T-Mobile has turned to "Breaking Bad" star Aaron Paul to promote its Binge On program, which lets some of the wireless carrier's customers stream video from services like Netflix, Hulu and HBO without sapping their wireless data plans.
"When [T-Mobile's agency Publicis Seattle] was crafting the commercial, they came up with this idea of what if there was a binge watchers anonymous organization," Peter DeLuca, senior VP-brand and advertising at T-Mobile, said in an interview with Ad Age following the announcement event in Los Angeles on Tuesday. He declined to say how much the brand is spending on the campaign.
In two 30-second TV spots, Mr. Paul leads a self-help meeting for binge watchers that gets derailed by T-Mobile's Binge On program, which that rolls out Sunday. The first of the ads will premiere Wednesday night during ABC's "Modern Family."
In addition to the TV ads, T-Mobile has produced two digital videos starring Mr. Paul that extend the commercials' storyline. "When you see the spot on air, you don't want to see the same spot when you go to digital," Mr. DeLuca said. "We wanted to develop the story even more fully."
One of the videos will spotlight a character who likes to binge-watch HBO's "Girls," and the other will focus on a character that confuses his own life with the lives of the characters he watches on TV.
T-Mobile will post the videos to bingewatchersanonymous.org, which also offers to let people create Bingewatchers Anonymous cards, as well as Facebook and YouTube. The company hopes Bingewatchers Anonymous cards will build into a meme, much the way a promotion this summer for "Straight Outta Compton" did.
It will use mobile ad company Kargo to run the spots as mobile video takeovers around the web, Mr. DeLuca said. In addition to the TV and digital video ads, T-Mobile will be running search ads as well as digital billboards in New York City.
Binge On lets customers of certain T-Mobile wireless plans watch videos from 24 digital video services free of charge, data-wise, at what T-Mobile execs described as "DVD-quality" 480p resolution.
The participating video services at the start include Netflix, Hulu, HBO, ESPN, Showtime and Dish Network's internet TV service Sling TV. The carrier will also stream video from its rivals' digital video services, Verizon's Go90 and AT&T's DirecTV, for free. Two of the biggest digital video platforms, YouTube and Facebook, are not yet involved in the program.
During a Q&A session with reporters, T-Mobile Chief Operating Officer Mike Sievert said technical hurdles have so far precluded those services from joining but that the program is open to any that can meet those requirements.
That stance might be as much about appeasing regulators as customers. The Federal Communications Commission's Open Internet rules prohibit internet service providers from blocking, slowing down or getting paid to improve the distribution of content to people accessing the internet through their networks.
T-Mobile appears to be steering clear of violating these rules by not receiving any money from the video services participating in its program and making the program free of charge and optional to its customers. At least that's the case T-Mobile's execs are making, while some argue otherwise. "We think it's highly net neutrality-friendly," T-Mobile CEO John Legere said during the Q&A session.
Asked if any of the participating video services are helping to pay for T-Mobile's ads in which their brands also appear, Mr. DeLuca said they are not.