This week, Disney unveiled a website and video to promote its new Pixar movie, “Monsters University,” the prequel to “Monsters, Inc.”
The website allows users to “apply to MU, buy college swag, register for a student ID card as well as learn about alumni, faculty, sports and Greek life.” The “Imagine You at MU” spoof video, released on Jan. 1, already has more than 230,000 hits.
Disney isn’t the only brand to have used a spoof in branded content efforts. In February of last year, Denny’s released an ad featuring Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan in a video called “Skillet Whisperer.” The video, made in collaboration with Funny or Die, received over 1.2 million hits and was aimed towards the Hispanic demographic.
In 2012, Ford released “Escape My Life,” a comedy web series that made fun of branded content while at the same time promoting its vehicles. Last November, AT&T put out a campaign called “Ghostbombing” that was a spoof on photobombing.
These videos and campaigns do well because humor works. They’re also disguised as entertainment instead of advertising. In an interview with Huffington Post, Adam Hootnick, who founded Resonance Interactive, said that the same rules of entertainment apply to branded content campaigns. And the campaigns that are funny and tell good stories are going to be the most successful.
“I think it’s like anything else, the fact that it’s short form or online doesn’t change anything,” he said. “Good storytelling is good storytelling. Funny is funny. You can change the process based on where the content is for, but nothing changes in terms of what is appealing to an audience.”