Comedy Central recently began swapping out one linear advertising pod per month with branded content.
The network has been working with Viacom Velocity, Viacom's branded content and integrated marketing division, to develop a branded content series called “Handy.” The series follows the adventures of a hand model and has created sponsored episodes so far for Zale’s and Joe’s Crab Shack. The mini episode that ran Friday, Dec. 16 during an airing of 50 First Dates, took up an entire two and half minute commercial break.
"It's a great way to launch it, to be able to go to a partner and say, we're going to premiere your content on-air, during primetime, and then immediately push it out across all of our screens, so we make sure we reach all our fans in all the places where they touch our content," said Chris Ficarra, executive vice president of integrated marketing at Viacom Velocity, according to Ad Week. "This is branded content that the audience, who's used to getting marketed to, is really embracing in a different way, because it does feel more like genuine content."
The monthly swap out for branded content will continue happening on Comedy Central though in the future it could happen during different time slots and will likely feature other short-form content created by Viacom Velocity.
As the report points out, the division has also created a crafting series featuring an actor making crafts using products from Pringles and other companies as well as a fictional series that depicts a fake marketing agency helping celebrities create viral videos.
A+E is another network that has been experimenting with branded content in lieu of traditional ad breaks. A+E Networks recently teamed with publisher Hearst to put Hearst-produced sponsored content on air during programming breaks.
According to Ad Age, advertisers and marketers will be able to create custom content spots with Hearst properties like Cosmopolitan or gain access to hour-long “enthusiast” blocks of content.
"It's such a crowded, noisy landscape," said Peter Olsen, exec VP-national ad sales of A&E Networks, according to Ad Age. "There are so many new shows and premieres and part of this is we have to try things that are different and put things into a different context than you are used to seeing."