ordered it to series, Viacom approached Chrysler to come on board.

“We had to get an answer pretty quickly. It was a bit of a backwards process, because they had to start, wheels in motion, for production,” Zoni said.

But Chrysler liked the pilot. “We were instantly drawn to the humor of the show, but also how Detroit was so prominently featured. It’s hilarious, we loved it and we said, let’s work together and see if we can be a part of this,” said Randy Ortiz, head of Chrysler and Dodge brand advertising.

“‘Imported from Detroit’ is still our tagline, and we take a lot of pride in that,” said Oritz. “So the fact that we had a chance to integrate into a show that’s called Detroiters and is set in Detroit was pretty cool.”

The companies worked on a partnership, focusing on the Chrysler Pacifica, given the timing of when the series would air. In addition to the Sudeikis storyline, which extends throughout the season, there’s another integration in a midseason episode, which features Keegan Michael-Key as a prospective client forced to drive Richardson and Robinson around in his Pacifica after they get too tipsy at a bar.

As a full-series sponsor, Chrysler will have promos, billboards and spots in all 10 episodes of the first season. And the season finale was filmed at the company’s Auburn Hills, Mich. headquarters.

However, being part of the show’s racy content (see the trailer) did give Chrysler (and later, Quicken Loans) pause. “There were some question marks: Is this too edgy? Is this pushing the envelope too much? To their credit, our brand partners were incredible and they let us go there. We landed in a great place,” said Zoni.

Ortiz said Chrysler and Comedy Central had “many conversations” about the scripts: “We made sure that the creative integrity of the show remained intact obviously, but also that our brand was represented properly, and we found ways to come to agreements on things.”

Finding additional Motor City brands

After lining up Chrysler, Viacom Velocity looked for more Detroit brands to partner with.   “The show really wanted local brands to be a part of it, and there are no shortage of those,” said Zoni, who landed additional partnerships with Quicken Loans and Little Caesars Pizza for the Season 1 finale.

"It allowed us to give a hero moment to the brand and show off their space in Detroit."
Michelle Zoni, svp of integrated marketing, Viacom Velocity

Little Caesars appears in a scene at the D Awards, an awards ceremony inspired by the Adcraft Club of Detroit’s annual D Show. The brand will be one of the commercials nominated for the night’s biggest award, the Consumer TV-Single. Little Caesars gave producers footage that was used to create its faux commercial, said Zoni.

Separately, Quicken Loans will also appear in the finale, as Richardson and Robinson prepare a pitch for the company’s marketing director, who is mulling a switch to a smaller agency. In a scene shot at Quicken Loans headquarters in Detroit, “we see their pitch go terribly awry,” said Zoni. “It’s a really funny scene, it allowed us to give a hero moment to the brand and show off their space in Detroit.”

If Detroiters is a hit, Viacom will look to bring on more Detroit-based brands for Season 2.

“We were all very pleased that we could attract three major brands to be integrated into something that didn’t have a proven track record,” said Zoni. “We feel very optimistic that if this were to get greenlit for a Season 2, not only would we bring these three back, but hopefully be able to attract a number of new brands as well.”

Chrysler, which is “happy” about its integration, said it’s open to continuing the partnership. “If they greenlight a second season,” Ortiz said, “we’ll talk with Comedy Central and see what we can do.”