How Elon Musk Helped CNNMoney Get a New Advertiser

SAP HANA on board with Elon. Evolution

For its next digital effort, CNNMoney picked the brain of one of the most visionary minds of our time: Elon Musk. And it just happened to help CNNMoney gain a new advertiser, SAP HANA, an in-memory, column-oriented, relational database management system that will exclusively sponsor the 12-episode series, Elon. Evolution.

"We've been talking to SAP for a while," Katrina Cukaj evp, CNN ad sales, told Adweek. "The fact that they are trying to align themselves with innovate brands and innovative content made this attractive to them."

SAP's sponsorship of the series spans a variety of platforms: CNNMoney.com's landing page, where all 12 episodes will be housed; takeovers on CNN's mobile app; weekly airings on TV; and branded posts on Twitter and Facebook.

"Their big theme was innovation and how it helps society and helps business," said Cukaj. "The brand fit with the content that we were doing."

The 12 digital videos will also be tailored for television. Eight episodes will air weekly on CNN's Early Start and Newsroom shows. CNN's social team will promote the series on social platforms surrounding news like the release of the new Tesla Model S P85D.

In a two-hour interview, Musk identified four different challenges facing our planet: transportation (such as his much-discussed Hyperloop), energy, population distribution and artificial intelligence. Then, CNN went out and searched for people and companies doing work to solve them, and the series highlights their efforts.

CNNMoney has experimented with interactive, digital storytelling before with Sex, Drugs and Silicon Valley, Revenge Porn and Picture This: New Orleans, but Ed O'Keefe, vp, CNNMoney and CNN Politics, describes Elon. Evolution as its most daunting challenge. "It's not just photos or audio or video or text or graphics or interactive," he said. "You can, through this immersive multimedia experience, create something that really can't be told in the same way on TV or in print."

O'Keefe said the idea is for Evolution to become a yearly series. Next year, he wants to sit down with another thought leader, possibly a political figure, and he believes this type of storytelling is a perfect match for advertisers. "I firmly believe that news is a growth business, but surviving and thriving means moving beyond spots and dots," he said. "This series is the quintessential example of where we need to go in digital advertising."