Tylenol, Amex Link Up With HBO-AOL Joint Venture

Marks First Paid-Media Buy Around Subscription Cabler's Content

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NEW YORK (Adage.com) -- Synergy at Time Warner isn't dead just yet. And advertisers are now buying media around HBO content. No, the world hasn't turned upside down; an HBO and AOL joint venture, "This Just In," launches today and Tylenol and American Express are the first marketers to back the property.
Nope, that's not Secretary of State Condolezza Rice.
Nope, that's not Secretary of State Condolezza Rice.

The site, which went live this week and officially launched today, is set up like a blog, with both video and text posts riffing off of the day's current events. For example, a recent post titled "'Gays for Nougat' Group Fights to Reinstate Controversial Snickers Commercial" made light of the Snickers Super Bowl scandal. It also links to viral videos found off-site on iFilm and YouTube (a thread of news bloopers from across the web is particularly worth viewing). One of its first original videos, "Condilicious," a spoof of the Secretary of State Condolezza Rice rapping, has snagged almost 400,000 views on YouTube since it was uploaded yesterday morning.

Primary mission
The primary mission for the site is to be relevant and topical. "We want 'This Just In' to be a place where people know to come to find the first funny take on things that are going on in the world," said Steve Stanford, general manager of the property. "That's the starting point. And beyond that we'll build content around that in specific verticals."

"Condilicious," for example, is part of the site's efforts to create content that appeals to an urban audience. "This Just In" discovered the video creators after they had done a spoof of the HBO series "The Wire," called them in for a meeting and signed them to a writers deal. HBO has always had a strong history of urban comedy, Mr. Stanford said, and "felt like that was an area completely underrepresented online."

The site is also aiming to create content for women and has partnered with Tylenol for a daily news spoof show called "Take Two," which is described as having a "lighter take on current entertainment and news stories." Tylenol will run ads in and around the content and will be involved in branded entertainment. (The show debuts next week, so you'll have to tune in then to see how Tylenol is going to be funny.)

Amex is also running ads on the site and has signed a sponsorship deal that unlocks exclusive content for cardholders, a continuation of a strategy the marketer has had for about a year.

In-house creative staff
Outside of aggregating some of the top viral videos from across the web, the site's content comes via "This Just In" staff writers and producers, located on both coasts, and third parties with whom it has development deals.

Mr. Stanford said "This Just In" wouldn't be proprietary about where its content lives and will regularly put its video out on YouTube, iFilm, Break.com and other online video portals. "The internet is about getting your content out there for people to see," he said. "We'd like the sponsor to be integrated into those kinds of pieces when they go out into other places."

While he's not "unilaterally opposed" to pre-roll ads, he said he is discouraged by studies that indicate the rate at which viewers abandon content when pre-roll is attached is high. "Not interrupting the online experience is consistent with our point of view," he said. "We want the message to be a component of the experience and not something that's ancillary."

A first for HBO content
The venture was announced in January, and while first-run original HBO programming won't be available, executives at the time said it could be used as an incubator for series that could eventually make it on-air or on HBO On Demand or HBO Mobile. It marks the first time HBO has launched an original-content presence off its paid subscription cable network. It also marks the first time advertisers would be able to buy media around an HBO property. (Although HBO has created content for ad-supported media, such as developing "Everybody Loves Raymond," and marketers have placed products in HBO shows such as "Entourage.")

"HBO would like to work with marketers that understand its creative approach and want to do things that are different," Mr. Stanford said. "HBO has a history of innovation and it wants to find people who are thinking creatively."
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