Web series and corporate sponsorship – how the US is making it work

We’re shy. We Canadians, I mean.

We’re not lacking in pride. We’re a proud nation but we tend to shy away from the showy flashy braggy big-shotty approach like our cousins to the south. We like to think we’re above all the chest pounding bravado that seems to drown US product in its own must-haveness.

This is one of our classier country-wide characteristics. That is, when we’re meeting people or if we’re members of a diplomatic mission.

Where it sort of gets in our way is in our homegrown productions. Namely, our web series.

While Canadian creators have been working on making some good web series, typically on the ‘spare time’ wages of its creators, the US is surpassing us in corporate sponsorship of web series.

This means that while our creators, writers and directors are delivering quality web series between day job shifts, our US counterparts are buying homes, cars and building their professional careers on their web series.

To wit, the team behind Zack Galifianakis’ hilarious web series Between Two Ferns is sponsored by Mennen Speed Stick®. Allowing the writers to play with funny and strange product placements has introduced the product to a whole new generation.

Another example is the way in which Lisa Kudrow works product placement of their sponsor, Lexus, into her popular web series Web Therapy.

Think it only works with big names? Think again.

Indie darling Ileana Douglas was commissioned by IKEA to create her web series Easy To Assemble.

Taking it even further back down the familiar face ladder, a once unknown Felicia Day created her web series The Guild which is now one of the top rated web series around. And it’s sponsored by Microsoft.

We have some corporations right here in Canada who are proud, homegrown companies always looking for unique ways to connect with Canadians. So why aren’t they copying the US and jumping on this new advertising opportunity?

Maybe they just don’t know we need them as much as they need us?

Allow me to offer up some suggestions:

Before you get all dandy about product placement, remind yourself that while you’re slaving away in a desert of creative self-righteousness, your counterparts in the US are building their futures.

I do think it’s time that Canadian web series creators and Canadian corporations started talking. We shouldn’t and can’t think that the only place for funding is the government. It’s a dangerous notion to limit our potentials to a small group of decision makers.

While we don’t have studios in this country to pitch to, we have corporations and advertising companies in the hundreds.

We should be presenting our wares to people who are in the business of finding places to introduce their products to an audience. An audience we’ve already cultivated with our web series.

Don’t know where to start?

Here’s a list of Canadian owned corporations and a list of some (but not all) Canadian web series.

Talk among yourselves. Please.

Kellie Ann Benz writes about short film and web series on the NSI website. Read Kellie’s own blog The Shorts Report

2 comments

  1. SimonFraser4

    Brand power is attracted to brand power. If you want any entity to invest in your product, you have to prove that your product is worth investing in. Great ideas and great passions are not enough, you cannot bank on them. Art and commerce are two completely different considerations.

    I produce a web show that is ripe for sponsorship. We developed the show from the beginning to be ripe for sponsorship. The doors to sponsorship are currently closed to us because we do not yet have sufficient brand power to open them.

    That will change. And in the meantime, patience and prudence are our tools.

    Felicia Day’s other credits may have played a part in The Guild acquiring a sponsor. But that didn’t happen until after the first season of The Guild (which was produced mostly through fan contributions and deferred fees). So The Guild proved that it had its own brand power before it attracted any other brand power.

  2. I did like the article but all the U.S. webseries examples you used had stars in the them, Ileana Douglas has been in tons of high profile hollywood projects in the past like Goodfellas and Cape Fear. Felicia Day was in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, numerous TV shows and starred in Joss Whedon’s Dr.Horrible Sing-Along-Blog.

    For our Canadian webseries Spellfury (over 5 Million Views) we’ve dabbled with product placements with companies like Coors Light, Hobgoblin Beer, Past Generation Toys, etc. but trying to get enough money out of companies is extremely hard, it only covers a small percentage of costs. First, they have no clue what a webseries is so you have to educate them and then trying to get them for more than one episode has been futile so far.

    I’ll still try and pursue companies for commercials and product placements but it is a very difficult thing to accomplish.

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