How Funny or Die Makes Branded Content Go Viral

Over the past seven years, Funny or Die has built a viral media empire, home to Internet sensations like “The Landlord” and “Between Two Ferns.” But rapidly, they’re also becoming a viral branded content shop.

Funny or Die’s vice president of branded entertainment, Chris Buss, shed some light on their approach at this year’s Advertisement Week. “Advertisers less and less want to put their logo on something,” he said. “They want a piece of content that is funny and entertaining, but they also want it to stand by its own.”

That’s why Funny or Die embraces the ‘brand’ in branded content.

“What we’re doing is not just content. It’s content and advertising together,” Buss explained, adding that the success of Funny or Die’s branded content comes from taking a proven strategy and adapting it to suit brands by adhering to that brand’s core values.

But to do that, the brands need to buy in to the content creation process.

“Branded entertainment is hard to sell and hard to buy,” Buss said. “We know it won’t work unless the partners are there for the process.”

In 2012, Turner Broadcasting System and Funny or Die made an ad sales partnership to air Funny or Die branded content TV as commercials on TBS and Adult Swim. Ed Wise, SVP of Turner’s digital and branded entertainment, helped lead that initiative, and agrees that close partnerships with brands are key.

“You’re only as good as the information you get,” said Wise.

Take when Coca-Cola released its 2013 Super Bowl ad, “Coke Chase,” in the lead-up to the big game, for example. Funny or Die and Pepsi were in close communication and wanted to retaliate.

In just 10 days, Funny or Die was able to conceptualize, write, and produce a parody video of Coca Cola’s ad:

The video was aired on the morning of the Super Bowl, and it was a big hit. As Mashable reported, the parody outperformed the original Coke Chase commercial on digital channels.

Funny or Die also produces web series for brands, like Glad Canada’s “Trashy Affair.” The videos show a husband’s infatuation with odor-guard trash bags, and both the series itself and the behind-the-scenes clips are hilarious.

Funny or Die also created Fiat’s “Neighbors,” a web series about a sexy Italian couple that moves into a dull suburban neighborhood. The six-episode series was actually a spin-off from another viral Funny or Die and Fiat partnership, “Backseat Italians,” and has racked up millions of views on the Funny or Die platform.

“The reaction to our ‘Backseat Italians’ video proved the power of great content and a passionate fan base that Funny or Die brings to the partnership,” Olivier François, head of Fiat’s global brand, said in a statement. “Since the launch of this latest series of videos, we’ve seen an uptick in Web traffic, and this deeper engagement with our brand ultimately leads to Fiat Studio visits.”

Funny or Die is delivering those kind of results on a consistent basis, and it shouldn’t come as too big a surprise. With a devoted audience that includes over 9 million followers on Facebook, 8 million followers on Twitter, and over 1.3 million YouTube subscribers, Funny or Die provides a powerful platform for branded content, and they’ve built up a high level of trust with their audience.

“When you cultivate that audience,” Buss said, “then they will say: ‘Yeah, I trust you and I know you’re going to put something in front of me I care about.'”

Image by Funny or Die
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