A new role for Webisodes

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The Wyndales are a typical American sitcom family. Dad is a dolt, and his college-age rock-musician son writes all about his pop's antics on his blog.

But don't look for the animated gang on TV. The Wyndales are starring in an Internet series, with weekly Webisodes that are meant to entertain-and sell health insurance.

Remember Webisodes? Original mini-shows for the Internet were all the rage online before the Internet bubble burst in 2001. Now they're back, this time as advertising vehicles, courtesy of a robust online ad market and growing broadband audience.

EHealthInsurance's "Am I Covered?" (amicovered.com) made its debut last week. Today, Jeep's "We Are The Mudds" (wearethemudds.com) series premieres, joining other recent Webisodes from Unilever's I Can't Believe It's Not Butter (tasteyoulove.com) and Target (oddsagainst7even.com).

It was the popularity of blogs-Web diaries-that motivated Jeep to give Webisodes a try.

"We have been intrigued by the overpromise and under-delivery of blogs," says Jeff Bell, VP, Chrysler's Jeep division. "Everybody's talking about them, but no one can show that blogs help sell products."

"Webisodes have taken a different form now," says Organic's chief creative officer, Colleen DeCourcy. "They're no longer just content on the Internet, but a more sophisticated form of social networking: extended interaction and consumer participation."

-"Webisodes return, now as advertising" by Jefferson Graham, USA Today, Oct. 23

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