Ahead of the highly anticipated launch of ViacomCBS’s new streaming service Paramount+, which will take the place of CBS All Access next month, the media company has rolled out an epic six-part campaign showcasing the best of the platform’s talent that will culminate in a 60-second commercial during this weekend’s Super Bowl.
The campaign, created by Droga5 and directed by O Positive Films’ David Shane, unfolds as a journey from base camp to summit, featuring a host of characters on a mission to scale “Paramount Mountain”—the iconic snow-capped peak that has served as the studio’s logo for more than 100 years.
In all, more than two dozen individual stars are represented in the multi-part marketing saga, including real-world celebrities such as Patrick Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Gayle King, DJ Khaled and “Survivor” host Jeff Probst. There are also a handful of animated characters shown making the climb, including Dora the Explorer, Spongebob Squarepants, and Beavis and Butt-Head.
And the ads’ motley crew all have one thing in common: their TV shows and movies will be available on Paramount+ once it launches on March 4.
A multi-part campaign
“Once we landed on the idea of an expedition, 30 or even 60 seconds wasn’t enough to feel the journey. It just became pretty evident to us right away that we wanted this to be something longer,” says Dan Kelly, group creative director at Droga5. With a storytelling strategy in motion that would play out over several minutes when strung together, the creative team’s next hurdle was actually producing the narrative.
“Even in normal times, this would be very ambitious,” Kelly says of the star-studded shoot, adding that COVID-19 restrictions “quadrupled, if not more than that, the complications of [the production].”
On top of juggling the schedules of some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, producers were faced with near-constant script writing as celebrities signed on (and dropped out of) the shoot, while on-set crews and editors had to contend with filming every character’s role separately—and in some cases, remotely.
“And once we got into it, it was like, well, we’re committed!” Kelly laughs. “We have to swing for the fences, we have to go big.”
The first of the “Journey to the Peak” campaign’s six installments aired during the AFC Championship Game on Jan. 24, with additional creative rolling out on TV—aided by social and digital support—over the past two weeks.
Go big or go home
The mountaintop journey will culminate on Super Bowl Sunday when a 60-second version of the final “Sweet Victory” spot goes live in-game with all the characters present at the summit, listed at about 100 feet higher than the peak of Mount Everest. (The ad’s name is a nod to an iconic “Spongebob Squarepants” scene, which is cut into the commercial seen below.)
“I think we’re in the very fortunate position, just from a timing position, that CBS happens to be the broadcaster of the Super Bowl,” says Domenic DiMeglio, executive VP of distribution, marketing and operations for the CBS Digital Media group at CBS Interactive. “It presented a unique opportunity.”
It’s no secret that the Super Bowl is one of the world’s most crowded advertising environments, with brands vying for million-dollar chunks of airtime. The primary question the CBS team first posed when contemplating its Super Bowl strategy was how to make Paramount+ messaging stand out amongst the crowd, DiMeglio says, especially with the so-called “streaming wars” in full swing.
“We wanted to have an approachable tone that didn’t take itself too seriously. Super Bowl audiences want to be entertained and get a good laugh,” he says. In addition to “Sweet Victory,” three other spots from the sequential journey are slated to run during the game.
Many streaming services that advertised previously during the Super Bowl, including Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video, have in the past opted for relatively plain trailers highlighting one of their exclusive or original series. On the other hand, platforms such as Quibi (R.I.P.) that chose to produce narrative ads, sometimes fell flat.
Looking to the future
After the Super Bowl, ViacomCBS will have less than one month until Paramount+ goes live, and it plans to shift its marketing strategy accordingly. The company is slated to launch into its “content-forward” stage of the campaign after Sunday, DiMeglio says, with genre- and channel-specific messaging that touts individual features of the platform, such as access to CBS News live and many Nickelodeon hits.
Then, approaching the March 4 launch date, consumers can expect to see exclusive and original series become part of the Paramount+ launch effort, with additional details on platform-exclusive content forthcoming later in 2021.
Paramount+, which does not yet have a finalized price for subscribers, offers a “unique value proposition,” according to DiMeglio: the combination of live sports, breaking news and a “mountain of entertainment.” While the platform’s forerunner, CBS All Access, has long been positioned as a single-channel access point, Paramount+ will take on a role as a “household product” that offers a much more comprehensive array of the media giant’s intellectual property.
For Kelly, the new Super Bowl campaign is perfectly reflective of Paramount+’s content diversity—and he’s even hopeful that Droga5’s mountain-climbing concept might remain in use as the new streaming service expands its offerings through 2021 and beyond.
“As a mountain of entertainment, I hope this is just the beginning,” Kelly says. “Viacom can return to this.”