Viacom’s New Branded Content Offering Will Help Launch M&M’s Caramel This Summer

The campaign includes custom linear and Snapchat spots

Viacom's Epic campaign for M&M's Caramel kicked off during last month's MTV Movie & TV Awards.
Viacom

Viacom is debuting a new way to help brands launch their products, and it’s kicking things off with M&M’s largest product launch in the company’s 75-year history: M&M’s Caramel.

Epic, the new offering from Viacom’s marketing and partner solutions division, combines all of the company’s capabilities: custom creative via Viacom Velocity, data solutions via Viacom Vantage and social campaigns. These portfolio-wide campaigns will include BET for the first time, and will have a global reach via Viacom’s partnership with Snapchat.

For its inaugural campaign, Epic is helping to launch M&M’s Caramel. Viacom and M&M’s teamed up for custom creative spots, which aired on linear and Snapchat, with more activations planned for this year’s BET Awards, airing June 25, and on various Viacom networks throughout the summer.

Epic came out of early conversations as Viacom’s CEO and president Robert Bakish took over in December and began working to revive the company. “It was about breaking down silos and really harnessing the full power of Viacom’s assets to help launch new products for our partners,” said Valerie Bischak, evp, marketing & partner solutions, Viacom. The addition of BET and the global elements via Snapchat are a nod to Bakish’s new edict.

When working with brands, “we’ve had a linear-based program, we’ve created custom content for partners, we’ve had digital and social elements and we’ve had data elements, but we’ve never actually harnessed them all proactively to figure out a cohesive strategy in addressing and working with a partner to launch a new product,” said Bischak, adding that Epic’s approach is similar to how the company works with movie studios to launch a new film.

M&M’s, which has been a longtime partner with Viacom, said it was looking to find new ways to connect with consumers as it launched M&M’s Caramel.

“Traditionally, building a brand has been all about looking for ways of joining conversations or being part of entertainment and slipping into current culture,” said Michelle Deignan, senior brand manager, M&M’s Mars Chocolate, North America. “But knowing that there’s a constant development of new technology and new ways to connect to consumers, and knowing that consumers aren’t always on traditional TV, it was really important for us to continue to evolve the brand and to show what’s different and unique for consumers, and particularly our younger consumers.”

Deignan said M&M’s is balancing the Epic campaign with more traditional marketing elements. “We’re trying to make ourselves as relevant as we can with as many consumers as we can,” she said. “We’re super-excited to bring some diversity to the overall launch that brings us to a new audience and drive some relevancy.”

Epic was designed to be implemented quickly, to appeal to clients who aren’t able to share much information ahead of a product launch. The M&M’s Caramel Epic campaign was developed and launched in just eight weeks. “It required us both to be quite nimble, because it was a pretty aggressive timeline,” said Bischak.

The M&M’s Caramel Epic campaign was developed and launched in just eight weeks.

When M&M’s came on board, “pretty quickly we landed on a creative idea that both parties felt really strongly about and we could see that executable within the timeframe that we needed for it to be executed,” said Deignan.

They centered on kicking off the campaign during last month’s MTV Movie & TV Awards, which coincided with M&M’s Caramel’s product launch. During the telecast, Viacom aired four different 15-second spots, which M&M’s Caramel used to form props representing film genres (a heart, a spaceship, a dynamite stick and a car wheel).

M&M’s also sponsored the Snapchat Live Story for the Movie & TV Awards, domestically and internationally, airing 8-second versions of those spots in U.S. and Canada. More generic M&M’s spots aired internationally, where Caramel is not yet available, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom.

Viacom partnered with social influencer Liza Koshy to give fans the opportunity to attend the Movie & TV Awards by entering a trivia contest on her Instagram account, which was sponsored by M&M’s Caramel.

After the awards show, “we looked at our key cultural moments throughout the coming months,” said Bischak. That included this year’s BET Awards, which air on June 25, as well as movie marathons airing throughout the summer on Viacom networks Spike, MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central. For those marathons, Viacom will repurpose the spots that ran during the Movie & TV Awards.

Viacom also created custom creative for MTV’s new series Promposal, which focuses on the elaborate ways that students ask one another to the prom, as well as breaking news vignettes that will air on Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, using talent from the network.

Throughout the summer, Viacom and M&M’s will be using its Vantage data to refine Epic’s freshman campaign. “We’re learning together on this,” said Bischak.